Thursday, January 26, 2006

E=mc2 for everyone

From the Columbus Dispatch, January 26, 2006:
To better prepare Ohio’s high-school
graduates for college or work, Gov. Bob Taft proposed a bold new plan yesterday
during his final State of the State address that would require all students to
take more math, science and foreign-language courses.

Starting with students who graduate in 2011, a new core set of courses
would be required, including Algebra 2, physics and chemistry.

The new requirements would apply to all high-school students whether
they plan to attend college or not, although parents could sign a waiver opting
out of the courses and accepting the consequences.
For example, students
opting out wouldn’t be able to attend a state university under Taft’s

Bad idea Governor.

I'm okay with the notion that there is are a core set of subjects in which every high school graduate should be able to demostrate proficiency. But I don't see the sense of including Algebra 2, Physics and Chemistry in that set. Other nations take a more pragmatic view of school: sort the kids out by skill, potential and motivation before they get to high school. Some will go to schools which focus on science and mathematics. Others go to arts academies. Some go to learn a skilled trade.

The countries recognize that resources aren't limitless, and that an effort to raise the knowledge level for all students takes away resources from that fraction that can really make a difference. Our country thrived when it was contribute or starve. Only now are we seeing the harm of expending ever-increasing resources on protecting the weakest in our society -- creating a tax burden drag and preventing resources from being used to nurture our most promising young people.

Another thing most of those countries have -- compulsary military service. Most serve as enlisted personnel where they learn a skill, then those who wish can attend college. Some will attend college first, deferring their service until they graduate, and then serve as officers. Rich or poor, everyone serves -- notice that Prince William, the future King of England, is just beginning his military service.

You can't make Ohio a better place for business with this approach. Ohio was an economic powerhouse in the past century because: a) heavy industry grew around the Great Lakes; and, b) immigrant labor was cheap. Today, the major economic regions of the US are on the coasts -- east, west and south -- because state governments and unions in the Great Lakes region got greedy and ran industry out.

Major corporations have very little geographic or national loyalty. They move their production facilities to wherever their total costs are minimized. That includes cost of raw materials (including transportation), production labor costs, tax burden, and the cost of distribution. Once upon a time that meant the Great Lakes. Today it means Asia.

We've made it very hard for heavy industry to survive in the US. If we are going to participate in a global economy, then the steel workers in Cleveland are going to have to work for the same wages as the steelworkers in China. The information industry workers in Columbus are going to need to compete with the talented folks in India. The auto workers in Toledo need to work for the same wages as their opposite numbers in Korea. And the state government needs to get out of the entitlement business.

In which class will you teach our kids that they'll never have it as good as their grandparents? That's a new thing in the history of America...

No comments: