In a bureaucracy filled with task forces that churn out fact-finding reports, it can be difficult to tell which ones are actually important.
Not this time.
America needs to take heed of this particular report. It’s not every day that authors describe our nation’s education system as charting “a trajectory toward massive failure.”
America’s national security and economic prosperity are in grave danger, and reversing the trend requires meaningful improvements. That’s according to an educational task force led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein, former chancellor of the New York City schools.
Before now, when others have taken the measure of the quality of U.S. education, it largely has been in terms of charting students’ success in college or in the job market.
But this report, compiled by 30 members with extensive backgrounds in education and foreign affairs, arrive at another very crucial conclusion: “The dominant power of the 21st century will depend on human capital. The failure to produce that capital will undermine American security.”
Improvements are being made, certainly. But that pace needs to accelerate.
The panel makes three main recommendations:
• The academic areas of science, technology and foreign languages are critical to national security. Change core curricula to emphasize and expand these areas.
We’d stress foreign language particularly. Citizens throughout the rest of the world have been increasingly embracing English as a second language. They strive to understand us. Our nation’s continued survival requires we also understand them.
• Expand students’ – and parents’ – choices in where children can attend school.
• Conduct a national security readiness audit. Through that, officials can judge whether schools are meeting education expectations nationally.
We’d also recommend cultivating among students a deeper understanding of America’s core values. Remember “civics” class?
Rising generations of Americans have to be globally aware, economically viable and just plain safe. For that to happen, we must improve education where it counts.
If we fail our children, we’re failing our future.