In March, the Council on Foreign Relations-sponsored task force on U.S. Education Reform and National Security, released a comprehensive report saying that the U.S. failure to educate its students leaves them unprepared to compete and threatens the country’s ability to thrive in a global economy and maintain its leadership role.
“Educational failure puts the United States’ future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk,’’ warns the task force, chaired by Joel I. Klein, former head of New York City public schools, and Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. secretary of state.
The “distinct threats” are economic growth and competitiveness, physical safety, intellectual property, global awareness, and U.S. unity and cohesion, the task force reported.
“Today in America, three-quarters of our kids are simply ineligible for the military,” said Klein, now the chief executive officer of the education division for News Corporation, a media conglomerate that includes the Wall Street Journal. “More than half of those kids are ineligible simply because they don’t have the requisite academic performance levels, I mean, even kids who are graduating high school.”
Americans are not being properly prepared to “meet the demand of the global workforce,” said the report. This adversely affects U.S. ability to make advances in science and technology, an area in which more qualified people are needed, said another task force member, former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.
“When we think about what the modern world of defense and technology and cyber everything means, you know, the fact that we don’t have people who are capable to do this work is, you know, scary,” she said.
The Council also said most school systems are not innovating enough. “In education, it is hard to point to examples of successful and sweeping innovations that have changed the way schools are structured, the way teachers teach, and the way students learn,” noted the report.
But, the Apple iPad and other innovative tools are being used in classrooms across the country everyday. In 2010, the Virginia Department of Education started using iPads in its schools to help engage kids in an entertaining way about various subjects.
“Digital technology holds enormous potential for transforming instruction,” said Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell in 2010 about the iPads being implemented in classrooms.
However, not all Task Force members agree with the findings. “The report goes to great lengths to blame a current generation of educators for their assumed institutional resistance to innovation when, in fact, the problem is less about an opposition to change than it is about too much churn and change,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the union representing more than 1 million teachers and other education professionals.
“We ask teachers to do a lot, and while we have the responsibility to remove those who do not belong in the profession, we have just as great a responsibility to provide the tools, conditions, and support to the vast majority of teachers who do,” she said.
Gary Beckner, executive director of The Association of American Educators, believes teachers are addressing these issues within schools. “Whether it means adopting new technologies or embracing education reforms, educators know they must rise to these challenges,” he said.
The task force, which is associated with the Council on Foreign Relations and is comprised of former and current leaders in education and national security, issued three recommendations to address what it said were inadequacies within the U.S. educational system:
• Implement new educational guidelines that will help students to better compete in a more global society
• Make changes to how education is structured
• Hold school officials and policymakers accountable for inadequacies via audits
The Task Force’s research can be found at www.cfr.org.