September 22, 2012

A generational cause - school vouchers

Let's start with the disconnect. Though many liberal progressives would have you believe otherwise, the American education system is in decline.
Though spending per pupil has more than doubled since 1970 after allowing for inflation, students continue to rank low in international comparisons; dropout rates are high; scores on SATs and the like have fallen and remain flat. Simple literacy, let alone functional literacy, in the United States is almost surely lower at the beginning of the 21st century than it was a century earlier. And all this is despite a major increase in real spending per student since "A Nation at Risk" was published.
Yet America despite this issue, America has generally prospered over the same period of time. Science has continued to drive innovation but education is failing our society. How is that possible?  There is the disconnect that allows liberals to claim that public education must clearly be doing something right.  But the education system is the problem. The (temporary) solution has come from somewhere else, as Dr. Michio Kaku explains:

The fix Dr.Kaku describes, has clearly started to outlive it's maximum efficiency. Those who learn no longer stay in America - they return home.  America is diffusing it's technological advantages because they've tried to replace domestic educational greatness with the 'magnet effect'.  It worked, but it will not continue to work. Another solution must be constructed. So if the problem is that education system in America is not enough to create a sufficient American pipeline of genius and thus innovation, what then is the solution? The answer isn't anything new. Milton Friedman had the answer decades ago (for a terrific, more detailed explanation, see here).

The principal argument comes between 0:33 and 1:08.  It's simple.  The alternative to his solution is perhaps not a catastrophic decline but a slow painful death of American prosperity that is already underway.  The migration of higher education will continue towards a greater and greater percentage of higher education going to foreign nationals, aided by their growing prosperity.  As that happens the American ability to compete will decline as these learnings are brought  back to other nations and used to improve everything from education, to manufacturing to innovation.  America is effectively exporting its competitive advantage.  What that means over time, is an economic decline, followed by a financial decline and a military decline and any other type of decline that you can imagine.  

I've argued in the past that politically, conservatives have to make whatever inroads they can, be they  small or large.  Some RINOs may be a necessary evil for example.  The reason that I believe this is that when it comes to America's accelerating slip into the abyss, it is being aided and abetted by an unwitting populace, placated by the never-fulfilled promise of an easy path to "hope".  As a result, anything that can be done to halt the decline of America, must be done - even if it means slowing the decline in some ways rather than being a purist and sticking to an all or nothing mentality.  With all or nothing, you can end up with nothing.  The world cannot afford a void in place of America.  With conservative impurities, you can build towards fixing the problem in a better way later, you are just buying yourself more time to make the right fixes.

A solution to America's problem, one as simply and eloquently stated by Milton Friedman decades ago, does not happen overnight even if you need it to be overnight.  A redefining of H1Bs may be a temporary fix., but the real fix is fixing what happens here in America.  School vouchers would do that.  That is a major paradigm shift that requires a growing understanding among the electorate which in turn requires a more balanced media, outreach programs to explain the idea to the disenfranchised and not least of all, an opportunity to move in that direction, which requires more Republicans in power.

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