Sunday, July 12, 2009

Education and Economics

The Vision 2015 folks are publicizing a letter to President Obama signed by several Democratic Senators stating a need for education reform and tying it to economic performance. A report by a consulting firm, McKinsey and Company, is referenced in claiming that if the so called education gap were closed our Gross Domestic Product could have been $2.3 trillion better last year.

This is just the kind of report that Vision 2015 loves because it is all about equating education with economics and global competitiveness.

Let us first challenge a basic assumption of some of the 2015 folks; that US corporations are not able to find enough appropriately educated workers. The exporting of jobs out of the US has had almost nothing to do with education. Corporations have been allowed to pursue cheap labor (including child labor and virtual slave labor)and loose to non-existent environmental laws to produce goods and then return those goods so produced for sale in the US. The outflow of jobs has been about costs, not smarts.

The trend of exporting jobs that began with manufacturing has now gone well into the professions as well. Computer programmers, chemists, architects, and engineers are just a few US professionals who have found themselves, not necessarily out-smarted, but under-bid by professionals in foreign lands.

The problem is not American education, but American economic policy and the lack of corporate accountability to workers and communities.

Also, we should challenge McKinsey, the Senators, or anyone else who claims that increasing GDP is what American prosperity is all about. Since the mid-1970s GDP has been steadily rising while real wages have been falling. GDP measures the cost of economic activity in such a narrow way as to be virtually meaningless in today's world.

As international development specialist and author David Korten says:
"...the GDP is a measure of the cost, not the benefit of economic activity. The GDP can be rising in the face of simultaneous epidemics of child obesity and starvation. It can be rising in the face of disintegrating families and a vanishing middle class, increasing prison populations, rising unemployment, the disruption of community, collapsing environmental systems, the hollowing out of domestic manufacturing capabilities, failing schools, growing trade deficits, and costly but senseless foreign wars."

Economic discussions are being foisted upon the education community, ranging from those who would blame the crippled economy on educators to those who demand more from educators while refusing to pay taxes to support their work. In the state of Delaware the discussions are in need of modernization. The lack of understanding of concepts such as progressive taxation, corporate accountability, and real verses phantom wealth is disturbing.


  1. Thank you for expressing this concept so thoroughly and so well.

  2. This helps me understand this issue! Thanks Tim

  3. This is my first visit to Tim's blog...but it won't be my last. I appreciate how he expresses what I feel, but don't know how to put into words. I, for one, of weary of hearing Vision 2015 talk as if they are the "Messiah" to education. It is interesting for me to remember that our most recent superintendent told us not to worry about Vision 2015...their plans were too expensive and wouldn't impact us. Clearly, he didnot understand Delaware!!!!! (Hard to believe!!) In one of my grad classes this past week, an instructor said that DE was doing away with the DSTP and going with a different type of test...due in large part to the Vision 2015 folks. It seems to me that the new test, a growth model if I understand correctly, has long been proposed by educators...long before Vision 2015. Is there any truth to her statement that Vision 2015 is the guiding force behind replacing the DSTP?