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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We Need to Start Talking Seriously about Education Now!

According to Ed Week, it is pretty unusual for candidates to talk about education this close to an election. That is part of the problem. We know that education and the economy are joined at the hip. Up to now, what has driven economic policy is maximizing short term profit, also known as greed. A similar engine drives education. For example, gains in test scores is taken as improvement, and as long as there is a cosmetic appearance of improvement, the population is pacified and grant funders are happy to continue giving money. Now there is some lipstick on a pig.

Teaching to the test is not a sustainable strategy for getting the kind of profound improvements America needs to successfully compete in the global arena. It is a cliche but education IS an investment in the future. Americans must lift their heads and look toward the horizon. Yesterday Jeffrey Feldman said the meme for the election should be "grandchildren." You bet. I have written many times that American society has the education it wants. We know this because if it were not so, society would demand something else. Instead, we waste decades and generations bouncing from one educational fad to another. When will America say, "Enough!"

I say this election, even now, even this late in the election cycle, is a perfect time to put education and its implications for the economy front and center. It is harder work and not as fun as parsing every word out of Palin's mouth, but surely a much more long-term profitable use of time, energy and brain cells. When Bush touched the third rail of Social Security, society stepped in. Everyone with a brain and an internet connection added their two-cents worth to that debate. Except for the diehards, non-partisanship ruled the day as society concluded that privatization would be a supremely bad idea.

It is past time for society to get excited, even passionate, about the education of future generations. Comment here, there, and everywhere. Most blogs have blogrolls. Use comments and social media to create a tsunami network of education conversations. Look for creative ways to reallocate present resources. Make the media sit up and take notice.

Let's make education an issue right up there with the economy and foreign policy. Americans need an education race mindset and commitment like that of the 1960s space race.

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