Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Education Insanity – Bold Policy Needed!

Education may not at first appear to be a topic for national security, but affordable education is an underlying source of American power. The United States’ ability to prepare future generations for security issues in the 21st century is being challenged by poor educational performance and education costs that appear to have no limit; trends that have everyone on every level concerned about whether the U.S. can sustain a healthy economy based on America’s current workforce.

Though the U.S. has the best universities and spends more on education than other countries, Americans take on more debt in pursuit of their education than any of their international counterparts. America’s young and future workforce is questioning whether to sustain large amounts of education debt in return for uncertain earnings potential and uncertain employment opportunities, while experts in the public and private sectors continue to draft policy recommendations that appear to stay on the “whiteboard”.

Current popular policies address job creation and employment opportunities, but fail to fully address the earnings potential of the U.S. workforce. Add this failure to the questions America’s young and future workforce are asking and it is not unthinkable that the incentive to obtain a higher degree of education, such as undergraduate and post graduate degrees may decrease. Thus young American’s are in the initial stages of opting for short-term technical degrees valued to provide immediate employment opportunities without the hardship of taking on large amounts of long-term debt. The absence of affordable education in the baccalaureate studies causes great concern for sustainable long-term growth in U.S. workforce wages; concern for the technical expertise of our domestic workforce; and concern for the overall long-term health of the U.S. domestic economy.

One think tank -the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) -has launched a special project in connection with its 90th anniversary titled “Renewing America” that focuses on six major domestic challenges facing the U.S. global power: debt and deficits; infrastructure; education and human capital; corporate regulation and taxation; innovation; and international trade and investment. Under its selected resources on education and human capital the CFR provides links to experts who’s proposed policies spell out ways of making improvements to an education system beset by falling student performance and a flawed immigration system that threatens U.S. capacity to develop a competitive workforce. But with all its great anniversary efforts – it is doubtful that these policies will gain traction. Instead, it’s as if we are stuck in a U.S. education insane asylum - education experts continue to recommend various changes, but never address the real problem – ergo they are recommending / implementing more or less the same policies year after year – expecting change – isn’t that education insanity?

According to UNESCO the U.S. has the second largest number of higher education institutions in the world and the second highest number of higher education students in the world. Though these figures are impressive, it still doesn’t dispel the growing employment and financial concerns that many young Americans have.

As mentioned above, affordable education is contributing to a concerning trend in the U.S. workforce. Thus, to prevent a domestic economic decline would it not be better for policy makers to address the real hindrance in education –its affordability and availability- through a robust reformation of the current U.S. higher education system up through baccalaureate studies; where tax dollars allocated to the Department of Education would provide free education up through undergraduate studies. Other western countries do this for their youth –some even provide a stipend to everyone older than 18 that are matriculated. Why can’t THE superpower of the world do the same? Understanding that the allocation of state and federal funds for this is daunting, affordable education is a circuitous element of power for America’s hegemonic unipolar status. I wonder if this topic will be addressed satisfactorily during the presidential debates.

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