Slow Reform of Education in America Threatens National Security

In the late 1930’s, Americans rallied together to strengthen our national security at home and abroad when faced with the perilous threat of a second world war. Now we face another major threat according to a task force organized by the Council on Foreign Relations, and it is a domestic threat from an indolent education system.

“The dominant power of the 21st century will depend on human capital,” a recently released report said. “The failure to produce that capital will undermine American security.”

The report, presented March 20th by the task force lead by former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice and former New York City school chancellor, Joel Klein, states that “75 percent of young adults don’t qualify to serve in the military because they are physically unfit, have criminal records or inadequate levels of education. That’s in part because 1 in 4 students fail to graduate from high school in four years, and a high school diploma or the equivalent is needed to join the military. But another 30 percent of high school graduates don’t do well enough in math, science and English on an aptitude test to serve in the military.”

“The rest of the world is not sitting by while we, in a rather deliberate fashion, reform the education system,” said Rice in the Associated Press article published March 20th.

Both Rice and Klein said in interviews that efforts to improve the education system, like the adoption of common core standards and the president’s “Race to the Top” competition, are encouraging moves. But they explain that America needs to accelerate efforts on all fronts, and the panel recommended three priorities: The expansion of common core standards to include science, technology and foreign languages; expansion of educational choices (like public charters) for students constrained by underperforming schools; and a national security readiness audit of the nation’s education system.

“I don’t think people have really thought about the national security implications … the kind of morale and human conviction you need to hold a country together,” Klein said.

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