Joel Klein, former New York City schools system chancellor, and Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State under President G.W. Bush, head a task force whose report warns American schools need to improve or put the nation’s economic prosperity and security at risk.
“The dominant power of the 21st century will depend on human capital,” it said. “The failure to produce that capital will undermine American security.”
The State Department and various intelligence agencies now face critical shortfalls in foreign language speakers and that science, defense and aerospace are suffering from a worsening lack of skilled workers.
One in four students fails to graduate from high school in four years.
Too many Americans are deficient in both global awareness and knowledge that is “essential for understanding America’s allies and its adversaries,” the report concludes.
“Leaving large swaths of the population unprepared also threatens to divide Americans and undermines the country’s cohesion, confidence, and ability to serve as a global leader,” the report said.
While the Obama administration has been increasing federal control of standards in education and driving reforms through financial incentives and grants, the report states the pace of improvement isn’t enough and must accelerate. Rice notes that the rest of the world isn’t standing idly by while America discusses education reform and the longer the process takes to stem the leakage of American skill base the further the country risks falling behind.
The panel makes three main recommendations:
—Adopt and expand the common core initiative to include skill sets critical to national security such as science, technology and foreign languages;
—Structural changes to provide students with more choices in where they can go to school, so many students aren’t stuck in underperforming schools;
—A national security readiness audit, prepared by governors working with the federal government, that can be used to judge whether schools are meeting national expectations in education.
An interview of with co-head of the task force Joel Klein by the Council on Foreign Relations highlights the key failings which he feels impact national security the most: a dwindling of qualified American workers, a reduced pool of citizens intellectually capable of military service, and shortfalls in the graduates with foreign language proficiency.
The task force consisted of 30 members with diverse backgrounds in areas such as foreign affair, international issues and education.