Look around the global. Think of countries that are economically successful. Here, I will help you out: South Korea, Germany, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, The Netherlands. There are more examples. This enough to make my point. What do all of these countries have in common?
All of these countries stress the education of their population more so than any other pursuit. The populations of these countries are better educated than most Americans, have better math and science skills, are multi-lingual, and are typically used to dealing with people of different ethnicities. I do not mean to say that the countries themselves are culturally heterogeneous; they aren’t. Japan, Austria, Norway, and South Korean are almost 100% homogenous, nearly devoid of ethnic groups. What I mean is that their proximity to other global states encourages economic cooperation and negotiation.
Education is promoted in a variety of ways. Europeans are some of the most well-traveled people globally. Each European state has a unique language, thus populations need to be multi-lingual merely to get around. Language education is both part of everyday life and institutionalized within the educational system. Most urban Europeans speak their native language, plus English or French, and possibly German. Location plays a large part in language skills. Many Europeans may not speak a language but have functional use of a second or third language, meaning they read the language but not speak; or, they might speak the language but not read the language.
Another way education is promoted is via skills and knowledge-based assessment throughout a child’s academic life. Typically beginning as early as 6th grade and usually at 8th grade, children are measured for skills and knowledge. Results of measurements allow educators to encourage and support children and parents in making future education or career choices. Business and industry also pays attention to academic measurements. Students may be offered scholarships, grants, or internships based on academic performance. Later, after high school graduation, support may continue into university, or into direct employment in the workforce. In other words, children are monitored throughout their primary and secondary education in order to better provide for the individual student’s future academic career and their future employment.
The state provides subsidized learning, both in vocation schools and university. Most universities in high-income states, like Germany, the UK, Norway, provide free or highly subsidized tuition. Students that test well in high school have the opportunity to move into a selection of different universities. In Europe, even moderate scores do not prevent entry. Students may have to pay a portion of their tuition and/or be limited in what university they might attend.
Finally, states (the correct technical term) pay attention to both education and economic need. States pay attention to the needs of business and industry, both at the state level and regional and local needs. National educational policy then works towards addressing these needs. The benefit is multifold. Most of these countries have lower unemployment. Most of these countries have very high wages; the population is not engaged primarily in manufacturing, but in knowledge-based industries which have a high value. With better jobs and higher wages, people are able to contribute more to social support systems needed later in life, like health care, and retirement.
Education, especially education of women, is fundamental to a strong and vibrant economy. Education has the added benefit of buffering against downturns in the economy. Education furthermore supports better life beyond retirement.
Education is the single-most important a country can make. Thus, my platform proposes the following:
- A National Education Policy that every single America can identify and state.
- The abolishment of all teacher’s unions. Each school district needs the ability to hire and fire, at will. Each teacher needs to be personally accountable for their teaching efforts, each administrator needs to be personally accountable for their schools, and each school board needs to be accountable for the performance of their schools.
- Teacher benefits will be negotiated via state-appointed collective bargaining councils, with oversight by an education comptroller or underwriter.
- “No Child Left Behind” will be formally revoked.
- Beginning at the 6th grade, all children will be assessed for knowledge and skill sets. Assessments will be communicated to parents for use in planning future educational needs and career planning.
- Public schools are not places of worship, therefore no religion will be advocated or allowed on public grounds. People wanting their children to receive religious indoctrination should elect to send their children to private school, or schools supported by religion. This does not prevent an individual student from praying before a exam. This plan would disallow any formal religious ceremony before a sporting event or school function.
- Individual teachers should be allowed merit pay and promotions like any employee of any other business sector. Regular teaching evaluations should be holistic, and not simply based upon student scores. Administrators should consider input from fellow faculty, staff, students, parents, activities, classroom presence, etc.
- Corporal punishment should be allowed, when a student is confronted with a choice; “you can behave according to these rules, or, you can continue to misbehave and suffer these consequences, a loss of privilege and swats.”
- State education boards should study necessary jobs skills, and the results of skill & knowledge assessments. Studies should then be used to direct local and regional education needs and tailor region-specific plans for addressing needed skills. The Department of Education should also conduct similar studies in coordination with, and parallel to, state studies in order to assist current and future economic needs of the United States.
- The Department of Education should promote and encourage business, industry, and higher education interaction within Primary and Secondary education. The Department of Education should work in coordination with the Department of Commerce to ensure continued success in promoting STEM-based industries and research, and encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.
- Student loans should be never be eliminated. As long as education costs a person, student loans should never be abolished. To promote education in certain needed employment sectors, grants, no-interest loans, and loan forgiveness should be offered to students with the academic prowess to succeed.
- Vocational training should be formalized, publicized, and encouraged. Manufacturing in the United States will never evaporate. Skills needed today and in the future will need to advance, though, in order to function in industries where technology assists manufacturing. Employees will be needed to service robotics, operate computers, and numerous other functions associated with manufacturing processes. The Department of Education, along with the Department of Labor and Department of Commerce, need to coordinate their efforts to support vocational education throughout the United States.
A wave of anti-intellectualism appears rampant across the United States. During most of the 2011 GOP Debates, almost every candidate proposed doing away with Pell Grants and the Student Loan Program. Republican-run legislatures across the United States cut education spending. State representatives proclaim, “what does a welder need an education for? Or, an electrician?” Republicans and Democrats hold up as role models Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, illustrating that to be successful in the United States, one does not need to be college educated. The fallacy of that argument is that both Gates and Jobs received college educations, networked with other college-educated people, and employed even more college-educated employees, providing great salaries and benefits, and greatly helping local, state, and national economies. Gates and Jobs would not have been the person they are (were) without formal education.
The days of the United States being the manufacturing capital of the world are over. The United States must undergo significant changes in the way we address our educational system. We must put people in the best possible position to find employment, careers, and personal success in order for the United State to be economically successful tomorrow and generations from now.
Additionally, to protect not only our economic success but our style of democracy, our population must be educated. A hundred years ago, Americans learned math, science, history, geography, Latin, and Greek classics. Today, to inquire about Greek influences, people are more likely to mention the gyro they had for lunch, or perhaps voice a confused concern over the Greek financial crisis. If we sacrifice our value in education we also allow our lives to usurped by corporate, financial, and government interests that could potentially not have the human population’s interests at heart. By siding with the supporters who favor de-emphasizing education, one sides with supporting ignorance and handing government over to corporate, legal, and special interest forces that potentially undermine society.
If it were left to me, I would engage Education with the same fervor as the so-called “War on Drugs,” or the “War on Terrorism.” Terrorism is nothing; aberrant behaviors and people will come and go, hand-in-hand with society. We have to prevent ourselves from being distracted from our target, our goals, by shiny objects, or people heckling at us from the sidelines.
The only way to ensure individual, state, and national success is through Education.