The Commissioners' assessment of the implications of truly global markets and our degraded educational outcomes on the US standards of living, while somewhat superseded by Friedman ("The World is Flat") and others who gave us a better narrative, is no less valid and concerning.
The failure is in the prescription for change. An analogous failure can be seen in the Global Warming / Al Gore politician's view of achieving change -- a hugh and unwieldy cap-and-trade imposition specifically focused on carbon -- which forces all the loggerheads regarding subsidies, off-sets and minimal movement to alternate fuel sources. Thus the central reference about whether it is meaningful to the average citizen is the price of a barrel of oil versus the environmental outcome to be achieved. And another 25 years have gone by.
Having said this, there is little in their recommendations that I would disagree with on their face. Rather, I see a risk of the continuation of the disconnect of the policy act and a means of assuring ourselves that we are going to achieve the desired state. Most profound element of "fuzzy thinking" in these political fixes are the the core assumptions made. If we don't hold the focus on the outcome desired, we are led into many cul-de-sacs of well meaning recommendations. For instance, the recommendation for higher teacher pay. Probably a correct assertion, but at the present state of knowledge of what improves the classroom outcome for ALL children; it is surely not the causal fix the Commissioners assume. Our educational research has lagged so far behind achieving solutions that we really don't know what "truly effective" teaching (read: all our kids succeed) looks like. Therefore simply paying teachers more to attract higher quality can be a profound waste. Our Investment Banks pay top dollar -- and are we better off for it? The recommendation has as much chance of impact as paying priests more so that more of us might go to heaven.
Here's another example: The Commission's call for universal early childhood education. This could be a powerful tool if we have clarity as what is the desired change state to be achieved; how it will be measured and how we will hold ourselves accountable for its achievement. I, unfortunately, have worked in many communities with near universal pre-school and yet still only a third of those children are ready to succeed in kindergarten and less then 2/3s of these children are able to read at a basic level by the time they reach the Third Grade.
As with the other recommendations, where we have already spent Billions of Dollars on activities, the core consideration must be: Universal Early Childhood Education is only valuable to the degree that it demonstrates improved outcomes for our children. And the Commission falls short of that degree of rigor for any of their recommendations. Don't our children deserve more?
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