Thursday, July 03, 2008

Time to rebuild an education infrastructure

"The education gap between the United States and the rest of the industrialized world is as real as the trade gap between the United States and China.” Strong American Schools' ED in 08 Chairman Roy Romer

“Experts cite strong link between student achievement and economic growth; New poll reveals Americans believe the quality of a country's education system has a big impact on its economic prosperity…” Fox/Newswire

I know I have argued the point for years, but experts have consistently assured me that it was far more important to cut spending on social infrastructure, including education. Not only that, governments the world over have done just that.

My argument, inspired by that great shopkeepers daughter Margaret Thatcher, has been that if you don’t replace stock, at the very least, one day you wake up with empty shelves. More than that stock on the shelves should be continually tuned to customer needs, and you can’t do that if you don’t reinvest.

America is now experiencing an education gap, the shelves are emptying and not being restocked. Since 1998 the US has fallen from equal first to seventh among industrialized countries.

I’m not crowing, Australia and Canada have both allowed education funding to slip over the past few decades. I often felt the downgrading was inspired by a conservative distain for educated thinkers. Obviously educationalist fell behind in arguing the cause and it is an international disgrace that economics faculties totally folded.

The simple fact is, education, libraries and all the mix of skills that come with them simply weren’t seen as valued short term benefits. And short term is all we have been doing for years.


abi said...

The declining state of education is a disgrace in so-called "advanced" cultures.

It's a complex issue with multiple causes. But one of the problems is how schools are funded. In the US, public school funding comes largely from local property taxes. So if you live in a wealthy community, your kids are likely to get a good education. If you don't, your kids' education suffers.

In the state I live in, property taxes can't rise over a certain percentage unless the community votes to approve an override. People are so pressed for cash that overrides are rarely successful.

Cart said...

Abi, I agree the issues are complex, but maintain that is because the political establishment has sought to create excuses to allow education support to atrophy.
It concerns me that in Australia education is one of the issues driving the erosion of the federalist model. If central government is the only one capable then they will do it, under Rudd.
I have a feeling Obama would snatch the responsibility without a fight if the issues remained overly complex.

D.K. Raed said...

So does Australia have this big fight over public vs vouchers for education? It comes up every few years here. Repubs can't get their minds off the idea that those who can afford to pay for private schooling still have to pay taxes that support public schools. They want to further gut public education funding in order to send a bunch of priviledged little future GWB-a-holes to places like Andover. uh-oh, I guess I tipped my hand in how I feel about school vouchers.

Cart said...

We have the same fight and have always had it. Not public vs vouchers but public funding of private schools. The last election was partly about effective health and education infrastructures, yet it seems like we are streets ahead of many countries. To be fair, these are issues which can probably be good enough, but the slide really must be stopped.