Education And National Security: Can The Republicans Be Shamed Into Closing The Gap?

Posted by | December 26, 2010 12:56 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Bruce Friedrich

Ronald Reagan famously wanted to abolish the Department of Education, and his brand of conservatism—extreme for the time—is light by today’s standards. Many of today’s Republicans want nothing more than to cripple the entire federal government to the point at which it can be “dragged into the bathroom and drowned in the bathtub,” to use Grover Norquist’s colorful metaphor.

That’s the real goal of perpetuating tax cuts for the mega-wealthy. Sure, the Republicans’ best friends get to take home some extra tens of thousands of dollars (or more), but the real prize for Republicans is the massive hit to the federal coffers, which allows them to screech about the impossibility of funding… well, pretty much everything but the military.

The next Congress has signaled (screamed from the rooftops is more like it) its intentions and is likely to make marked progress in its quest if the Democrats don’t steal at least a few plays from the playbook of the Republicans from when they were in the minority.

One area where Republicans may be vulnerable is education, which is taking a triple whammy:

  • Budget cuts and a poor economy, with high unemployment, are adversely impacting, especially, poor and minority students.
  • Republicans want to freeze spending, including “Race to the Top,” which has been succeeding far beyond its budget in creating important changes for poor students. Without the carrot of Race to the Top money, educational reform could grind to a standstill, with obvious adverse impacts on our nation’s youth.

And most concerning:

  • State budgets, where most educational funding comes from, are under critical duress. Today’s New York Times offers a chilling discussion of state systems in complete crisis. As one example, the Times notes that in our fifth largest state, Illinois, “[s]ome of its employees have been evicted from their offices for nonpayment of rent, social service groups have laid off hundreds of workers while waiting for checks, pharmacies have closed for lack of Medicaid payments.” Illinois’ plight is not anomalous, as the article rightly notes. Of course, one of the big state expenditures, education, is sure to get hit hardest as the crisis grows.

After John Stewart’s successful shaming of Republicans into funding care for first responders, perhaps a similar tactic could be used to save education: A bad educational system doesn’t just harm students and our economy, but it also puts our military at risk.

According to a new report, helpfully titled “Shut Out of the Military: Today’s High School Education Doesn’t Mean You’re Ready for Today’s Army,” approximatly one-fourth of Army recruits are not allowed to join, because they fail the academic admission test:

In every state in America, the military turns away remarkably high percentages of applicants who, despite their high school diplomas, lack the reading, math, science and problem-solving skills needed to serve in the armed forces.

CNN, reporting on the study, puts our national educational crisis into stark relief:

The results of a global education survey this month showed U.S. high school students come in 26th out of 65 in combined scores for math, science and reading tests, according to the Organization for European Economic Cooperation’s Program for International Assessment.

The Education Trust said the results of the Army’s Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test are indicative how America’s education system prepares students for the civilian workplace as well.

The Republicans may want to drown most of the federal government in a bathtub, but they want to save the military. Perhaps the Democrats can save education by hammering, hammering, and hammering some more the fact that an educational system that turns out unprepared students doesn’t just harm the students and our economy; it also harms our national security.

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Copyright 2010 Liberaland
By: BruceGFriedrich

Vice President, Policy, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

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