If I had a dollar for every Mister Smith who found his way to Washington on the assurance that he would, at last, be "The Education President," I would have saved up at least five or six bucks by now. But what exactly does that mean? Will we spend more money on education this year than we do on tanks and guns? Will we finally "fix" public education? Will we establish a network of charter schools that will bring communities together to support their educational institutions? Or will we simply continue to throw money and platitudes at the problem, hoping that our best intentions will be realized, whatever they are?
I have no real answers. I can say that "Yes Virginia, public education is very sick and in need of some sort of operation or transfusion," but I cannot pinpoint the precise program or solution to what ails it. The current Education President just announced a two hundred and fifty million dollar initiative that would train math and science teachers in hopes of moving the United States from somewhere in the middle of the pack to leaders in those subjects. Even as he passed out awards to one hundred outstanding educators, he let them know that they came with a price tag. He asserted that teacher quality is the single most important factor that determines how students fare in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The logic of this episode seemed a little skewed to me: If the United States is suffering from a deficit of good math and science teachers, where are we going to go to get educated? If we keep teaching ourselves, won't we just keep getting dimmer on those particular subjects? Why don't we ask Singapore to drop by and teach our kids for a while?
But is it all really about competition? So what if we're number twelve out of forty-five nations who bother to turn in their data? How do you make science and math interesting for kids again? Make it part of survival. Not just about getting a good job, but actual survival on a hostile planet filled with nine-foot tall lizard men who want to kill us. Don't you wish you'd remembered your high school chemistry now? I say spend that money on Star Trek reruns.