These developments might not have registered in our nation’s collective consciousness, but they haven’t escaped the notice of President Barack Obama. Calling this our generation’s “Sputnik moment,” the president on Dec. 6 urged lawmakers to step up their spending on education and infrastructure to make sure the United States isn’t left behind in the global economic race.
“We need a commitment to innovation we haven’t seen since President Kennedy challenged us to go to the moon,” Obama said in a speech at North Carolina’s Forsyth Technical Community College. He added: “In the race for the future, America is in danger of falling behind. That’s just the truth. And if you hear a politician say it’s not, they’re just not paying attention.”
The speech was a preview of the State of the Union address the president will give in January as he tries to grapple with a divided Congress over the next two years, his aides told the Associated Press.
Obama is absolutely right: America can’t afford to dither while other countries pass us by. But his message will be a hard sell to a House of Representatives whose new leaders say their No. 1 priority is to reduce spending, as our story “GOP victories could affect education funding, ed tech” indicates.
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The fear of being left behind in the struggle for global competitiveness apparently was trumped during the Nov. 2 midterm elections by the fear of leaving today’s students a debt they can’t repay, as House Republicans swept into power on a wave of voter concerns about the nation’s budget deficit.
While those concerns are legitimate, where were they in December when the House leaders-in-waiting dug in their heels over extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans who don’t need them?
Reducing the deficit and investing more in education aren’t mutually exclusive goals, but it will take an honest conversation about our priorities as a nation if we’re to accomplish both. And that kind of frank discussion is, frankly, hard to have when cable TV’s top-rated news channel, Fox News, routinely conflates news and conservative opinion.
In view of this challenge, maybe the fact that Fox News’ parent company, News Corp., is getting into the ed-tech business (see our story “News Corp. jumps into ed-tech field”) will be a good thing for schools.
After all, if News Corp. is to make any money from its latest venture, it will need a host of customers that are flush with cash. Perhaps the message permeating Fox News programming in the months ahead will finally align with what educators have been saying for years: If we don’t spend more on our schools, our children’s future will suffer.
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