EDUCATION IS NOT IMPOVERISHED
I read your editorial, "We Are Fighting A Battle That We Dare Not Lose" (July/August 2004, p. 17). My comment is that you confuse increases in investment with actual spending—both of which must be considered in your assertions. I would much rather have a 1% raise on a $100,000 salary than a 3% raise on a $25,000 salary.
Unfortunately, you don't address the actual dollars spent on R&D or education. You also make unfounded assertions about decreases in those areas. The math is simple. Our spending dwarfs that of China.
In particular, I take exception to the statement that there is a lack of funding for education. My personal experience is that school spending has gone up every year in the community where I have owned a home for 20 years. Double-digit annual increases in college tuitions (and the student-loan debts being incurred to keep up) are well documented. Your simplistic assertion that the core reason for poor public-school performance is lack of educational spending (in the aggregate) is easily shown to be without merit. Educational spending is at an all-time high by any measure.
Even a brief search on Google leads you to articles like this one: http://edworkforce.house.gov/issues/108th/education/funding/budgetfactsheet020403.htm. It reveals a 5.6% increase to the funding of the Education Department at the Federal level this budget year.
Another one reports that the government spent ~$8830 per child in 2000 versus $4626 (adjusted dollars) in 1970 (www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-greene052203.asp). I particularly liked this quote: "Given that education spending dwarfs defense spending and rivals only healthcare in its claim upon the public purse, how is it that the widespread myth of the impoverished school persists? The most common strategy for perpetuating the myth of school poverty is to simply ignore the facts and repeat the myth. Jonathon Kozol, for example, has made an entire career lamenting the 'under-funding' of public schools. In Savage Inequalities, he pulls our heart strings describing New York City public schools where 'textbooks are scarce...the carpets are patched...\[and\] the library is a tiny, windowless, and claustrophobic room.' He doesn't mention that New York City public schools spend more per pupil than 95 of the 100 largest school districts in the country (http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2001/2001346.pdf). He can only point out that some other schools spend even more. Any level of spending that is less than the maximum spent by others is inadequate in his mind."
None of this addresses whether the vast amounts of money that are being spent are being spent wisely, which is another whole kettle of fish. Perhaps there are other factors at work in the poor performance of our public schools—those that aren't amenable to dollar- based solutions.
Here is where some of that money and the increases in spending are going (referenced from the American Federation of Teachers): www.aft.org/salary/index.htm. I wonder what we are buying with these increases to public-school-teacher salaries (not to mention healthcare benefits).
I agree with your overall conclusion. But the total amount of money spent on education and R&D in the United States is probably not (yet) a primary factor. If there are real declines in U.S. spending in these areas and the rest of the world continues to increase spending, then these will become primary.
(Company name withheld by request)
RIGHT IDEA, MISLEADING FACTS
I humbly and heartily disagree with you on your conclusions. We heard this argument 20 years ago vis-a-vis Japanese and German math and science wiz kids. The fears at that time were simply overblown.
Actually, the fear of a technical laggard is an old Cold-War-legacy-mindset holdover. It's been conveniently brought down and dusted off the shelf to manipulate some policy consideration that's nominally related to federal subsidies. But I am surprised you would parrot this line. As for the former Bell Labs executive, Robert Lucky, it sounds as if his sentiments more reflect an internal politics of Bell Labs (which might explain his former status) than actual R&D non-activity.
U.S. technological superiority is a de-facto reality in geopolitics. It can be readily explained by the enormous amount of espionage directed against our higher institutions as well as the visa backlog of smarty-pants foreigners.
Further, your self-titled piece presumes that:
- There is a battle to be won.
- Losing places us in a precarious state.
- Your well-expressed fears just don't add up to your follow-on comments. (You seem to suggest that we've already lost.)
- Professional views—however qualified—are no more than value judgments, even though your supposition on declining engineering opportunities/math prowess in the U.S. is a valid fact.
Though I disagree with many of your arguments, I do agree that you clearly pointed out a critical junction for U.S. technological hegemony.
\[ddff-ltd\] | Global Broadband Strategies
GOOD ENOUGH TO FORWARD
I just read your editorial. I, for one, intend to forward it to my congressman. It truly hit the mark with me.
Marketing Communications Mgr.
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