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Panic Time

Oct 30, 2008
If anything illustrates the failure of American education over the past thirty years, it is the calibre of elected representatives we have seen passing through the portals of our legislative and executive offices, especially at the federal level. An ignorant electorate elects inappropriate representatives.

That a man of McCain’s temperament, age, health, and political outlook can be in the running for the presidency of what its citizens like to think of as the greatest country in the history of the world is sufficient argument by itself to condemn our educational system as bankrupt.

And indeed, education in this country is on a steady downhill skid. We are falling behind China and Korea in the highest levels of basic scientific research,1 and graduating too few engineering students.2 We are also lagging behind other western countries in numbers of our citizens graduating from post-secondary colleges and universities. Only three countries associated with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)3 have a higher rate of completing post-secondary education among 45 to 54 year olds than America (Russia, Canada, and Israel); however, nine countries have higher rates among 25 to 34 year olds, and others are catching up.4 High school graduation rates are lower than 50 percent in some inner-city schools.5

Meanwhile, low-end jobs are drying up as computers and robots take over more of the load. Manufacturing is disappearing overseas, taking with it the sorts of assembly line jobs that could be performed with only a high-school education.

Income, health, and education—these are the three pillars of modern civilization, and we are neglecting all of them. Our minimum wage is far below a living wage6; we expend twice what other OECD countries do for health care with signficantly inferior results7; and we fail to prepare our citizens for the demands of the 21st century world.

In turning over our polity to the rapacious instincts of an unregulated capitalism, we have betrayed the social contract that defines a just and democratic nation.
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1 U.S. Innovation: On the Skids, by Gary Anthes, from ComputerWorld, October 21, 2008 (Accessed October 23, 2008)
2 Trouble on the Horizon, from the American Society of Engineering Education, October 2006 (Accessed October 23, 2008)
3 The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is a member-funded organization comprising 30 countries. Russia and Israel are in the process of joining OECD, but are not yet full members.
4 Changing the Game: The Federal Role in Supporting 21st Century Educational Innovation, by Sara Mead (New America Foundation) and Andrew J. Rotherham (Education Sector), October 16, 2008 (Accessed October 23, 2008)
5 Big Cities Battle Dismal Graduation Rates, from CBS News, April 1, 2008 (Accessed October 23, 2008)
6 Minimum wage increasingly lags poverty line, from Economic Policy Institute, January 31, 2007 (Accessed October 23, 2008)
7 OECD in 2006-2007—Health spending and resources, from OECD (Accessed October 23, 2008)
tags: Education

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