The folks from the National Academy of Sciences must be crazy. That’s the only explanation I can think of.
Earlier this month, and I’m sure almost every year since India got its first computer, a committee from the NAS urged the U.S. government, in very specific terms, to wake up to the decline of American scientific education. Without more investment and scholarship opportunities for American students, the NAS warns that we’re on the path to undo whatever science-based world dominance we once had.
But they’ve got to be nuts. The United States is kicking ass. We’re fine. Why should we let the technocrats dictate public policy to the people and to the lawmakers?
Because they know better, or at least are more aware of what direction to go in. Much of what the math and science community has asked of the U.S. government in recent years in terms of boosting its dedication to those areas of education involve more money. Admittedly, throwing money at a problem doesn’t always fix it. Take Iraq, for instance.
Regardless, that technocratic community has a point. Where will the United States be in 15 or 20 years? As Thomas Friedman’s book “The World is Flat,” not exactly a Seattle-loving, World Trade Organization-hating crazy fest, points out, the building up of American strength in the technology and service sectors is perhaps the only thing we can do to fall gracefully from our mantle on top of Pax Americana.
In short, we need to find our niche in a world made more dynamic by globalization. We need to be forward thinking, but not delusional. We need to understand what we’re good at and what we’re not. We probably can stop building textile factories on the East Coast, and on that same note, we should probably consider teaching computer science to kindergarten students. It’s survival of the fittest in the wackiest place: on Earth.
But as anyone can see, this flagrantly contradicts California and American public policy in the realm of education.
The No Child Left Behind Act, that hunky piece of federal legislation with its intentions in seemingly all the right places, has logistical flaws beyond what many school principals can handle, not to mention a budget that does not match what its budgetary needs are. In California, our elected leadership has decided to take several propositions to the people in a fit of hilarious populism that could finally anger teachers to a point where substitute teaching might be the hottest new job on the West Coast. It’s troubling to see state leadership try to turn its people against its educators. It’s beyond ridiculous.
The central point of contention whenever someone says the U.S. education system is broken or needs to be fixed has to do with money. How much will it cost taxpayers this time around? Hey, how come it is John and Jane Q. Public who have to foot the bill for bad teachers, administrative mismanagement and stupid kids?
Well, it’s because that’s society’s role to play. It’s not like educators aren’t trying other routes to create a stronger learning environment. Private entities such as the Carnegie Corporation are sponsoring projects that will look to reinvent teacher education so that the “bad teachers” criticism will someday hold less weight (CSUN is a part of this program, called Teachers for a New Era, which actually sounds quite cool). A happy side effect: Kids will actually learn better. The cost to taxpayer is minimal in that case.
We can install the strictest accountant in the land to head up the finances for the U.S. education system if we need to. If it’s financial accountability people are concerned about, then we can work on that. We’ll put a CPA in charge of the books as long as we keep the anti-tax lawmakers out of the curriculum. Despite the fact that Jack O’Connell, state superintendent for public instruction, sued the governor for missing money from California education coffers, he’s still fit to run the dang school system.
So if its financial mismanagement we’re worried about, let’s fix it. We’ve got plenty of accountants out there and plenty of people wiling to try to make teachers better. In that crazy concoction, the only thing missing is Bushennegger’s dedication and some cold hard cash.
Ryan Denham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.