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Topic: [ncsm-members] U.S. Educ. Woes Threaten Nat'l Sec, Report Says
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
[ncsm-members] U.S. Educ. Woes Threaten Nat'l Sec, Report Says
Posted: Mar 25, 2012 4:22 PM
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From Education Week [American Education's Newspaper of Record],
Tuesday, March 20, 2012, Volume 31, Issue 26. See
U.S. Education Woes Threaten National Security, Report Says

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki

The United States must improve its education system or risk
imperiling national security and the economy, according to a new
report from a blue-ribbon panel convened by the Council for Foreign

"U.S. Education Reform and National Policy," the product of the
30-member task force chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice and Joel I. Klein, former chancellor of the New York City Public
Schools, cites statistics demonstrating the failures of the school
system and recommends more school-choice efforts, an annual
nationwide audit of educational achievement, and national standards
in subjects such as civics and foreign languages. [see

Five commission members, however, dissented from those
recommendations, outlining their concerns in dissents appended to the

The report cites the small number of U.S. students studying science
and technology at a college level and low scores overall on
standardized tests, including the National Assessment of Educational
Progress and the Program for International Student Assessment, or
PISA, as indicators of an underdeveloped "human capacity." The report
also notes that less than a quarter of all students are eligible for
the armed services, due to either obesity, criminal records, lack of
high school diplomas, or inability to pass the armed forces entrance

"A world-class education system is vital to preserving not just the
country's physical security but also to reinforcing the broader
components of American leadership, such as economic dynamism, an
informed and active democracy, and a coterie of informed
professionals willing and able to live and serve around the world,"
wrote Richard N. Haass, the president of the New York-based Council
on Foreign Relations, in an introduction to the report.

At a press conference marking the publication of the report, Ms. Rice
and Mr. Klein emphasized that public education plays a unique role in
forging a national identity. "If we are not one nation, we cannot
defend one nation."

Beyond English

The report's call for more instruction in civics and in foreign
languages is aimed at improving U.S. students' competitiveness and
meeting the nation's need for foreign service workers skilled in
languages like Russian and Chinese.

"It's about time," said Shuhan C. Wang, the deputy director of the
National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland in
College Park, applauding the report's focus on educational substance.
Studying languages has "cognitive, social, and cultural benefits, and
it improves...national security and national prosperity," Ms. Wang
said. She said that the nation's lack of a national policy on
language learning is rare among industrialized countries, where
foreign language study often begins in elementary school. The report
also calls for the Common Core State Standards Initiative to be
expanded to include foreign languages, sciences, and the arts.

The report's authors also recommend more choice in K-12 education
through charter schools, school vouchers, and similar programs. At
the conference, Ms. Rice described competitiveness as one of the
nation's strengths. "Higher education in the U.S. is the gold
standard internationally...because of the competition and...the
multiplicity of choices."

The authors said these reforms "will cost money. We just have to make
sure that money that's spent is well spent."

Several members of the task force agreed with some aspects of the
report, such as its description of the importance of schools in
American society and its support for professional development for
teachers, but expressed concerns about some of its information and
recommendations. "[The report] says a troubled public education
system is a 'very grave national security threat facing the country,'
but it offers only anecdotal evidence to support this unconvincing
claim," Steven M. Walt, a professor of international affairs at
Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, wrote in
one dissent.

"[It] advocates privatization, competition, and market-based
approaches that, while compelling, have not worked in a scalable and
sustainable way either here or abroad," wrote Randi Weingarten, the
president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a dissent
co-signed by Carole Artigiani, the founder of the nonprofit Global
Kids, Linda Darling-Hammond, an education professor at Stanford
University, and Mr. Walt.

At the press event, Ms. Weingarten noted that while she agreed that
"how we use education to ignite America is a really important
notion," some of the nations that outperform the U.S. use educational
models that differ from those proposed in the report.

An Old Story?

This is not the first time education and national security have been
linked, Kevin G. Welner, director of the Colorado
University-Boulder's National Education Policy Center, said in an
email response to questions from Education Week. "In truth, there's
nothing new here. It happened after Sputnik in 1957. It happened in
1983 with A Nation at Risk. It seems to happen every time PISA
results are released."

David Berliner, a professor of education at Arizona State University,
in Phoenix, agreed. "Many books were written about my generation,
pointing out that we were idiots, that teachers were babying us, and
that learning wasn't taking place...Certainly the nation was
imperiled then, just as Rice and Klein now say we are." But, he said,
that generation "turned the 20th century into the American century."

Both Mr. Berliner and Mr. Welner were skeptical of the proposed
solutions. "What we apparently have to do is to intensify all the
things that we've been doing for the past couple of decades: More
privatization, more testing and test-based accountability, more
charter schools and vouchers, and more deprofessionalization of
teaching," Mr. Welner said. He described the research cited in the
report as "cherry-picked."

"We as a nation do have an equity crisis, and this crisis includes
our schools. We should as a nation be alarmed that so many children
are growing up in areas of concentrated poverty," said Mr. Welner.
"But I see little in this new report that takes seriously the causes
or needed responses to the actual problems faced by our nation's
children. More testing, charters, and vouchers won't help a bit."
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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