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Putting America Last

Our failing education leadership

· Leadership

America is on track to being last. Our nation’s foremost educational leader is failing. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos seems bent on stripping education bare and belittling its role for sustained economic growth.

Educational leadership involves guidance and collaboration to ensure academic success for all students, regardless of socio-economic levels, through process, material and training improvements. The job of the Education Secretary is to enlist, guide, inspire, and motivate the talents and energies of teachers, pupils, parents, public policy makers and the general public towards improving educational processes, at all levels of education, for the purpose of ensuring academic success.

Attaining success involves a collaborative process that unites the talents and forces of all these stakeholders in pursuit of continuous improvements in the quality of education and the education system itself. Yet the foremost representative of America’s educational leadership disregards the Education Department’s official mission: to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.

Rather than playing “a leadership role in the ongoing national dialogue over how to improve the results of our education system for all students” and pursuing the “twin goals of access and excellence through the administration of programs that cover every area of education and range from preschool education through postdoctoral research”, the Education Secretary is leading an effort to defund education.

Instead of fighting for the department she represents, Betsy DeVos is pursuing an $8.5 billion cut (billion!!), or 12%, in her budget. This will directly affect economically disadvantaged children and promote unequal access and diminished excellence: cuts in after-school support, cuts in grant programs for books, equipment and counseling, cuts in school safety efforts, no funding for Special Olympics, and an increasing shortage of teachers. Meanwhile, $1 billion has been authorized by the Pentagon to be transferred to build a wall along the border with Mexico, and the President has successfully vetoed the national emergency resolution disapproval.

Something is wrong when walls are considered more valuable than education. That wrong is compounded when the leading people are not edifying leaders and, instead, believe that spending more on walls at the expense of education is more effective than investing in human capital building.

Something is very wrong when education is undefended in defense of experimenting with children as the most efficient way to determine which options work best to keep human capital on the “right” or “wrong” side of the wall.

Something is gravely wrong when a nation’s education leader hangs the key to the nation’s success on a wall of exclusion, income disparity, illusory defense, privilege cultism, learning silos, and education freedom mythmaking.

There is nothing automatic about U.S. prosperity. A nation’s sustained economic growth and prosperity depends on how its leadership promotes and sustains diversity, innovation, entrepreneurship, and competition to increase national wealth and living standards. This necessarily requires equitable access to quality education for all the nation’s children, irrespective of origin, race, color, gender identification, socio-economic status, or family status.

Education is an investment, not an experiment. It is estimated that the value of education (value of human capital – the share of human capital in total wealth – is 62 percent) is four times of produced capital and 15 times the value of natural capital.

Our nation’s wealth, brilliance and ability to build sustained prosperity is directly dependent on the edification of its human capital. Edifying our human capital requires educational leadership. But it seems our Education Secretary never read Plato, or if she did has forgotten the timeless importance of knowledge and learning.

Plato wrote: “If a man neglects education, he walks lame to the end of his life.” When a woman (or a man) responsible for a nation’s educational leadership fails to lead in defense of education, she hobbles our children and puts America on the path to being last.

Astrid Ruiz Thierry, Principal, Upboost LLC

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