Failing Public Schools a "National Security" Liability?

Failing Public Schools a "National Security" Liability?

A task for from the Council on Foreign Relations has us flashing back to Reagan's "A Nation At Risk", and not in a good way.

In a Presidential election that, so far, has been devoid of any specific educational policy ideas, the recent release of a new report may force President Obama and the Republican nominee onto an educational platform. The report is entitled U.S. Education Reform and National Security, and is a product of an independent task force from the Council on Foreign Relations, chaired by former head of the New York City public schools Joel Klein, and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. The findings of the report conclude that the state of U.S. public education right now threatens the future of our national security and ability to compete globally. The report states that, "Educational failure puts the United States' future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk.”

The study conducted by the Task Force highlighted 5 areas of potential impact on national security; economic growth and competitiveness, physical safety, intellectual property, U.S. global awareness, and U.S. unity and cohesion. They found, among other things, that nearly a quarter of high school students do not graduate, that nearly 8 in 10 speak only English, and that 22 percent of high school graduates are “college ready” according to ACT standards (a college entrance exam) in all core curricular areas.

The report was very similar in tone and purpose to a report done during the Reagan administration called “A Nation at Risk”, a report that initiated much of the ideas that are currently being pushed by education reformists.

Some of those ideas are included in the policy recommendations of the CFR task force’s report.

Implement standardized performance expectations and assessments in areas that are “vital to national security.” This is largely an endorsement of the Common Core Standards, which are education benchmarks for students to meet before graduation in the areas of Science, Math, Reading, and Writing.

Change the structure of schools and the system to provide “enhanced choice and competition”. Again, this is an endorsement of the present administrations push for a voucher system that allows parents to move their kids to different schools based on achievement comparisons.

Launch a “national security readiness audit” to hold schools and policymakers accountable for results and to raise public awareness. Putting another bureaucratic system in place to force external accountability on schools, and to publicize school achievement results in order to force schools to take responsibility and to make the public aware of schools’ successes and failures.

The document’s alarmist language seems to have been chosen very carefully for the purposes of inciting public demand, and for forcing further political and social action. Invoking the always hot-button idea of “national security” is the clearly evidence of this. Whether the report will incite the kind of fervor that similar efforts did only several years ago, remains to be seen. In the past economic issues have trumped educational ones on news casts and political campaign trails.

For a reaction to the report and its recommendations by the author, check out School Inc.