U.S. Education Mediocrity Threatens National Security

Published March 22, 2012

The U.S. education system’s mediocrity threatens national security and economic prosperity, concludes a report out this morning from a task force co-chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and former New York City Chancellor Joel Kline. 

“The State Department and intelligence services lack sufficient linguists and analysts for critical regions,” the report says. “By almost every measure, U.S. schools are failing to provide the kind of education our society will need to ensure American leadership in the twenty-first century.”

While many people know how education system failure impacts the economy, few consider its impacts on national security, the Council on Foreign Relations report says. It claims 75 percent of young adults don’t qualify to serve in the military because they are physically unfit, have criminal records, or an inadequate education.

The report cites many statistics illustrating the country’s increasing deficiency: Nearly a quarter of students do not graduate from high school in four years, only a quarter rate proficient on the national civics exam, less than a quarter rate college-ready on the ACT.

Its recommendations to remedy this problem: incorporate national-security-essential subjects into national and state education requirements, increase school choice, and “launch a national security readiness audit.”

Well, items one and three sound dubious. The first requires expanding the Common Core set of grade-level education standards, an enterprise manipulated by the Obama administration and of dubious legality. And the “national security readiness audit” the report writers envision would hold “educators and policymakers responsible for meeting national expectations in education.” Not sure what that would look like, but as with the Common Core, it’s illegal and unconstitutional for the federal government to interfere with curriculum, and experience with No Child Left Behind indicates trading federal money for state testing requirements is a loser.

School choice, though, is a worthy and long-ignored idea.

“It’s an American solution to an American problem,” Klein told Bloomberg. “Competition and choice have the greatest potential to stimulate innovation.”

Little in the report is truly new. Its innovation lies in linking a decline many have observed for decades to American life and limb. This, and the obvious ties between education and the economy, is another reason education policy needs to become more prominent in the presidential and national discussion. We cannot solve national security and economy problems without solving the education problem.


Joy Pullmann is managing editor of School Reform News and an education research fellow at The Heartland Institute