Tuesday, February 07, 2006

American Competitiveness Initiative

One of high points lauded by some in a recent appropriations bill passed by Congress was that it slashed the Department of Education budget. Many of those cuts were in student loans and vocational type training. This is obviously a win for fiscal responsibility. I'm sure the cuts were necessary and I'm glad the programs are going. However, what was included in this reduction has the potential for becoming a bigger problem down the road. According to an article in the The New York Times,

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said the president's commitment to education remained strong. She said most of the programs slated to end were small, with half costing under $25 million a year. Some would be replaced by larger initiatives that would serve the same purposes, but bear his stamp and reflect his priorities, she said. (emphasis added)
One of those larger initiatives include the American Competitiveness Initiative which includes provisions for education.

To prepare our citizens to compete more effectively in the global marketplace, the American Competitiveness Initiative proposes $380 million in new Federal support to improve the quality of math, science, and technological education in our K-12 schools and engage every child in rigorous courses that teach important analytical, technical, and problem-solving skills. Building on the successes of the No Child Left Behind Act, the American Competitiveness Initiative will raise student achievement in math and science through testing and accountability, providing grants for targeted interventions, and developing curricula based on proven methods of instruction.
Note the term "rigorous". That word seems to be appearing in a lot of political discourse these days. The new three R's of learning appear to be rigor, relevance, and relationships. (Oregon is just one of many states adopting this standard. I also posted about MI and FL as well.)

Along with this new intitiative, money is given for "targeted interventions and to develop curricula based on proven methods of instruction". So while some look at this as a way to decrease the size of the department of education it also looks as though the long term plan is to more heavily involve the federal government in the development of curricula and standards. The new appropriations seem to be one step in that direction involving at-risk students. Many states seem to be falling perfectly in line. The reason? Quoting from the Department of Education website ,

Linking federal education funding to meaningful results and outcomes is essential to the creation of a culture of achievement in America's education system.
President Bush said in a letter announcing the American Competitive Initiative,

The bedrock of America's competitiveness is a well-educated and skilled workforce.
Ugh! The whole purpose of education from the President on down seems to be to do well on a test, to get a good job, to compete in the global economy. That's not my goal and my children are not a "workforce". The further we get from parents determining the goal and deciding what our children are taught the further we depart from a society where "we the people" are forming a more perfect union.

Read more on the American Competitiveness Initiative
and the Academic Competitiveness Intiative portion of the overall initiative.

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