Beware India…And Raise Our Standards

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Economy, Education, The World

Beware may be a strong word, but they aren’t just answering our customer service calls anymore. They’re making our tractors and televisions.

Simpy put, other countries are besting our manufacturing capabilities because they have more affordable labor. This has been the case for years, but this trend is more obvious than ever before. And do note that we will NEVER get these jobs back. India’s workforce will work for so much less, and in many cases they do better work. Also, since America is a country built on capitalism, the machine keeps chugging along because we continue to find the means to produce our goods cheaper and cheaper. Whether we like it or not, it’s all about the bottom line, and regardless of the morality of these decisions, our corporations will continue to make them. That’s the reality.

So what now?

The answer is simple. A new push is needed in this country, and it’s as important as our push to destroy terrorism or go to the moon. However, this one should be directed towards a more advanced and robust educational system, and therefore a more intelligent workforce. Testing isn’t making our students better, but a smarter school system and better trained teachers will. And that means smaller classes and higher paid teachers. We can’t keep paying our educators poorly and expect our students to get smarter. If we’re going to apply the laws of supply and demand to the rest of our reality, we have to apply it to our educational system to. Otherwise, it will continue to get worse.

In short, there’s a new revolution happening and it’s not industrial in nature. India and China and other countries with hungry, cheap labor will destroy our manufacturing base and it’s inevitable. I’ll say that again…it IS inevitable. And they also have knowledge workers to match ours. That doesn’t mean we can’t pass them, but the only thing to do now is make our country smarter, and fast.

Are we up to the challenge? Can we best them? Will we spend the small amount of money necessary to make it happen? I certainly have my doubts, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. We can easily divert money from the war machine to a more savvy educational system. But that means politicians have to stand up and start saying we need a new push…and I’m certainly not holding my breath.

Let’s hope we start the push soon.


This entry was posted on Friday, September 1st, 2006 and is filed under Economy, Education, The World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

23 Responses to “Beware India…And Raise Our Standards”

  1. Manyu Says:

    Is this the reason why the american government is giving more and more visa to the students from India or its more underprevelidged neighbour (Nepal). Almost 50%(demographic not accutrate) high school students have the eagle stamp on their passport.

    Has Catrina and Rita crippled the country so much that the largest country in the world is in desparate need of cheap labour to reboost their internal financial need?

    US is so concerned with the prime energy source(OIL) that it is willing to lose its integrety over the mere indians. Iraq may be an achievement but to what cost? India letting itself grow with its mass population and franchising itself in all the countries of the world has the negative effect of plunging into a vast sea of oppurtunities. US cannot stop it.

  2. Eural Says:

    I’ve taught for 15 years in an American high school and a lot of your reform is dead on – but let me tell you the two big obstacles to reform (at least as I see it):

    1)Schools are supposed to be designed around the classroom to support the teacher who directly impacts the students. But they are run by massive beuraucricies which are supported by (largely) meaningless paperwork and data produced by the teachers. So the “support” staff makes increasing demands on the teacher’s time and resources to draw their paychecks while providing little or no real support to the actual education environment.

    2) As a result of #1 all the “power” and authority runs from the top-down – and by top I mean outside consultants and service personel in addition to actual administrators. I know of schools where the principles take their marching orders from the custodial staff about equipment placement and such rather than the teachers.

    The bottom line? Everyone (except the teachers directly involved with the students’ education) has a voice and input into the education system. The teachers are just stuck with no authority, few resources, little compensation and all the responsibility to produce the desired results.

  3. DosPeros Says:

    Justin – It is nice for you to finally come out against a minimum wage increase AND for a school choice/voucher system. We have dumped mammoth amounts of money into the public school system – this does not make them “competitive.” Example: Every major urban school district. What makes a school competitive academically is actual academic competition. I completely agree that education is paramount and it is time for a truly revolutionary overthrow of the failed public school system — that is if we want to be educationally competitive, rather than appease the worthless minions of the NEA.

  4. Lemming Herder Says:

    I think you are right on, although I would like to see some kind of “disincentives” for companies that take their business outside the U.S.

    The television show “30 Days” had an excellent episode on the topic of outsourcing. http://dontbealemming.com/2006/08/03/outsourcing-and-30-days.aspx

    As much as I hate to rag on the American way of life, I personally believe that the failure of children to appreciate a good book, and the failure of the parents to encourage reading, is a major cause of our “dumbing down”.

    Television and video games are built in baby sitters and I am just as guilty as others of using them for this.

    This also explains the effectiveness of talking points. We are used to getting our information in 10-15 second blurbs rather than in pamphlets such as those used to incite passions leading up to the American Revolution.

    Posted by the Lemming Herder from Don’t Be A Lemming!

  5. Tom Says:

    Justin – I’m missing something. Once our kids all have great educations, what are they going to do? Indian kids are still going to be able to do most things cheaper – and not just the crappy assembly line jobs. They’re people, and they have brains as good as ours. And there are 3x as many of them. This country is going to be hurting until we have something close to wage equity with India.

  6. Tom Says:

    I should add that if we ever start to see something close to wage equity, a lot of that manufacturing will come back, especially for larger items. With the cost of energy on the rise, it won’t pay to ship something heavy half way around the world.

    (Incidentally, I bought a set of wood chisels at Home Depot today – they had two brands on offer – one made in the US, one made in England. Crazy, huh?)

  7. Tony S. Says:

    I agree in large part with Eural and Lemming Herder. I taught in the public schools for 8.5 years before quitting to pursue a different degree in a tolerable field. The teachers who sacrifice their lives for 20-30 years have absolutely no authority to improve the situation, but are held as the responsible parties for any failures in almost all cases. A culture of entitlement and of immediate gratification/entitlement to entertainment persists that works against any ambition whatsoever in the majority of our students. Reading, particularly reading anything worthwhile, learning for the sake of learning, or working hard now to achieve a greater edge in the market later are not only not valued by our school-aged children, but are openly scorned as being the definitive sign of a sucker, an idiot. I agree with DosPeros in that we need some form of competition, but do not hold the national teachers unions as the greatest of the evil powers at play… while they are truly destructive in some states, I happened to teach in a state where the unions are fairly weak, and the problems still exist in as great or greater amounts. The competition we need can only be born out of a situation desperate enough to get the attention of every potential slacker, and that will be accomplished only when you radically reduce the social/public safety net. Reform welfare, remove the possibility of sponging off of the system for years and lifetimes, and you will see every slacker who likes to eat hit the schools harder and hit the workforce harder. Without the possibility of truly failing in life, of being destitute beyond the means of even survival, there is no true incentive to work hard and pursue education for a majority of our school-age populace. Tell a kid raised in a welfare household that he needs to work hard to make it in this world, and 9 times out of 10 he will laugh in your face and call you stupid.

    The real question is how to provide a social/public safety net that provides for our truly helpless and desperately needy WITHOUT causing a culture of entitlement amongst those used to skimming off the system.

  8. Brian in MA Says:

    An idea: If students don’t want to work hard and continually try to interfere with other student’s learning? Kick them out. If the parents complain, tell them to either home school or find another institution to educate their weapons of mass distraction. What we need is school systems that are focused solely on teaching reading, writing, science, and math, and not the social engineering that goes on in the public school systems today. The school is not a place for making everyone feel comfortable if they are tall, short, black, white, gay, straight, or otherwise. We should not be allowing special interest groups to come in to our schools and pass out gay/straight alliance pamphlets or condoms, or some other ridiculous form of “outreach”. Keep personal politics and values at home where they belong, and if you can’t, go into a less volatile study like Language Arts or Science.

    Manufacturing in America is dead. Kiss it goodbye, it has gone overseas where people do not have the expectation of making $10 an hour, and once those people do, then Manufacturers will move from India and China into some undeveloped overpopulated area in Africa. We need to focus on the higher skill level jobs, not be worried about punch-and-click occupations.

  9. Eural Says:

    I’ll back up a lot of what Tony says from my experience – I work in a non-union state and have spoken with many teachers who see unionizing as a way to solve many of our problems. Obviousely this doesn’t seem to work totally as unionized states confront a lot of the same problems.

    Brian, your solution won’t really help in the sense that kick out the kids will just land them on the streets without any skills. That would lead to any number of nasty scenerios (increased crime, unemployment and a huge drag on our society) without addressing the issues of education. (On a side note, I’ve never seen any activity by any of the special interest groups your so worried about. Most of the “news” I’ve seen along those lines usually turns out to not be so “newsworthy” once you do a little investigating. But maybe its just not happening in my neck of the woods).

  10. Lewis Says:

    I’ve worked in manufacturing as an engineer for 25 years. This India/China issue is a lot more complicated than it seems on the surface. I also set up a manufacturing plant in India a few years back so I’ve seen it from both ends.

    Manufacturing is not dead in the US and we all better hope it doesn’t die. In some areas and products, it’s very robust here. What’s mostly going overseas is “easy” stuff or things that environmental/OSHA laws make it way more expensive to make here. Before you knee jerk, NO, I don’t support weakening environmental/safety laws to keep dirty industry here.

    Some US manufacturing companies have recognized that the future of “made in USA” is about innovative and technically advanced new products. These types of products are typically pricey, high margin and low volume. To do these types of products, you need lots of engineers and skilled technical trades, all very high paying jobs.

    These are not the glamorous type of jobs (we’re nerds), like being a rock star or a journalist so young people aren’t attracted to them. Also, it’s very tough schooling. You’ve got to have a strong work ethic to survive 4 years of engineering college, another negative for our spoiled and lazy young people.

    One negative trend of secondary education is the demise of vocational education. This used to be where non-college bound students learned a skilled trade. Try finding a young skilled machinist, or for that matter any young person who knows what a machinist does. Skilled machinists are as important as the engineers because they make the stuff that engineers dream up. A good machinist is worth big bucks if you can find one.

    Most people are not aware that Bush actually passed a very important tax credit to help manufacturing companies develop new products. They can now deduct most of the new product development costs from their tax bill. Previously, they could only deduct a percentage of a percentage. This has really helped to stimulate new product development at my company. We doing stuff that can’t be done or made (yet) in India/China and adding substantially to our company sales and profit. At the same time, this is saving regular factory jobs that pay well and have benefits. How about that, Bush actually (maybe) did something smart!

    So anyway it IS NOT inevitable that we will lose our manufacturing base. We can actually grow it. But throwing a lot of money at schools won’t help much when they don’t really teach the subjects related to manufacturing or expose kids to how cool, challenging and fun it can be.

  11. probligo Says:

    There was an interesting little commentary on my old steam radio this morning, with an interview (I missed who with) on the subect of nanotechnology. In tying this to future manufacturing processes the following points were made -

    * Intellectual property law is going to be crucial.
    * Effective nano-technology will become subject to exactly the same pressures of cost reduction as present manufacturing.

    Justin has put his finger squarely on the problem, but then rides into the sunset on (I presume) a favourite political hobby horse of “educational standards”.

    Lewis too has come close to a long term view, but still misses the mark. Having a “manufacturing base” is probable, but do not bet upon it being anything like it is at present.

    Justin, to cut short a very long and detailed argument on my part, consider the world as you know it with just one factor removed – cheap transport.

    I would strongly recommend that you encourage your grandchildren to take education courses that are concentrated on “specialities” such as small scale agriculture and horticulture, general practice medicine (rather than technology supported specialties), and even the traditional trades such as smithing and coopering.

    But then I am just an old, cynical and short-sighted Luddite.

  12. Tony S. Says:

    I agree with Brian on one hand: ever since we have put forth education as a right, it has been completely undervalued by those most in need of it; if it was a privilege that you had to earn, say, by your behavior, attendance and attention, then we might have greater appreciation for it in the general populace. In other words, yes, education would be much better if we could truly get rid of the disruptive students without several years of documentation and repeated school building level meetings and expulsion hearings and stupid lawsuits. Eural, I know exactly what you’re talking about, and I worked really hard to keep my hopeless gang-banging JD parole cases involved and constructive, but I also know that the ones who truly need to be removed from schools will most likely be on the streets causing trouble within a year or two, anyway.

    I disagree with Brian very strongly in his assertion that schools should teach reading, writing, science and math and nothing else. I do believe that reading, writing and math should be the greatest focus early on (K-2), and they should be pushed HARD so that proficiency is hammered home, but students should be started studying a foreign language (Spanish would be most utilitarian on the domestic front, although Chinese or Arabic might also be useful) by the end of 1st or start of 2nd grade. Science should be taught hardcore at the elementary level, that is true, and in much greater detail than we currently require (any kid who can master file-sharing on the internet can grasp basic physics and simple chemistry.) The greatest problem I see in the upper elementary/middle school grades is a failing in teaching geography and history. Our nation’s children have no clue what goes on in the world outside our borders, not outside of whatever they are exposed to on Channel 1 in homeroom. They will never understand the necessity of competing for jobs and industry on an international scale if they don’t understand the complexities of the world at large. If they don’t understand the trials and difficulties of the human story up until this point, they will never appreciate WHY they need to do something besides act stupid and sponge off of welfare while the country sinks around them. I feel that is the greatest failing at the moment. By the time they reach high school, they should be well-versed in American History, World Geography, World History and Government. They should have some context and background with which to understand their own current situation.

    And, finally, Lewis also hits the nail on the head. If things were done right in elementary and middle schools (not digging at the teachers; it’s the powers that be, the curriculum, and community expectations that typically cause this problem), then by the time a student reached high school, he or she would already be well grounded in math, science, reading, writing, and the human experience worldwide. At that point, if they didn’t feel the need for a classical liberal arts education, they would be able to take a technical track through high school, which would not neglect reading, writing, science and math, but would gear the student’s curriculum toward the acquisition of high level technical skills, skills with which they could make an immediate impact in the workforce upon graduation, and with which they could enjoy lucrative compensation for their highly-skilled labor.

    In the end, no, educating our young people in a more thorough manner will not end the drain of industrial jobs to exotic locales with lower labor-costs, but having a motivated, educated, hard-working and highly-skilled population is the first step to maintaining and growing industry at home. While it is not the only answer to the problem, it is a necessary step in constructing the final answer to said problem.

  13. Dyre42 Says:

    We might be able to best them provided that the tax incentives for exporting labor are removed and we finally opt to pay new teachers at least as much as as an assistant manager at Waffle House makes.

  14. JLA Says:

    Many excellent points on this thread.
    Eural, I agree with you completely. The quantity of work that teachers in my district are required to do which is not related to intruction seems to increase every year. Unfortunately, this is the nature of bureaucracy: empowered with authority to facilitate the actual functions of an organization, it seems inevitably to use that authority to justify its own existence. A good administration would be an invisible hand lying behind the smooth operation of the institution.

    DosPeros,
    I did not see Justin advocate a voucher system. Also, your example of “every major urban school system” does not fly, since NYC spends about a third as much per student as suburban districts (I know, I have taught in both). The major problems I have seen in NYC are not due to the “failed public school system” so much as to failed families with out of control kids, combined with the legal straightjacket the courts have placed on schools in dealing with them, as Tony S. and Brian have suggested. BTW, I do agree that you can’t just “kick them out.” Currently, however, every student who is removed from school for intractable behavior problems (which is very difficult to do, and can essentially be prevented by the parents on a whim) ends up costing my district about three times as much as the average student due to all the special services they get at the alternative school. IMO, if a kid blows his shot in high school, send him to a boot camp on the cheap until he earns his way back, unless the parents want to spring for a private facility.

    Tom,
    Wage equity with India? Geat idea! You first.

    Tony S.,
    Good posts. However, I for one do not want to live in a country where people are literally starving. Visions of child-soldiers like they had in Liberia and Sierra Leone run through my head.

  15. Eural Says:

    You know we’ve already arrived at one easy solution on this board – we take the “trouble” kids who haven’t been doing anything academic since 1st grade (literally – I’m teaching some of the kids my wife first had at the elementary school where she works!) and we put them into a hardcore vocational program to bring them up to speed on a real-world technical education (per Lewis, above). It’ll be nasty because all the kids are sold on the fact that they have a right and will be going to college even when they can’t read or write by 10th grade! We need to adapt a more European derived model where those kids are out of the classroom by 8th grade learning skills that will actually help them after they graduate. Instead, they hang around disrupting everything for everyone else serious about an academic career and then drop out to pick up whatever non-skilled job they can get. It’s a lose/lose situation for everyone involved.

    And we add some serious emphasis to the social studies curriculum. It’s neglected because it’s rarely tested (if ever) by our district, state or federal “accountability” measures. I always point out in my classes that the schools prioritize the maths, sciences and language-arts (all duly important) but almost all of our nightly news and political debate centers around social studies issues. Why the disconnect?

    Tony, how is Channel 1 these days? Our schools used it for a while back in the 90′s and then dropped it for some reason. (This was when Lisa Ling was one of the roving reporters!)

  16. Tony S. Says:

    Eural,

    I last saw Channel 1 (4 times a day, no less) during the fall of 2005 in a small rural district in Louisiana. The reason we had it 4 times/day was that I taught social studies, the school was 1/10th of a percent from being in state corrective action over failing scores overall, and the decision was made to not show Channel 1 in Math and English classes, due to the necessity of bringing up test scores in those areas (i.e., they did not want to waste time in the 55 minute/day math and English classrooms… hard for me to argue that with them, actually, as 55 minutes simply isn’t enough time for a core subject area in an academically taxed school.) Unfortunately, the contract that the district had signed with the Channel 1 (in order to get the use of the equipment, which could also be used for in-house, school-produced broadcasts) required that every student have access to the Channel 1 broadcast every day. Instead of adjusting the daily schedule to have a homeroom period, during which every classroom would have Channel 1 playing for the students while daily housekeeping was handled, thereby not losing time from ANY particular class, they made the decision that the broadcast would be replayed in social studies and science classrooms at the beginning of the first 4 class periods, thereby reaching all students (in theory.) So, I lost about 10-12 minutes of my first 4 55-minute American History periods each day to Channel 1.

    Now, I personally think that the last thing students need more of during their day is additional time to stare at a TV screen, particularly in school. On the other hand, as was pointed out to me by a couple of esteemed colleagues, most of our kids had no home internet access, had no access to newspapers, wouldn’t read anything but the sports page if they did, and many did not even have access to TV news coverage. If they were going to get any idea of current events, it was going to be through Channel 1. In addition, although I initially despised the idea, the broadcasts weren’t complete drivel. Occasionally, they would scoop me on current events, which I consider impressive, and there was a lot of interesting news to cover in the Fall of 2005. The day before our Katrina evacuees arrived to take up residence in the school gymnasium, the issue was discussed on Channel 1. My greatest problem with the actual broadcasts (and not the fact that I could recite them verbatim by the end of 4 period) was the high commercial to content ratio. It appeared that commercials made up 50% or more of the broadcast time. I’m probably exaggerating, but blatant advertisement in the public schools, particularly using somewhat racy ads, didn’t set well with me. The content often led to greater discussion of current events, though, for which I was regularly grateful. Supreme court nominations, the war in Iraq, and the aftermath of Katrina and Rita were pretty hot topics, and my kids got to discuss them in great detail, because their interest was piqued enough to engage them in the subsequent discussions.

    On the whole the content aimed at avoiding the dumbing of America, even if the bias in reporting was blatant at times; the commercial content kept adding fuel to our overconsumptive and wasteful culture. I could easily have lived without it, but it did make discussing current events much easier.

    In regards to another point of yours, Eural, I agree that a more European model of high school tracking might be a pretty good answer. If you make the scores to go into the college prep track, fine. If you don’t, you can petition to retake the test, and we’ll let you in for a probationary period while you try to get your test scores up. If you don’t, we’ve given you every opportunity, and you then choose a track for which your scores qualify you. Knowing that they had to compete for the program of their choice could be very helpful. Unfortunately, the history of our country has equated tracking with discrimination and racism time and again. Now, even if tracking were done in a proper manner, it would be fought tooth-and-nail by advocates diligently trying to avoid the abuses of the past.

    JLA, I don’t want to see children starving, either. I want to see them fed by their able-bodied, hard-working parents. That’s the fine line between feeding the hungry and feeding the lazy that I mentioned above. Welfare and assistance aren’t last-ditch subsistence-assurance anymore. They are seen by many of our fellow citizens as a viable way to house, clothe and feed themselves in the long run, and (if you know how to play the system right) even acquire a few of the nicer creature comforts (TV, cell phones, video games, etc.) Amongst the students I taught at my last assignment (before I left at mid-term to pursue something that didn’t threaten my mental health), the majority of “disadvantaged” female students I taught were mothers of 1-3 small children. If you asked them why, the answer was never “He said he loved me” or “I was really drunk” or “I didn’t think it would happen the first time” or “It was a happy little accident.” It was always, “Well, you know, the government pays more for each child.” Understand, these were kids that I really liked, that I cared about, that I tried on a daily basis to educate and help; I’m not talking down about a group of people that I detest. These were some great kids, but they were all brain-washed about the way that you make it in the world. As long as there is a poorly-designed system to exploit, people will exploit it, and will teach their offspring to do the same.

    I can never be a true laissez-faire capitalist or “Libertarian Party”-style libertarian, because I cannot abide the idea of our needy starving in the streets like we might imagine in some impoverished developing nation. On the other hand, I dislike the idea that people live as well as I do, off of taxes we all pay, and without lifting a finger. The more important thing, however, is that the culture of exploiting such programs hamstrings our country as a whole by stealing the ambitions of so many of our young people. As long as such a significant portion of our society has the option of subscribing to that “welfare/assistance” mentality, they will never see the need to compete in the schools or the workplace.

    I taught a pretty decent kid at a different school, a kid I was afraid would turn out to be nothing. He had little or no ambition, wouldn’t listen to authority, and made very poor marks. He returned after summer vacation his junior year a changed young man. I told him that I was impressed with his new-found ambition, and asked him if anything had precipitated it. He nodded and told me about his summer job helping his aunt at her insurance office. He said (paraphrased), “This ain’t no place you want to get insurance, Mr. ***. This is one of those places where you go if you can’t get insurance nowhere else, and every day these people would come in, and you’d hear their sob-stories and you’d smell ‘em and you’d have to try to figure out someway to help them get around the mess they were in to somehow get insurance on their car so they could go find a job, and I don’t want to be like that, Mr. ***. I gotta get all the education I can, I gotta go to college, ’cause I ain’t winding up like that. No, sir. I’m gonna get a good job and work every day of my life if I have to, ’cause I ain’t ending up like that.” That stuck with me. Seeing a few people in dire straits, and empathizing deeply enough to see themselves in the others’ desperate faces, can be a life-changing experience for these young people. I feel we have to let a few of the hard-knocks fall in order make people understand the consequences.

  17. Mike H. Says:

    #1 The USA needs to care more for it`s own Citizens.
    I definitly agree with a stronger education & public welfare system. The public school system needs a moment of Science and we should train our own workers here instead of importing foreign labor.
    nobody should be hungry or homeless in the richest country in the world, public welfare should be a hand up not a hand out.
    Only citizens would be eligable for benefits. the exception would be emergcy health care for Illegals, treat and deport.

    #2 We should idiolize Scientists the way we worship Actors and Atheletes, after all they are the pioneers of the future. Cutting edge technolgies are no longer being produced in the USA, just look at Japanese cell phones for example. India respects higher education far more then the USA does. Education needs Focus more on math and Science.

    #3 All Schools should be private, The government would pay base on two factors Performance and the # of students that attend the school.
    this would be a good way to merge private and public education.

    #4 Tariffs on foreign goods and services, we simply can`t compete with countries that pay there workers 80 cents a day. IF we can’t stop the inevitable at least we can slow it down.

    #5 A more flexable government that response quickly to a changing world, Hurricane Katrana and the Steel industry are just two examples of how we fail during a crisis. Third parties generally have a better handle on this and as a people we should give more support.

    #6 This may sound cold but Hilter was able to round up 10 million Jews
    why can`t we round up illegals and send them packing. Life for them should be horriable and we should zero tolerance for law breakers then they would stay home and fix the problems in there own country.
    Do we really want people in this country who run for the border instead of standing there ground, also look at the quality of people sneaking in from Mexico, they are not the best nor brightest. We should welcome those whom follow the rules and come here legally. Our current immigration polices are a slap in the face to diversity we are becoming a spanish/english country, A strong border is needed to survive for now.( My biggest gripe with the LP. )
    Illegals drain resources that could be better used to help students,
    Bilingual education is one such example, parents should pay out of pocket for such services.

    #7 Most special ed in urban areas should be taught in a boot camp type environment as these children tend to have behavioral issues that need to be adressed.
    Children in the urban Ghettos simply do not learn civllity like the rest of society does and a strict environment would help address their short comings.

    #8 The war on some drugs is part of the problem because it divids up Families by locking up parents for victimless crimes, this affects a childs education, parents are not around to supervise there kids.

    #9 The New World Order is at our door step, we can embrace it or fade into antiquity.

  18. Heather Says:

    I’m beginning to believe that the Department of Education is one cabinet position that should go away and all of education should be handled on a strictly local level. Educational issues including staffing, curriculum, community placement of schools, ALL of it should be handled only by the communities affected — and ALL taxes, federal and state, that are currently allocated for education should be entirely funnelled through local taxes instead.

    I’d be all for letting each community, town, or city have complete control of their educational system and set their own levels of funding as they think are needed. That might be a more practical method of making schools more competitive — parents would be more likely to move to/live in a community that provides the best education…

  19. sleipner Says:

    This post deals with a suite of related problems that have been bothering me a lot for years. Unfortunately I see little that actually could solve the problem, most potential solutions are akin to sticking bandaids on a gushing stump.

    1. Jobs are going overseas. Manufacturing started to flee decades ago, and now programming, customer service, and many other industries are following suit. The arguments about new, innovative products are interesting, but I bet you 5 years after that new product is made, it or knockoffs of it will be manufactured in China. The only real way to help combat this is to work internationally to raise other countries’ wages and standards of living up to the point where they can no longer undercut our prices by such a huge margin. Forcing China to make its currency float would be a step in the right direction, as would India starting trying to limit reproduction (they’re going to pass up China soon). Free trade is a nice fiction, but frankly the only people it really benefits are the corporations that have outsourced their manufacturing plants to Vietnam and the politicians they bought.

    2. Americans are lazy. We all seem to want to get rich quick without working for it. I bet if you ask 100 teenagers what they want out of life, half will say to win big in the lottery. It shows itself in schools, in workplaces, and in the permanent indentations on most American’s couches. We no longer are the “hungry” nation that built us into a world leader after WWII. I see little that we can do to fix or even alleviate this problem as a culture, and the “hungry” cultures of the world, pretty much everyone in Asia, have and will continue to overtake our dominance.

    3. Everyone hates taxes, and most schools are tied to taxes that cannot be raised without an election. Especially since most underfunded schools are in urban areas, where there are more childless voters. In my opinion, we probably spend at best half to a third of what we SHOULD be spending on education. Granted, some of it is wasted in bureaucracy, but Republicans, when they see what they perceive as waste tend to starve the program to death rather than fixing it (i.e. voucher systems – which is also a bone they throw to the fundie crowd). In addition, it is nearly impossible to have systems as large as, say, the LA school district without any waste or bureaucracy…it just can’t be done.

    There’s a lot more, but I have to get back to work ;)

  20. Lynn Robb Says:

    What we have in the United States that NO ONE ELSE CAN EVER MATCH is a combination of entrepreneurship complimented by an insane desire to invent something in our garages. If there is one thing which is central to “The American Dream” (a concept which has now become global), it is the absolute belief that every American can become the next Bill Gates.

    Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I was born in the same city that Cal Tech and Jet Propulsion Laborotories call home, and those guys could rule the world given half a chance (and have fun doing it!).

    All we have to do is somehow imbue teachers with the same sense of wonder and curiosity combined with a heavy dose of frontier spirit. These are not platitudes. Children respond to positive messages that something is going to be both interesting and fun. Throw “profitable” in and you have a guaranteed winner.

    Americans need to do what we have done best for the last three hundred years–think outside the box. Compensating teachers adequately is a no brainer. What would happen if we compensated students? Based on the viability of their ideas to produce concrete results in the real world?

    Just a suggestion from a mother of two very successful children.

  21. sleipner Says:

    Agreed, Lynn, that’s what we HAD. Back in the 60′s and 70′s. Now we have the couch potato generation drinking beer while watching “reality TV”. Our frontier spirit has followed many of the critters that our anti-environmentalism have made extinct.

    The true frontiers of entrepreneurism and invention these days are in Asia – we’re the elderly professor trying to still get by on the reputation for brilliance he earned in grad school.

  22. sleipner Says:

    Another point I just thought of – one of the reasons behind the couch-potatoing of America is that there is no concept of corporate or job loyalty any more. Back in the 60′s, many people who started at a job at 20 expected to retire from it, and there was a sense of mutual involvement in corporate direction from both employers and employees.

    Now it seems as if corporations care only about the bottom line, will screw their employees every which way if it gains them 0.1% more dividend value for their shareholders, and will throw them away the moment they find a cheaper place to manufacture in China. Pensions are underfunded or nonexistent, and benefits are only offered to keep people from deserting before it’s time to lay them off.

    Conversely, this has led to an American workforce devoid of corporate loyalty, swapping jobs every few years or even months to get a 2% raise, or just to get away from that annoying guy in the next cubicle.

    With this sort of mutual antagonism between employer and employee it’s no wonder several other countries are rapidly catching up with us, and will surpass us relatively soon.

  23. Romina Says:

    Hey guys if you have an appreciation for movies check out this years
    Global Peace Film Festival. Give yourself a chance to see movies that are not so mainstream and are speaking out on issues that affect your daily lives. The Global Peace Film festival’s aim is to use movies as a way to promote peace on earth, by bringing to light issues that affect everyone of us on a daily basis. Films will be featured from all around the world discussing controversial issues such as the level of democracy in the US, to the troubles faced by the AIDS Epidemic in Africa, and what we can do to change it. Come take part in this years film festival and see what you can do to make a difference. Visit http://www.peacefilmfest.org for more information or you can e-mail [email protected]. The festival is taking place in Orlando Florida this September 26th-30th..Don’t miss this opportunity!!!!

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