The state of the nation's education system is becoming a national security issue and could leave the U.S. unprepared to respond to military threats and compete in a global economy, according to a new task force report from the Council on Foreign Relations.
"Though educational attainment has not changed significantly, demands on the workforce have increased, making success less attainable for many Americans," the task force, co-chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein, a former New York City school chancellor, concluded in their report released Tuesday.
Mr. Klein in a briefing with reporters noted that three-fourths of students are ineligible to serve in the military because they either have a criminal record or they do not have the education required for military tasks, such as cybersecurity jobs.
Both Mr. Klein and Ms. Rice said there are jobs the modern world needs that America cannot fill. Although the U.S. high-tech sector continues to lead the world in innovation, the rising generation needs more education in language, anthropology, civics, science and technology in order to keep up with the global market, they said.
Those who are semieducated are "punished" in a global market, said Ms. Rice, now a professor at Stanford.
"Across the board, it is human potential that makes a nation great today," she said. "It's not what you can dig out of the ground, as it was with the 19th century. It's not what you can manufacture along an assembly line as it was in the 20th century. It is human capital, and the key to human capital is education."
The report cited a 2009 global survey which placed the U.S. students 14th in the world for reading, 17th in science and 25th for math, well behind such countries as South Korea, Finland and Japan.
Part of the problem, Mr. Klein said, is most people do not focus on the larger issues of education, with parents concerned with their children's specific experiences and not with the problems of the national system.
The whole structure of American education must be overhauled, he said, because the current model was developed when children would divide their time between school and work on the family farm. The result: short school days that filled a shorter school year that worked around the growing season.
"We have got to think differently - not tinker around the edges - about the whole K-12 model," Mr. Klein said.
The report endorsed a "common core" curriculum, a state-initiated set of educational standards all students must meet, with higher standards for national-security-related subjects such as civics, language and science.
The report also encouraged "structural changes" that would give students more choices for where they could be educated, creating competition, as well as a "national security readiness audit" that would draw attention to the links between education and national security.
But not everyone on the task force endorsed all of its recommendations. Carole Artigiani, president of Global Kids Inc., dissented in the report, saying the competition that comes with school-choice programs can undermine the pursuit of the common good.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.