The national education system is mired in a deep crisis, as funding, teachers, student loans, social, and a myriad of other issues threaten to bring the already declining standards of American education even lower.
A 2009 report from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which measured the performance of 470,000 15-year-old students from 34 OECD countries and another 31 partner countries, in the areas of reading literacy, mathematics literacy, and science literacy, made for some extremely troubling reading. The assessment, conducted every three years, reveals that the United States ranks 17th in reading literacy, 31st in mathematics literacy and 23rd in science literacy - while China comfortably tops each category.
A June 2007 analysis by the EPE Research Center (a division of Editorial Projects in Education), "Diplomas Count: Ready for What? Preparing for College, Careers, and Life After High School" concludes that "an estimated 1.23 million students, or about 30 percent of the class of 2007" failed to graduate. In a similar study conducted last year (Diplomas Count 2011: Beyond High School, Before Baccalaureate - Meaningful Alternatives to a Four-Year Degree), EPE revealed that "nearly 3 out of every 10 students in America's public schools still fail to earn a diploma. That amounts to 1.2 million students falling through the cracks of the high school pipeline every year, or 6,400 students lost every day."
These numbers are staggering, and not simply because of the social implications - it's the economic one that we should be wary of. A high school dropout, according to Professor Cecilia Elene Rose in her 2005 paper, "The Labor Market Consequences of an Inadequate Education," will earn $260,000 less compared to their counterparts with high school diplomas. Additionally, the country will lose approximately "$192 billion 1.6% of GDP -- in combined income and tax revenue losses with each cohort of 18 year olds who never complete high school."
But the story doesn't end there. Americans used to have the second highest rate of college graduates in the world, a figure markedly reflected in the 55-64 age group, which consists of 41% college graduates - coinciding with the nation's post-WWII economic growth. Fast forward three decades later, and we are now languishing in the 16th spot.
There is much to consider here, and it's time to hear what the candidates have to say on the matter.
2012 Republican Presidential Nominee
Former Governor of Massachusetts
Romney believes that education is a central aspect of the American Dream. However, he believes that years of neglect by the federal government has rendered the national education system ineffective, broken even. He also believes that the continuing “flood of federal dollars” is driving up the cost of higher education.
He advocates wide-ranging reforms to the education system, and will take the unprecedented step of tying teachers’ compensations to their results instead of tenure. In addition, Romney will implement measures that will expand parental role in education.
“ … I came into a state where Republicans and Democrats had worked to, before I got there to make some very important changes. They said that they were going to test our kids every year. They said to graduate from high school, you're going to have to pass an exam in English and math. I was the first governor that had to enforce that provision. There were a lot of people that said, oh, no, no, no. Let people graduate even if they can't pass that exam. I enforced it. We fought it. It was hard to do. We added more school choice. My legislature tried to say no more charter schools. I vetoed that, we overturned that.
With school choice, testing our kids, giving our best teachers opportunities for advancement, these kinds of principles drove our schools to be pretty successful. As a matter of fact, there are four measures on which the federal government looks at schools state by state, and my state's number one of all 50 stays in all four of those measures, fourth-and-eighth-graders in English and math. Those principles, testing our kids, excellent curriculum, superb teachers, and school choice, those are the answers to help our schools.“
February 22, 2012: CNN Arizona Republican Presidential Debate
“… education has to be held at the local and state level, not at the federal level. We need get the federal government out of education. And secondly, all the talk about we need smaller classroom size, look that's promoted by the teachers unions to hire more teachers. We looked at what drives good education in our state, what we found is the best thing for education is great teachers, hire the very best and brightest to be teachers, pay them properly, make sure that you have school choice, test your kids to see if they are meeting the standards that need to be met, and make sure that you put the parents in charge. And as president I will stand up to the National Teachers Unions…
… I think the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is doing a good thing by saying, you know what, we should insist that teachers get evaluated and that schools have the opportunity to see which teachers exceeding and which ones are failing and that teachers that are not successful are removed from the classroom. ..”
September 22, 2011: Fox News/ Google Debate, Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida
“… I have issues that take me in the same direction. One is No Child Left Behind. I've taken a position where, once upon a time, I said I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education. That was my position when I ran for Senate in 1994. That's very popular with the base. As I've been a governor and seen the impact that the federal government can have holding down the interest of the teachers' unions and instead putting the interests of the kids and the parents and the teachers first, I see that the Department of Education can actually make a difference. So I supported No Child Left Behind. I still do. I know there are a lot in my party that don't like it, but I like testing in our schools. I think it allows us to get better schools, better teachers; allows us to let our kids have the kind of hope that they ought to have.”
May 15, 2007: Republican presidential primary debate, University of South Carolina, Columbia
“… America's post-WWWII commitment to public higher education directly contributed to the burst of productivity that rocketed our economy beyond every other. But other nations have made as great or greater a commitment to higher education than we have, particularly in engineering, computer science, and information. 15 years ago, China and India awarded about half as many master's degrees in these fields as did the US. Today, they graduate more than two times the number of students in these fields as we do. While our annual number of degrees has hovered around 7,000 to 8,000, China's has risen from 1,784 to 12,130--50% greater than ours. This is a stunning reversal of global preeminence in the priority attached to the highest level of educational attainment. Not surprisingly, China, Japan, and Taiwan claim a growing share of the world's patents…”
March 2, 2010: No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, a book by Romney
“You have a right to your life and you have a right to your property, but you don’t have, education isn’t a right, healthcare isn’t, education…these are things you have to earn.”
March 2, 2011: Speaking on MSNBC
The Constitution is very, very clear. There is no authority for the federal government to be involved in education… There's no, no prohibition in the Constitution for the states to be involved in education. That's not a bad position and we can sort things out. But once, once again the Senators for, was for No Child Left Behind, but now he's running for president, now he's running to repeal No Child Left Behind once again. But, and he calls it a team sport. He has to go along to get along and that's the way the team plays. But that's what the problem is with Washington. That's what's been going on for so long…
February 22, 2012: CNN Arizona Republican Presidential Debate
Cuts $1 trillion in spending during the first year of Ron Paul’s presidency, eliminating five cabinet departments (Energy, HUD, Commerce, Interior, and Education), abolishing the Transportation Security Administration and returning responsibility for security to private property owners, abolishing corporate subsidies, stopping foreign aid, ending foreign wars, and returning most other spending to 2006 levels.
Ronpaul2012.com, RON PAUL “PLAN TO RESTORE AMERICA”
As a teacher, Snyder has first-hand knowledge of our nation’s educational shortcomings. America has the most technologically advanced education in the world, and tools for the most outdated curriculum in western society. It is embarrassing that we are still teaching our children to think along career paths suited for the 1950’s during the 21st century. Our country is the largest financial system in the world, based on capitalism within a free market society, yet we do not teach our children even the basics of finance, let alone the fundamentals of how to prosper within our own country.
To win the war on poverty, we must teach modern avenues of prosperity.