Bad Schools, Good Economy?
An op-ed in the New York Times brings up the question of why the U.S. economy has done so well after years of public-school decline. Here’s the conclusion:
Indeed, a consensus seems to be emerging among educational experts around the world that American schools operate within the context of an enabling environment an open economy, strong legal and banking systems, an entrepreneurial culture conducive to economic progress.
To put it bluntly, American students may not know as much as their counterparts around the Pacific Rim, but our society allows them to make better use of what they do know.
This op-ed makes some important points, but it’s not the whole story. Yes, America’s free markets and stable legal environment can make up (to some extent) for a poor education system. That’s not because knowledge doesn’t matter in our economy like it does in the rest of the world. Instead, the best-educated make lots of money, bringing up average income statistics. And they spend some of that money on services provided by their less-educated citizens. So, when some kids are stuck in a failing education system, it doesn’t bring down the entire economy but it’s unfortunate for them. They’ll have to spend the rest of their lives working for the people with knowledge.
Our education system hasn’t killed the economy. Is that the best we can do? Surely our goal is to share the pleasures and opportunities of learning as widely as possible not just to avert market collapse.