Education is the best defense

Writing hyperbolically, Christopher Cross, a fellow with the Center for Education Policy, says China and India are using education as a “soft weapon” against the U.S.

Their goal is to produce legions of people with degrees, usually technical and scientific, who can encircle our meager forces in another few decades, consigning the U.S. economy to the second tier, and with it the standard of living for our children and grandchildren.

Our only effective defense is to greatly improve the quality and productivity of our own education system.

To do that, we need to close the achievement gap.

There has always been in American society a vein of anti-intellectualism, a belief that education is less important than luck, talent and the right connections. That, along with a belief that some children — usually those of color — could not make it in school has allowed us to make excuses for a system where the dropout rate for Black and Latino children is routinely 20 points or more higher than for white and Asian children.

I don’t care for the war rhetoric. A well-educated world surely is a better world for everyone. But it’s hard to see how the U.S. can thrive while writing off so many students as uneducable.

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Comments

  1. “Their goal is to produce legions of people with degrees, usually technical and scientific, who can encircle our meager forces…”

    I don’t care for this rhetoric, either; in fact, I think it is despicable. What does he want: for India and China to return to the days of famine, when every morning carts were sent around to pick up the bodies of those who had starved to death during the night? People in these countries know that economic success, which includes education, is their only way to avoid returning to those days.

    The objective of people in India and China isn’t to hurt us; it’s to help themselves. If that sometimes leads to conflicts of interest, as well as to mutualities of interest, that doesn’t put anyone’s behavior on a part with those who build “germ factories.”

    Most businesspeople know that it is possible to compete with someone and at the same time to respect them, even to like them. This consciousness seems absent among all too many intellectuals. Maybe it is partly this perpetual emotional immaturity on the part of so many self-defined intellectuals that accounts for the strain of “anti-intellectualism” of which Cross complains.

  2. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘A well-educated world surely is a better world for everyone.’ Absolutely right. In the long run this will be a huge help to the US.

  3. PJ/Maryland says:

    There has always been in American society a vein of anti-intellectualism, a belief that education is less important than luck, talent and the right connections.

    I think Cross has that wrong. The anti-intellectualism in American culture is anti-theory vs pro-practice, or anti-paper-certificate vs pro-actual-experience. We’re generally pro-education, and the culture is pro-hard-work, even if individually we’d rather play with our Xbox. And while we all rely on “right connections” for some things, I don’t think American culture approves of this.

    And where does this “40 million Chinese graduates” per year come from? I gather Fiorina has dones wonders at HP, but this statistic is way off base. I wonder if there are that many college graduates worldwide in a typical year.

    This IHT article suggests there are 2.8 million Chinese college grads this year, up from 2.1 million last year and 1.5 million the year before. (Just the ramp up in numbers makes you wonder about the quality of their education.)

    China’s total population is around 1.3 billion; at a guess, there are 20 million people in each age cohort in the college ages (ie, around 20 million Chinese are age 21 right now). Given China’s huge peasant population, I seriously doubt that 1 in 5 is graduating from college. Eventually, we may see as many as 10 or 12 million new college graduates from China each year, but that’s far in the future. (And in a centrally-planned economy, they won’t be finding jobs.)

  4. Well, I don’t find this offensive at all. I think international competition will be a great spur for improving math and science education. It certainly helped during the Cold War when competition with Russia caused the math and science curriculum to improve dramatically.

    How do you maintain your status as a leader in technology? Don’t fall behind. Don’t become complacent. You have to be a tiny bit paranoid. It’s like Google having to compete with Microsoft. How do you maintain market dominance? Get better.

    I suppose the hysteria over the sout-sourcing of jobs is spurring this and I think it’s good.

  5. I’m all in favor of competition, and even a bit of paranoia…but I’m not in favor of applying germ warfare analogies to your competitors. I wouldn’t do this even in business, and it’s much more damaging in political affairs, where xenophobia is always a danger.

  6. What germ warfar? Soft weapon? I don’t think that’s germ warfare-related. It sounds as if it’s just supposed to be one of the impliments of soft power.