Report calls education a national security issue
March 20th, 2012
02:52 PM ET

Report calls education a national security issue

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) - The U.S. educational system is facing “a national security crisis,” an independent task force from the Council on Foreign Relations warned in a report Tuesday.

“America’s failure to educate is affecting its national security,” said the Independent Task Force on U.S. Education Reform and National Security, which the council launched last year to focus on the problems in K-12 education.

Read the full report: U.S. Education Reform and National Security

Joel Klein, CEO of News Corp.’s education division and former chancellor of New York City’s school system; and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, now a professor of political economy at Stanford University’s graduate business school, served as chairs for the task force. Klein and Rice joined a discussion Tuesday about the group’s report at an event in Washington.

Problems in education could undermine the country’s cohesion, the two warned.

“The great American narrative is that it doesn’t matter where you came from,” Rice said, citing the role of education as “one of our cultural democratic institutions” that must be able to deliver opportunity for all.

Klein pointed to a climate of divisiveness among Americans. “There’s a feeling that ‘the rest of us’ are not getting ‘our fair shot at the American Dream,’ ” he said. Since Americans do not share a religion or a culture, education is part of the glue that holds the country together, but many aspects of the current model are not working, Klein said.

Five threats to national security cited

The task force found that failures in America’s education system pose five national security threats, including to economic growth and competitiveness, to U.S. physical safety, to intellectual property, to U.S. global awareness and to U.S. unity and cohesion.

It said that national security is no longer a function solely of military might but is “closely linked with human capital” and that this capital is only as strong as the country’s public schools.

Regarding economic growth, the report said the U.S. education system is not preparing students for the global work force. “Poorly educated and semiskilled Americans cannot expect to effectively compete for jobs against fellow U.S. citizens or global peers, and are left unable to fully participate in and contribute to society,” the report said.

As far as the country’s safety, the report cited a Defense Department statistic that 75% of American youth do not qualify for the armed forces due to the lack of a high school diploma, physical obstacles such as obesity or criminal records. Factors such as obesity and crime cannot be blamed on schools, the report said. But it said that among those who are qualified for the armed forces, many are not academically prepared - 30% don’t pass the military’s aptitude test.

The report said there is a lack of technologically qualified individuals to address cyberthreats to businesses and government. It points out that foreign language and global awareness skills among American students are lacking, jeopardizing military, business, intelligence and diplomatic interests, and it said a failure to learn about global cultures can have “serious consequences.”

The task force also said the American Dream appears to be out of reach for many. “The growing gap between the educated and the undereducated is creating a widening chasm that divides Americans and has the potential to tear at the fabric of society,” it said.

Underlying problems found

Among the factors at the core of the nation’s education problems were a lack of emphasis on civics; failure to teach foreign languages; lack of student proficiency in reading, math and science; differences in educational standards and opportunities for children who live in different states, districts and neighborhoods; low graduation rates; poor academic performance compared with international counterparts; school systems “laden with bureaucracy and inefficiencies”; failure to attract, train and compensate good teachers; and a “mismatch” between student preparation and jobs, according to the report.

The task force commended some efforts at reform, including Common Core State Standards, a state-led initiative by the nation’s governors to provide a “consistent framework” to prepare students for the work force and college, and school choice, which gives parents more options in the education of their children, as well as moves toward accountability and educational leadership. Members also acknowledged that while theUnited States can learn from other countries, it should also build on its strengths in innovation, creativity and competition.

Some dissension among members

The task force findings did not come without some dissension among members. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, commended the task force and said there was “a lot of agreement” on its mission and findings.

“How we use education to reignite America is a really important notion,” Weingarten said.

She said that she did not disagree with giving parents choices, but she questioned some of the group’s recommendations, including what she termed the “opt-out system” when students and parents choose schools. “What happens to some of the other kids?” she asked.

She also said that some education systems – such as Singapore’s – have more of a public education system than we would ever have” and that the U.S. should consider some of the ways these systems train and pay educators.  She stressed the importance of public education in the U.S. and its responsibilities to all children.

Recommendations suggested

The task force issued three “central recommendations” for improving K-12 education in the United States. These include:

• Implementing educational expectations in subjects vital to protecting national security and urging states to expand the Common Core State Standards  to do so.

• Making structural changes to provide students with good choices and telling states to “stop locking disadvantaged students into failing schools without any options. …”

• Launching a “national security readiness audit” to hold schools and policymakers accountable for results and raising public awareness based on “meaningful assessments” and urging a public awareness campaign around this effort.

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soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. internet marketing|marketing|targeted web traffic

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    April 2, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  2. game key

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    April 2, 2012 at 5:52 am |
  3. Sonny

    The answer lies in history, less government involvement is better. Ask yourself what demolished the black community – THE DESEGREGATION OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS by using forced-integration. Sounds crazy right? Well, here's what the media and schools won't teach: The feds destroyed the black communities by using forced-integrations of schools, but instead of busing white students into successful black schools, which was the center of most black communities, they bussed black students out to white schools, resulting in the closers of many black schools, which unglued the black community. I wish this was common knowledge. Here's a very good article explaining:
    A doctoral student in education at the University of Arkansas, Buck says his research led him to a surprising conclusion: The “acting white” criticism had its roots in desegregation that wrenched black students from schools and communities they knew and threw them into new schools where they were often reviled, shunned and underestimated......"Acting White",

    March 27, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  4. Michael

    JUST one question for I well know I am least educated respondent, Where would all ower prosperity and technology driven world be if the Military had not had theft of just one of its research pograms stolen? I an talking adout the internet of course! Once it got out of Being a Classified catagory and into the minds of those who dreamed of possibilhtys it soon left the military programers behind and changed the world. Am I wrong or did my working with 14 inch floppy disk and reels larger than my monitor and key pad trying how to prodram a missle to be able to get a nuke to hit a one mile circle help humanity more?

    March 24, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  5. Michael

    HOG WASH on US educators not doing job of educating for Global economy, just who do you think ghad the expertise to set up all the mamufacturing and infrastructure in China, Indonesia and just what Fed progran allowed over 30k students from China to attend our universits tuitiom paid by Fed as cultural exchange prograns and semt thousands there. Of course the main beneficiarys were the same ones demanding more tech in STEM.

    March 24, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  6. Michael

    To call any CFR group an indepent means those who read article must indeed be in need of an eduation. Looj at the names see jurt where they come up through the ranks to get their elevated positions. US military is already involved in Uganda and all Central African nations and a possible trade war to gain access to Rare Earth Minerals this so called indepent Council was commisioned by military and State because shortage that military needs for next level of dominance. Military has constantly drained the direction in which direction so many of the brightest and most innovative minds for its own needs. It is not that we lack the Intelligent and well educated it is the direction those on many beiind the scenes groups are leadieg us.

    March 24, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  7. Michael

    When I first heard Education was national security issue ? !954! And the government said there was no such thing as a CFR. When military, Pharma, and agri Corps eat up over 70 per of, last gov figures, 120 billion Dept of Ed Budget realy needs to not only streamline education but also retamp okr society and economic system as well. Just recently other article on women in STEM fields low pay for amount of schooling, extreme stress and an unstable work environent due to layoffs reasons shortage in fields. Remember US allows Industry to import for education with Fed paying the bill up to 30,000 students to participate in and as under grads in Fed Grant Research and over 40k more direct hire.

    March 24, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  8. michaelfury

    March 21, 2012 at 8:02 am |
  9. michaelfury

    A history lesson for Dr. Rice:

    March 21, 2012 at 7:47 am |
  10. Chuck

    I'm always amazed at the comments from people not in the K-12 classroom. Go there and do the teaching! Don't hide as a talking head. There is no true answer to the situation. Students need to work hard, study. Why didn't the wonder gal in D.C. go back to the classroom? If all people in education had to rotate back into a classroom for three years and then if they wanted to be an administrator, two years then back to the classroom, this whole debate would have a different take.

    March 20, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  11. Mark

    The modern day peasant is so well educated ...the serfs still feed the lords...what has education really taught us if we are falling into the same old same old? Ironically other than fighting the wars of the elites, we, the commoon person, has kless to lose than those in power. Isn't that what all this talk is about? Protecting those who will lose their heads while the rest of us simply go on living under a new system as we always have. Who ever thought any one system would emerge to last an eternity. The educated understand change is going to happen. It's all about learning the rules of the game and playing it. Too many of us are learning that – thanks to education.

    March 20, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
  12. goingbackwards

    This is the same commercialization of education model that the National Party in New Zealand are trying to push. The sole purpose of this model is to keep the status quo and engineer a generation of worker bees while the economic elites keep their privileged position. You just need to look at the language being used – efficiency, standardizing, accountability, all terminology borrowed from the business world. This increasing move in the West to make teachers responsible for all the problems in society because Governments don’t wont to have the real hard debates about poverty and economic equality is a real concern.

    March 20, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  13. mickey1313

    the report may be right, but anything that condi rice says should be looked at with a grain of salt, she is a known lier and a bush colabarator.

    March 20, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  14. Bert

    So now we enter our 6th decade of alleged school crisis while we continue to lead the world in science and technology, send students to college at one of the highest rates in the world, and have the most productive work force in the world. Our schools are performing better than ever before in their history. Rather than attacking them, why not ask why we measure them with standardized tests that are 92% wrong. Schools are responsible for only 8% of a student's score on standardized tests. This has been established for decades. Give it up school bashers.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Rock

      Your exact thinking is part of the problem. We do not lead the world in science and technology. Do not confuse the fact that there are wealthy Americans with educational success of our youth. The problem is that the federal goverment is taking too much money from the states and not giving enough back for their use. There needs to be a shift in tax from federal to state so states can get th funding they need.

      March 20, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Mike

      Thank you! We are testing thwe wrong things. We have always been lower on PISA and other nternational assessments – but we are still economic leaders, tech leaders, innovation leaders, etc....Why change our system to be more like other not as successful countries??

      March 21, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  15. TopView20

    Education is key to any progressive nation. However, education is essentially a wealth-producing comodity. We cannot begin advocating educational opportunities to all citizens without first resolving the larger issue of distribution of wealth within our American society. This is the point upon which America has been failing miserably for at least the last four decades. Once our government ceased to represent individual Americans and instead marched in strict accordance to the will of the largest corporations, all wealth and growth was restricted to the most affluent sectors of America. Education is a means to wealth and prosperity. An America that operates only for the benefit of the elite cannot prosper via equitable balancing of education resources. Our society and our government must be restructured. Sound impossible? Maybe that is why nobody is undertaking the effort.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  16. Timothy

    Capital: refers to already-produced durable goods used in production of goods or services. Durable good: a good that does not quickly wear out, or more specifically, one that yields utility over time rather than being completely consumed in one use. I have but one life to give to those who need my labor for their needs. I am a peasant still.

    March 20, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  17. I Love Education

    College should be mandatory, and there needs to be a lot more resources available for young adults to plan their future.

    March 20, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Timothy

      Why should college be mandatory. Oh, to drive up the cost of...everything! We complain about the cost of health care but no one worries about the cost iof education which ripples through every segment of society. What would it cost to hire a college grad to...sweep floors, flip burgers, deliver papaers or mail or build a house? Oh...I forgot...those jobs will go away for better paying jobs. is not unlike any other money making enterprise that promises more than it delivers. What we should do is determine how much education we really need- like health testing, we may actually be over-educated driving up the costs of everything we produce that no one else either wants to buy and produces for less that we buy.

      March 20, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  18. What Now

    Reading, writing, math and science are the foundation of any successful country. We used to stress this in our educational system. Students were held back until they got it. Now, that isn't the case in every school. The poorest and most uneducated parents used to push their children to get the education. Now, we have politicians referring to educated people as snobs and elitists. It's really sad for our country.

    March 20, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  19. Ahhhh....

    The fed has finally found a way to take control of the educational system at the federal level- national security. And, as we are seen as 'Human Capital, we will be treated as any other 'CAPITAL' resource is treated. This is frightening because, as "capital", we are here to be used for the needs and wants of others. This also changes we are here for government rather than government being here for us. Education was supposed to educate us to ensure we remain free from a government that would control us. Now education is being used in order to take control of us- its' capital....human capital.

    March 20, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  20. Dagobert II

    Perhaps failure of a standardized test should be made a court martial offense.

    March 20, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  21. dudley0415

    So, So. Miss hurts kids in college for saying something questionable at a March Madness game.

    Mixed messages about education.

    March 20, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  22. spent

    Yeah, we got away from the basics. We are paying the price for self interest groups and various agendas that take away from the skill levels that are needed.

    March 20, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  23. cnnlicksit

    Yes America is doomed. Our population is bloated and stupid. We have been importing talent from other countries for decades now just to keep up, but they are finding opportunity now in their native lands. Combine this with a stricter immigration policy and it spells disaster.

    March 20, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  24. Kim2C

    Jon Huntsman called education a national security months ago (it is true, we have not been able to keep up with the global abilities of students especially in math and science), he also called for bringing troops home from Afghanistan immediately. I miss the man. I'm back to being an independent.

    March 20, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  25. Heather

    So if education is considered a national security issue, it won't be long until it's militarized. The fruits of socialized education are indeed a wonder to behold.

    March 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm |