Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Education a "National Security Issue"?

I worry that this line of reasoning could be abused, cheapening the idea of what is and is not a national security idea. It's like calling solitary confinement "torture" or disagreeing with the president "racism". Still, it might merit at least some concern:

Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the U.S. Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can't answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The report by The Education Trust bolsters a growing worry among military and education leaders that the pool of young people qualified for military service will grow too small.

"Too many of our high school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career — and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the AP. "I am deeply troubled by the national security burden created by America's underperforming education system"...

The report by The Education Trust found that 23 percent of recent high school graduates don't get the minimum score needed on the enlistment test to join any branch of the military. Questions are often basic, such as: "If 2 plus x equals 4, what is the value of x?"

The military exam results are also worrisome because the test is given to a limited pool of people: Pentagon data shows that 75 percent of those aged 17 to 24 don't even qualify to take the test because they are physically unfit, have a criminal record or didn't graduate high school.

Educators expressed dismay that so many high school graduates are unable to pass a test of basic skills.

I still maintain that a lot of the problem is culture--for too many people in our country, school is just a no-out-of-pocket-expense babysitter.


mazenko said...

I completely agree with you on this. Every release of PISA scores is a measurement of a culture's seriousness about education - or simply about testing. Far too many people simply allow kids - and themselves - to "get by." When you can get in to college with a D average or no diploma - and you still think you should go - there is a problem with the culture.

And, of course, the system is way too lenient and lacks serious competition at all but the elite levels. This is why I was recently writing about whether "school choice" advocates should also be arguing for the right to not choose education. Allowing earlier graduation or competency-based rather than age-based education or a la carte choices on curriculum or simply much high standards and requirements to access state-funded higher education might bring about some change.

But the culture remains the problem - Always has been.

MiaZagora said...

Everything is a national security issue, according to the secretary of homeland security. Even the enforcement of "climate change" laws. So, why not education?

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