Somehow you just knew the January announcement that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been appointed chair of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education meant that Bush would exploit Rice’s national security cred in his POTUS bid. He has. Consider this from his top education policy advisor, Patricia Levesque:
The link between K-12 education and national security is one not often discussed or even considered by those advocating for reform. But the correlation is very real and creates yet another compelling argument for the reform movement.
In 2012, a Council on Foreign Relations task force, co-chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein, former Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, examined this issue
In a report titled U.S. Education and National Security, the task force made this bleak observation: “Human capital will determine power in the current century, and the failure to produce that capital will undermine America’s security. Large, undereducated swaths of the population damage the ability of the United States to physically defend itself, protect its secure information, conduct diplomacy, and grow its economy.”
Smarter weapons require smarter soldiers. The threat of cyber-attacks requires highly skilled cyber warriors. Security agencies and the State Department require analysts and linguists. Defense contractors require a new generation of employees proficient in math, science and engineering.And most importantly, a capable national security apparatus requires a strong economy to sustain it. In the 21st century, economic strength depends on academic strength
Jeb Bush’s high-stakes tests, charter schools and common core standards are sure to make Vladimir Putin lose sleep and keep ISIS savages off social media. No?
A colleague or Rice’s with the Council on Foreign Relations offered the best dismissal. Stephen S. Walt wrote this of the 2012 study:
“…The report exaggerates the national security rationale for reforming U.S. K-12 education. It says a troubled public education system is a “very grave national security threat facing the country,” but it offers only anecdotal evidence to support this unconvincing claim. The United States spends more on national security than the next twenty nations combined, has an array of powerful allies around the world, and remains the world leader in science and technology. It also ranks in the top 10 percent of the world’s 193 countries in educational performance, and none of the states whose children outperform U.S. students is a potential rival. Barring major foreign policy blunders unrelated to K-12 education, no country is likely to match U.S. military power or overall technological supremacy for decades. There are good reasons to improve K-12 education, but an imminent threat to our national security is not high among them.
“Second, there is a mismatch between the report’s alarmist tone theand its core recommendations. In particular, if the current state of K-12 education were really a “very grave threat to national security,” the Task Force should emphatically support allocating greater resources to meet the challenge.
Yet even though key recommendations, such as raising teacher quality, cannot be realized without additional public investment, the report offers only a bland statement that “increased spending may well be justifiable.” It then declares that “money alone is not the answer,” creating the unfortunate impression that the Task Force is trying to solve an alleged national security threat on the cheap.
“Third, the call for a “national security readiness audit” of educational performance repackages the current focus on standards under a misleading label. The proposed audit would not measure “national security readiness,” and it is not clear who will pay for these new reporting requirements or what the consequences of poor performance would be.”
“Fourth, there is no consensus among professional educators, academic scholars, or engaged citizens about the net impact of charter schools, vouchers, or other forms of privatization, because empirical evidence is mixed. The report leans heavily toward one side in this contested set of issues, however, thereby encouraging a policy course that could do more harm than good.”’
The CFR study hasn’t gained traction since its publication. Levesque’s inclusion of it in the Bush Foundation’s blog is evidence that Bush wants to send it up as a trial balloon. Scathing Purple Musings observed in 2012 that the report represented education reforms “Jump the Shark” moment. Looks like Bush wants to play the Fonz, too.