RR has long promoted the idea that education in wealth producing/sustaining fields is the ONLY solution to America’s economic and social problems. Former SecState and now distinguished senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, George Shultz co-authors ‘Education Is the Key to a Healthy Economy’ with Eric Hanushek in which they acknowledge our broken K-12 public school system, and make the argument that quality STEM (Science, technology, engineering, math) education correlates strongly with and is a causal factor promoting economic growth – see nearby chart. Their conclusion is that “An improved education system would lead to a dramatically different future for the U.S., because educational outcomes strongly affect economic growth and the distribution of income. ... (And) if we fail to reform K-12 shools, we'll have slow growth and more inequality."
The authors point out research that shows how per capita GDP is affected by STEM proficiency, and that –
Current U.S. students—the future labor force—are no longer competitive with students across the developed world. In the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings for 2009, the U.S. was 31st in math—indistinguishable from Portugal or Italy. In "advanced" performance on math, 16 countries produced twice as many high achievers per capita than the U.S. did.
Continuing on this path, as is the current strategy promoted by the nation’s teachers unions, will guarantee to nail us to a slow growth future in which all the catastrophes from our indebtedness and unfunded liabilities will come home to roost in spades. We will quickly become a second rate nation and all that entails in our ability to remain as the world’s most salutary and beneficent hegemon in history.
This hits home where we are educationally starting to scrape the bucket’s bottom. Shultz and Hanushek note that in California, “once a leader in education, it is now ranked behind 40 other U.S. states in math achievement, placing it at the level of Greece and foreshadowing a bleak future of ballooning debt and growing income disparity.”
The solution is within our reach, however the ramparts that separate us from it are manned by the strongest institutions on our social landscape – public service unions, here in the form of the teachers unions. Teaching in our land is not a meritocracy, but a massive machine to accumulate and focus money from sinecured teaching jobs held by large cadres of non-performing individuals whose prime loyalty is to the politics and politicians who are paid to keep the teachers happy and ignore the students. Such politicians get a double hit from sustaining the cesspool we call K-12 – generous political contributions to maintain their own jobs, and the steady production of ignorant and compliant voters to re-elect them in perpetuum.
When teacher meritocracy is discussed in bi-partisan assemblies, then the left immediately rejects any notion that parents are the customers of the public education system, and the product they ‘buy’ is their educated offspring. And the only way to tell if you’re getting your money’s worth is to see how Johnny and Susie do relative to other students here and in other lands, and that is through testing, as in the PISA tests cited above.
Suggesting this makes the union members break out in a chorus of howls. They point to a hundred reasons why testing children should not be used to evaluate the merit of their teachers. When backed to the wall, the best they can do is to suggest that union members should evaluate fellow union members to determine each other’s fitness to teach.
I am not making this up, and offer a concrete example of such an evaluation scheme that has been thought out by a progressive retired teacher and RR reader which recently came to light in a comment stream under a previous post. This approach is written up here and is worth study to see why under such progressive approaches to education our nation’s path to failure is sealed.