Wednesday, December 4, 2013

American Education Threat – Asia & GOP

Traveling internationally has trained me to think ahead and see what our competitors are doing. You have to be prepared when you are halfway around the world. Forgetting a document or an adapter is trouble. Being on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea, away from local U.S. news of car wrecks and shootings, also gives you valuable information most Americans don’t get in our media.

American success over the last century was based on our education, infrastructure and technology leadership. Both are now in jeopardy as a result of policies by Republican leadership that has allowed other countries to take the lead in the inescapable global economy in which we must compete.  This trend has jeopardized our national security and future.

For example, the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) just released the latest test reports of 15-year olds around the world. The top five countries are all in East Asia. They are as follows:

No. 1 – China
No. 2 -  Hong Kong
No. 3 – Singapore
No. 4 – Japan
No. 5 – South Korea

The U.S. ranking? No. 36!

BBC World News did a report I saw on the ship on how South Korean kids compete. They attend regular classes, and then go to a second school – for a total of 13 hours a day! Many of them don’t get home until 11 p.m. at night, study until 2 a.m. then get up at 6 a.m. to do it all over again.

I am not saying our kids need to be in school until 11 p.m. but it is evident that our system needs more investment. It is still geared towards a time when most kids lived on farms a hundred years ago and went to school part-time. Children are out of school by 3:30 and are home alone or playing sports or video games while most parents work until 5. Summers mean endless video games and movies while kids elsewhere are studying math and science.

Singapore, for example, continued to invest in education even when the 2008 recession hit – unlike Texas which cut over $5 billion from the Texas education budget, despite adding 70,000 new students every year. It was the first time that our leaders didn’t give education what it needed. Instead, they got what the legislature felt it could “afford.”  This is one of the reasons why the U.S. has a low OECD rating and a skills gap – over 2 million high- tech, high-paying jobs that Americans are not qualified to fill, but workers educated in China and India are.  This is not acceptable. We should improve our training and education so Americans can fill those jobs instead of shipping them overseas or filling them with foreign workers.

This downward trend in education started in 2000 under the Bush administration. At the time the U.S. was No. 1 in education. But Republican leadership nationally and in Texas has let us decline sharply since then. They have refused to back President Obama’s initiatives to advance our research and development and infrastructure rebuilding that we desperately need to get our country back to No. 1 and create the jobs millions of Americans need.

Senator Cornyn has been part of the problem instead of part of the solution.  Senator Cruz is no better – claiming access to health care is a “job killer” when Texas has one in four residents who are uninsured, the highest in the United States. The GOP has been a giant job killing machine, giving deductions to ship jobs overseas. Denying Americans healthcare does nothing to advance our country when most countries provide healthcare as a right instead of a privilege. Their citizens don’t go bankrupt because they got sick.

Apparently these Republican senators apparently feel that education is a privilege instead of a right that our economic success is built on. But then, many of them attended expensive private schools while gutting investment in America’s public school system. I went to public schools which serve the vast majority of Texans.

I invite you to read my platform “Agenda for American Greatness” that will help America regain its No. 1 status in education, jobs and technology. 

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If you can, donate something to help me replace Senator Cornyn with someone dedicated to helping ordinary Texans achieve great things in this 21st century global economy.

Michael Fjetland
Fjet for U.S. Senate

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