OTHER VOICES

Competitive education

Posted June 08, 2012, at 5:29 p.m.

America has tried everything to improve its educational system, and has failed. Everything.

Except what works best.

We have thrown money at the problem, to no avail. Our education spending is among the highest in the world, but test scores still lag behind other industrialized nations. Says the University of Southern California: “The U.S. is the clear leader in total annual spending, but ranks ninth in science performance and 10th in math.”

We’ve also tried leveling the full weight and strength of the leviathan United States bureaucracy against the problem: The No Child Left Behind Act — this nation’s most sweeping education reform in several generations — has been an unprecedented reach of the federal government down into local schools. Yet, again, to little or no gain.

And perhaps, even, to our detriment: Arne Duncan, President Barack Obama’s secretary of education, candidly noted that No Child Left Behind “inadvertently encourages states to lower” learning standards, in order to be in “compliance.”

True school choice would allow parents to shop for the best schools. That would put instant pressure on school officials to perform at a higher level. At the same time, most schools could, and should, be empowered to toss non-performing, non-complying, disruptive students out on their stumps. There can always be alternative schools for them. That would empower schools to set and enforce strict guidelines for entry — putting instant pressure on parents and students to perform at a higher level.

In addition, we believe — as presidential candidate Mitt Romney said recently — that school choice is actually “the civil rights issue of our time.”

We Googled the phrase “competition makes you better.” We instantly found numerous examples of sports figures saying it.

When is academia going to learn it?

The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle (May 31)

Germany and Japan

It has been almost a full year since Germany chose to return to the path of phasing out nuclear power.

The country’s goal is to close all of its 17 reactors by 2022. And its industry and society are all moving toward that goal, creating new jobs and businesses on the way.

Japan can learn much from Germany’s example: to act promptly based on a clear-cut government goal and plan, and seize the fruits of those labors.

What symbolizes Germany’s change is the action taken by its industry.

Germany’s major utilities, E.ON AG and RWE, canceled their participation in Britain’s nuclear plant construction project, despite the fact they had already set up a joint venture. The decision was made as they took into account the rising construction costs and the mounting risks involving the nuclear power industry. In line with government policy toward electricity deregulation, they also separated their power distribution sections within Germany.

German electronics titan Siemens has also ceased its involvement in nuclear power. The company is starting to transform itself into a “green” company, investing in R&D for new power grids and power storage, as well as in offshore wind farms. Siemens no doubt decided to pursue these measures on expectations of profits.

The economic effects of the spread of renewable natural energy, such as wind, solar and biomass, deserve close attention. The German government estimates natural energy created 380,000 jobs, including work in the manufacturing to distribution services.

Germany is stimulating its economy and society by setting a firm goal for the phase-out of nuclear power and combining that with a program for renewable energy. That is what Japan needs.

The Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo (June 1)

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