Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wake Up and Smell the Future

Tom Friedman posted a great column ($) this morning about the US and just how far we're falling behind. He stressed the need for quality teachers, and the need to attract more of them.

"If teaching remains a second-rate profession, America's economy will be driven by second-rate skills," Mr. Gerstner (former IBM chairman Louis Gerstner) says. "We can wake up today — or we can have a rude awakening sooner than we think."

The Teaching Commission notes that "our schools are only as good as their teachers," yet this "occupation that makes all others possible is eroding at its foundations." Top students are far less likely to go into teaching today; salaries are stagnant; nearly 50 percent of new teachers leave within five years. To remedy this, the commission calls for raising teachers' base pay, finding ways to reward the best teachers, raising standards for acquiring a teaching degree and testing would-be teachers, on the basis of national standards, to be certain they have mastered the subjects they will teach (

As if that's not enough, under the guidance of President Bush, we've gone from first in broadband access in 2000, to 16th today. Our technological manufacturing is also falling behind at an alarmingly rapid rate. While Bush's National Security Strategy paper assumes we're a powerful country and always will be, Friedman's take is much more sobering:

It's not surprising that the Bush strategy paper is largely silent about these educational and technological deficits, as well as about the investment we need to make in alternative fuels to end our oil addiction. Because to acknowledge these deficits is to acknowledge that we have to spend money to fix them, and the radical Bush tax cuts make that impossible. It would be one thing if we were going into debt to solve these problems that affect our underlying national strength. But we are going into debt to buy low-interest houses and more stuff made in China.

We're like a family that is overdrawn at the bank just when the parents need to send their kid to college, buy a computer and a D.S.L. line, and replace a gas-guzzling furnace. Whatever "strategic plan" that family has for advancement, it won't get anywhere until it rebalances its books.
blog comments powered by Disqus