Robert Reich: Bail out the education system

Bob Reich is rarely wrong, and here he makes a very important point:

Teachers are being laid off and new hiring frozen, after-school programs cut, so called "noncritical" subjects like history eliminated, schools closed, and tuitions hiked at state colleges and universities.

It's absurd. We're bailing out every major bank to get financial capital flowing again. But we're squeezing the main sources of our nation's human capital. Yet America's future competitiveness and the standard of living of our people depend largely our peoples' skills, and our capacities to communicate and solve problems and innovate not on our ability to borrow money.

It's our human capital that's in short supply. And without adequate public funding, the supply will shrink further. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying funding is everything when it comes to education. Obviously, accountability is critical. But without adequate funding we can't attract talented people into teaching, or keep class sizes small enough to give kids a real chance to learn, or provide them with a well-rounded curriculum, and ensure that every qualified young person can go to college.

So why are we bailing out Wall Street and not our nation's public schools and colleges?

He offers some answers to those questions, the most likely of which is "because we don't have … someone who warns us as loudly as Ben Bernanke did … when he was talking about Wall Street's meltdown, of the dire consequences that will follow if we don't come up with the dough." This is why we need a federal department of education, and why it needs to be staffed by someone with clout. The feds don't spend a lot on education, and because of our (not entirely unreasonable) love for local control, the feds don't set much policy as far as teacher pay, curriculum, or targets for educational achievement.

But the federal government is a bully pulpit, and I hope that the next president's Secretary of Education uses that power to the greater good. While federal regulations can't force schools to do very much, federal recommendations can be very powerful. Teacher hiring and retention are key issues, and there's a lot that the feds could do to push school districts in the right direction.

For instance, there's nothing stopping the feds from allocating some amount of money to hire and retain top science teachers. Someone with a science major can get jobs that pay a lot more than someone with an education major, or an English major. If we want to produce the next generation of Nobel-winners, we need to be willing to hire teachers with that salary differential in mind. Federal grants could be made available to school districts that would allow them to supplement the salaries of science teachers to attract and retain top talent in the sciences. Other strings could be attached to that money, such as adherence to some sort of national science standards. Standardizing the grade sequence in which topics are covered will allow textbook publishers to assume that students in a biology class have a certain background in physics or chemistry, and students who move between districts can be confident that they won't miss one subject while being forced to repeat another.

Would that also be a way to ensure uniform treatment of evolution? Yes it would, and that's a good thing. More and more states have evolution in state standards, but it's shameful that any still ignore evolution. Even more shameful is the fact that so many science teachers spend less than an hour discussing evolution, and that so many spend time on creationism (including intelligent design). One in three teachers have been pressured not to teach evolution, and another third report pressure to teach creationism. That's shameful, too, and without someone putting countervailing pressure on teachers to present evolution, it leads even good teachers who want to do the right thing to minimize evolution. Federal guidelines would give them another tool to rely on in pushing back against administrators or parents who ask them to ignore the fundamental underpinning of all modern biology.

Similar programs which combine the bully pulpit with targeted incentive programs could have a powerful effect on public education, and all without sacrificing local control. Federal science standards, for instance, would not have to go into the detail found in, for instance, the California science framework (which runs 310 pages). It would simply offer an outline that individual states could fill in with more detail. California could give 310 pages worth of added detail, while other states could continue to provide a tenth that much material. Pretty much every other industrialized nation is vastly more standardized than we are, and it's worth at least considering adopting those aspects of that standardization have worked for our economic competitors.

President-elect Obama has made it clear that he plans to prioritize education, and in particular that we need to boost science education. I look forward to seeing who he will choose to implement that noble goal, and hope that it will be someone who can raise the profile of the Department of Education, and use that department to encourage innovation and improvement far beyond what the federal government can compel. As Robert Reich points out, this is an investment that will increase in value many, many times. It requires a long view to make lasting improvements in education, and those lasting changes won't happen unless a lot of people in state government, in local school boards, and in a lot of classrooms, are convinced that the change we get is the change we need.

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All the credible scientific evidence supports a young Earth (about 6,000 years old) and refutes Darwinian and neo-Darwinian evolution. I dare anyone to read my book and refute it scientifically.

Evolution is not "the fundamental underpinning all modern biology", as the article above states. This claim is just evolutionist propaganda without any basis in fact. Evolution (which should be called evolutionism) is a deluded pagan religious belief dressed up with some bad science, nothing more. It is no more science than witchcraft. It just has more dedicated devotees. It is the deluded cultural paradigm of our time, much like the flat Earth theory was the deluded cultural paradigm of its time. Here's a tip for anyone wanting to know the truth about all of this: Google "The Evolution Delusion" (without the quotation marks) and get it and read it. I'm the author, and I spent nearly a decade researching the creation/evolution debate and the evidence for both sides of the argument. As a result, I changed from being an evolutionist to a creationist. I made a fascinating discovery: evolution is a science farce. All the credible scientific evidence supports a young Earth (about 6,000 years old) and refutes Darwinian and neo-Darwinian evolution. I dare anyone to read my book and refute it scientifically. You can't. The evidence, when closely examined, is all against Darwinian and neo-Darwinian evolution and long geologic ages on Earth. Have a nice day.

By Kenneth Lawrence (not verified) on 04 Dec 2008 #permalink

And I'm sure "The Evolution Delusion" was peer reviewed by qualified scientists. (Not wild eyed fundies)

By Old Bogus (not verified) on 04 Dec 2008 #permalink

Wrong question OB. The right question is "have even the creationists heard of this self-published crank?" As far as I can tell the answer is a resounding "no". Why on earth should we pay any attention to the outpourings that are even below the notice of the major purveyors of such creationist-apologetic pseudoscientific nonsense (AiG, CSM, DI, etc)?

Yes, K.L. you are correct. I cannot believe I have been so blind to the 6,000 year old Earth. Enough with the sarcasm; how/why are you even here? You are wrong on a scale so large it cannot exist. Stop, go directly to (a real) school; heck have the $200 as well. Learn reality.

So why are we bailing out Wall Street and not our nation's public schools and colleges?

Because the people deciding on the bail-outs sympathise more with Wall St than with teachers, because they're both groups of rich people and they move in the same social circles. Also, because they are rich, they don't want to see their investments tank, and they can afford private education.

I think the StudentsReview website source for salaries is way off. You would get the impression from this that a biology major can expect a starting salary of $59k. The reality, however, that my biology major friends working in Bay Area biotech entry-level jobs start at about half that. You're lucky to start at $30k. For English majors, though, the StudentsReview puts the startign at $40k. This is deceptive because there really is no job for English majors; virtually every English major works in a field completely unrelated to their education. So for these workers, one needs to talk not of English, but of retail and sales positions.

The SESTAT surveys over the last decade had, I think, the best info on just how little science majors are paid compared to other professions. Science majors earn significantly less than other graduates of other fields.

[sign] All those hours studying. All those impossible physics problems. One can barely pay the bills after graduation. It's like some dark joke...

Old Bogus, Hrafn, Dizziski, thank you for your kind words and erudite reviews of my comments. It's always good to get feedback. I do hope that one day you will all realize the delusion you are living in (as I once was) and discover the truth about this world. But you will have to unshackle your minds from Darwin's deluded theory first and you will need God's help to do that. I honestly recommend that you humbly ask God's Son Jesus Christ to come into your hearts and help you. Best wishes to you all and happy reading. - KL

By Kenneth Lawrence (not verified) on 05 Dec 2008 #permalink

"But you will have to unshackle your minds from Darwin's deluded theory first and you will need God's help to do that. I honestly recommend that you humbly ask God's Son Jesus Christ to come into your hearts and help you."

. . . once again, we have another creationist who ignores those Christians who accept evolution.

Thank you Kenny for further demonstrating that your outpourings have nothing whatsoever to do with evidence and everything to do with religion (specifically, the modern heresy of rigid Biblical Literalism).

Why on earth should I accept your belief in "God's Son Jesus Christ" rather than 'the prophet Jesus of Islam', Zeus, Odin, Osiris, Shiva, Marduk, or any other myth? Your towering egotism in assuming, without a shred of of reasoning, that Christian Biblical Literalism forms the sole alternative to the mountain of scientific research and evidence underlying modern Astrophysics, Geology, Nuclear Physics (and thus Radiometric Dating) and Biology, is utterly hilarious. You wouldn't know humility if it mugged you!

Kenneth Lawrence "I honestly recommend that you humbly ask God's Son Jesus Christ to come into your hearts and help you."
I did. He said that your kind of a loon, and that I should tell you to have that mole checked out. He also told me to tell you to get these books: Your inner fish & The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution. Lastly, He apologized for mumbling when He talks to you.

nunyer ".. . once again, we have another creationist who ignores those Christians who accept evolution."
Yes, but those aren't True Christians. Some of them are Episcopalians or even Catholics!

I don't have time or space here to go into the science of the creation/evolution debate in any depth. My book is principally concerned with this. I do have enough humility to not call people who disagree with me derogatory names, whatever I may think of their beliefs. But I think it's telling that I encounter so many evolutionists who do so.

Christians who believe in evolution, as I once did, are real Christians, but they have a ways to go in understanding the truth of our origins.

You should believe in God's Son Jesus Christ because only He came from God, is both God and man, and has provided the way for you to be saved from eternal damnation (which all unredeemed sinners are condemned to) by taking the penalty for you (i.e. in your and my place) on the cross, as God had planned for Him to do in order that we could be saved by faith in Him. A simple heartfelt prayer to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior and all is forgiven by God. Who could be so foolish as to reject such an offer and doom oneself?

Yes, I do talk about this, and it is religion, but more than that, it is about relationship with God and gaining eternal life with God in some very nice real estate, so to speak. Better than what one is doomed to otherwise. But if you are interested in the science of origins, that is what I wrote my book about, with the exception of the dedication and an invitation to believe in Jesus Christ at the end. But make no mistake, the book is principally concerned with science and what it has to say about both evolutionism and creationism, the two competing religious origins beliefs. KL

By Kenneth Lawrence (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

As a Catholic and a scientist I find Mr Lawrence's distortion of Christianity morally offensive. True Christian's believe that God is exactly that God and that unlike Mr Lawrenece I wouldn't dare to tell God how he can or cannot create the world. It is our goal as Christians to observe the wonders of world to better understand God and his son. It is our job as scientists to tell our fellow men just how wonderful God's creation is. Mr Lawrence is an apostate.

By yourmommycalled (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink