"Winning the Future": Why Investing in Education is Worth the Cost
The race to the top is a difficult one — and right now our government is divided on how we’re going to get there. President Obama believes we can compete with other countries, like China, by rethinking the way we teach our kids to create a smarter America. But the president is lugging some heavy Republican baggage that could pull us even further down the totem pole.
According to a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, the United States ranked 14th out of 34 countries in reading skills, 17th in science and 25th in math. These results put us below half of Europe, the United Kingdom, several island nations, Canada, Australia and almost all of East Asia.
But Republicans don’t think now is the time to fund education and instead prioritize drastic cuts so they can see the payoff right away.
One of the Republicans’ campaign pledges last year was to cut the budget by 100 billion dollars — 20 percent of the total — during the 2011 fiscal year, which would undoubtedly mean slashing funds for education.
During a congressional hearing done in advance of the recent State of the Union Address, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, a 16th term Republican from Kentucky, warned about these major cuts in the upcoming budget. “These cuts will go deep and wide, and will hit virtually every agency and every Congressional district in this country,” he said.
In a famous sociological experiment known as the Marshmallow Test, children were told that they could either have one marshmallow right away, or they could wait and have two later. Almost all of them caved and ate the one marshmallow that was in front of them. If Congress falls prey to the same desire for instant gratification we may find ourselves with no marshmallows at all — and an uneducated population — once the sugar high of budget-cuts wears off.
Obama has resisted calls for deep cuts. He has called for eliminating tax loopholes instead, which would provide new revenue which he hopes to partially funnel into education. His game plan for decreasing the deficit also entails some cuts, but investing in education remains one of his priorities.
As the president pointed out in his address, “Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may make you feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you feel the impact.”
While Republicans continue to push for cuts that could provide short-term budget boosts, the question remains whether we, as a country, will have the patience and foresight to invest in a larger payoff that we won’t get the benefits of immediately.
The American creativity and innovation that Obama hailed in his speech need more than just occasional doses of patriotic encouragement. This nation’s creative forces and instincts will require education to take the next step into tangible, profitable productivity. Americans have long been at the forefront of invention and innovation, but imagine what we could do if we gave future generations the tools they need to keep up with the rest of the world.
We could build a way to the top.