American education has to become more competitive yesterday.
As published in Discover Magazine, January 2006:
The performance of U.S. students in middle and high schools on international math and science exams is below the average of 38 other countries. Even advanced American math and physics students score near dead last among students in 20 tested countries, the panel reported. Since 1990 the number of bachelor's degrees in engineering has declined 8 percent; in mathematics, 20 percent. While 32 percent of U.S. students graduate with degrees in science and engineering, the figure in China is 59 percent.
With countries in the Middle East like Qatar having vast oil and natural gas deposits making a huge effort today to start the transition of their economy from an oil based one to a knowledge based economy should be a significant warning sign to the United States. These people have some of the largest oil reserves in the world and they are aggressively planning for an economy not based on oil.
As was stated in April 7, 2006 issue of the journal Science “This small Persian Gulf emirate is preparing for life after oil and gas by pouring wealth into education and research”
What American Institutions are participating?
In Education City in Qatar the RAND-Qatar Policy Institute has helped Qatar to make tremendous changes in the country's educational institutions. And Qatar Science and Technology Park will be an incubator where private companies can partner with government agencies and academic institutions, developing research into commercial applications and driving Qatar and the region toward a diversified, knowledge-based economy.
Prominent signs indicate the presence of educational heavyweights, including Weill Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, and Texas A&M.
Why should we as Texans, or Americans for that matter, worry about Qatar?
The fact is that America is ranked 39th world wide in math and science education. Consider that Texas was just ranked, as a state, 24th in a country that was just placed as 39th.
Countries like Qatar, Singapore, China & India are readily getting some of the best researchers that have been educated and trained in America to relocate to their countries.
For example the Journal Science Reports that:
What is happening?
Texas A&M is setting up joint research with the oil industry and studies related to clean air, while Weill Cornell will concentrate on biomedical projects relevant to local health problems. (Diabetes Research)
To accelerate the process, (Qatar) plans to bring interested scientists from Weill Cornell's New York base and recruit postdocs. For his part, (Qatar) hopes to lure back expatriate Arab scientists currently flourishing in the West. "Many diaspora researchers are interested in going back if the infrastructure is there," says Hassan. To capitalize on the research, the Qatar Foundation is building the Qatar Science and Technology Park right next door to Education City.
Already, big players in industrial R&D, including GE, Microsoft, and ExxonMobil, have signed up and are waiting to move in.
- Foreigners are coming to America and getting education and training and then exporting that knowledge and experience out of the country.
- American researchers and educators are leaving America to be able to do the research that they are either denied or do not have funding for in the United States.
- The drain is affecting the quality of education and research in America.
- America is loosing it’s competitive edge in a global economy in the area of research to product development.
- The quality of educational facilities in the United States is falling below that of the competitive countries, as are the salaries and benefits which lure our leading researchers away.
These well funded research facilities are in countries that do not hold back development and research in controversial areas like Stem Cell Research. In fact they encourage it and fund it. These countries are leaving the United States behind and will reap the financial rewards and the health benefits of such research before the United States. They will generate jobs and wealth. The Unite States will just lose.
In an article from February 24, 2006 in the Journal Science:
“At an elite science high school in Dallas, Texas, President George W. Bush told the assembled students that the United States "needs a workforce strong in engineering and science and physics" to remain the world's top economic power. His words would seem to bode well for precollege activities funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the only federal agency with an explicit mission to improve science and math education. But 3 days later, the president unveiled a 2007 budget request that would cut--for the third straight year--a 4-year-old program at NSF aimed at doing exactly that.”
"If the (Education and Human Resources) EHR budget stays flat, there's no hope of accomplishing what corporate America says is needed to improve the U.S. workforce,"
In his Sate of the union Address on January 31, 2006 President Bush Stated:
"And to keep America competitive, one commitment is necessary above all: We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity. Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hardworking, ambitious people -- and we're going to keep that edge. Tonight I announce an American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our nation's children a firm grounding in math and science."
However, on February 27, 2006 President Bush comes out and announces his plans for the budget: (Washington Post By Mike Allen and Peter Baker 02/07/06)
"President Bush plans to unveil a $2.5 trillion budget today eliminating dozens of politically sensitive domestic programs, including funding for education, environmental protection and business development, while proposing significant increases for the military and international spending, according to White House documents."
These problems that are highlighted above are at the heart of the problem.
Now get into the “No child Left Behind” program which has altered public education and forced it into a rote learning model by demanding testing performance at the sacrifice of building critical thinking skills.
According to Wikipedia Rote Learning is defined as: a learning technique which avoids grasping the inner complexities and inferences of the subject that is being learned and instead focuses on memorizing the material so that it can be recalled by the learner exactly the way it was read or heard. In other words, it also means learning just for the test.
For a Texas school to achieve the academic acceptable rating (the lowest passing standard)
According to the TEA's own 2005 Accountability Manual:
Schools must have passing rates of:
50% percent in Reading Tests
50% in Writing Tests
50% in Social Studies
35% percent in Math tests
25% percent in Science tests
The aspects of learning that involved critical thinking and questioning what is being taught are dieing on the vine so that we reflect an acceptable passing rating as defined by the TAKS test standards for Texas.
I find it horrifying that such low standards are required of students to pass the TAKS test in order to get an academically acceptable rating for the entire school.
No single student would be allowed to pass a single test with a 60%, 40% or 35% grade. The Government is telling us Schools are getting better and more schools are meeting the acceptable rating than they were two years ago. The only reason that is true is because they have lowered the standard and created loop holes that specifically allow for test scores of minorities to be excluded in the reporting.
Our schools are being forced onto a path of intentional failure by placing the appearance of demands and accountability without funding. The current administration in Washington and our representatives across the United States all talk about how important education is but their actions of undermining those initiatives by cutting the money out of education only speak to their real agenda of forcing public education to fail so that they can privatize education.
This agenda is being achieved at the sacrifice of this generation of children that are in school today. The damage that is being done will take decades to repair. Our economy will suffer and the quality of life for your children might actually be less than yours for the first time in American history.
As a nation we need to stop wasting time with foolish projects like School Vouchers and we need to stop spending money and resources on trying to get intelligent design into science classes. These distractions only drain valuable resources and time from the educational system while exasperating the problems at the expense of the education of our children. We need to fix the problems – not create new ones.
- To hold elected officials accountable for sacrificing education.
- Better pay for teachers.
- More Teachers.
- Better resources for education.
- Properly fund “No child Left behind”
- Modify “No Child Left Behind” to promote critical thinking.
- Abandon the method of Rote Learning.
- Increase funding for “Head Start”.
- More involvement of higher learning institutions through the entire educational life of a child.
- To spend more money on students per year than we do on prison inmates. ($13,000 per prisoner vs. $6,000 per student)
- Stimulate more research in higher education.
- Open up Stem Cell research and other programs to lure the leading minds.
- Restore incentives to bring the brightest and most talented researchers to America.
- To be number 1 in education world wide.
- For Texas to lead the United States in education as well.
I can think of no greater investment for our future than our children and their education.