Allan C. Brownfeld
Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
Demagoguery and the Trayvon Martin Case: Denying Dramatic Progress in Race Relations
The facts in the case of the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida remain unclear. As the trial proceeds, such facts should be revealed.
By any standard, the shooting of an unarmed 17-year-old is a tragedy. Did Martin attack the alleged shooter, George Zimmerman, who claims he was defending himself? Was Zimmerman animated by racial animus? All of this, as we move forward, will, hopefully become known.
What we have seen, however, is a rush to judgment, particularly by those who seem to have a vested interest of their own in painting a bleak picture of race relations in the United States.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the Rev. Jesse Jackson explained that with the election of President Obama:
. . . there was this feeling that we were kind of beyond racism. . . . That's not true. This victory has triggered tremendous backlash. Blacks are under attack.
The New Black Panther Party (NBPP), involved in voter fraud in Philadelphia but never prosecuted, has offered a $10,000 bounty for the capture of George Zimmerman. The Orlando Sentinel asked NBPP spokesman Mikhail Muhammad whether the call for a bounty was incitement. The response: "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Muhammad said that black people were not obliged to obey "the white man's law."
On Capitol Hill, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), who is black, was ousted from the House floor for violating the chamber's dress code after attempting to deliver a statement while wearing a gray hoodie with the hood pulled over his head. Rush contended that the hoodie Trayvon Martin was wearing symbolized the "racial profiling" that led to his death. "Racial profiling has got to stop," Rush said. "Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum."
Writing in The Washington Post, Renique Allen of the New America Foundation, argues that the election of a black president has made it more difficult to talk about race in America. In her view:
The Obama presidency is "post-racial" only in the sense that it gives us an excuse not to grapple with race anymore . . . I have encountered many people who seem to believe . . . that Obama's win is proof that America has reached the mountaintop. What more is there to say about race, they ask me, after this country so proudly and overwhelmingly elected a black president? They cite success stories as disparate as Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z, and former Time Warner chief Dick Parsons. . . . Even the most well-intentioned white people, who fundamentally understand the challenges of race in America, often can't understand why race, as a subject to wrestle with, can never be "over."
There is no doubt that racial problems have not disappeared overnight with the election of a black president. Still the evidence that race relations have been steadily improving is clear, and it is not helpful for various black spokesmen - from Jesse Jackson to Al Sharpton to Spike Lee - to use any incident, such as in Sanford, Florida, to publicly proclaim that nothing - or very little - has, in fact, changed.
Things in the Trayvon Martin case have clearly gotten out of hand. Marcus Davonne Higgins, a Los Angeles man, sent a tweet to several celebrities including what he thought was the street address of alleged shooter George Zimmerman. Film director Spike Lee didn't check but re-tweeted the incorrect address to the 250,000 people who follow him on Twitter.
Columnist Gregory Kane, who is black, reports that:
Suddenly the Sanford home of Elaine McClain, 70, and her 72-year-old husband, David McClain, started receiving hate mail and threats. George M. Zimmerman does not and has never lived at the address that Lee and others published on Twitter. But William George Zimmerman, Elaine McClain's son from a previous marriage, lived there at one time. Higgins had tweeted the wrong address. . . . Lee, an African-American who's always trying to prove how black he is, and how down with the brothers he is, probably couldn't resist what must have come naturally to him. He decided to retweet the address, the better to make a statement about the Martin shooting. The McClains had to move from their home to a hotel. . . .
Despite the demagoguery we have seen in the wake of this incident in Florida, there are abundant signs that America is really moving in the direction of becoming a color-blind society. According to a study the U.S. Census released late in January, residential segregation has been dramatically curtailed. The study of census results from thousands of neighborhoods by the Manhattan Institute found that the nation's cities are more economically integrated than at any time since 1910. It was found that all-white enclaves "are effectively extinct."
"There is now much more black-white neighborhood integration than 40 years ago," said Professor Reynolds Farley of the University of Michigan's Population Studies Center. "Those of us who worked on segregation in the 1960s never anticipated such decline."
At the same time, interracial marriages in the U.S. have climbed to 4.8 million - a record 1 in 12. A Pew Research Center study, released in February, details an America where interracial unions and mixed-race children are challenging typical notions of race.
"The rise in interracial marriage indicates that race relations have improved over the past quarter-century," said Daniel Lichter, a sociology professor at Cornell University.
Mixed-race children have blurred America's color line. They often interact with others on either side of the racial divide, and frequently serve as brokers between friends and family members of different racial backgrounds.
Black Americans are optimistic about the future. A 2011 survey conducted by the Washington Post-Kaiser-Harvard Poll found that in the midst of our economic downturn, 60 percent of blacks said they believed their children's standard of living would be better than their own, while only 36 percent of whites held this view. On the eve of President Obama's inauguration, 69 percent of black respondents told CNN pollsters that Martin Luther King's vision had been "fulfilled."
From 2002 to 2007, the number of black-owned businesses grew by 60.5 percent to 1.9 million, more than triple the national rate of 18 percent, according to the Census Bureau. Black Americans hold positions of responsibility in every aspect of our society - from President, to Governor, to Attorney General, to Supreme Court justice. We have, in recent years, had two black Secretaries of State. There is no position in our society to which black Americans cannot aspire.
Whatever facts finally emerge in the Trayvon Martin case, we must reject those racial demagogues who seek every opportunity to deny racial progress and to promote themselves as leaders of an embattled and isolated minority. Our society has made dramatic progress. Certainly, there is more progress to be made in the future. But no incident - such as the one in Florida - should be used as a means to deny that progress and paint a dark - and untrue - picture of a society that has moved dramatically to overcome the racial barriers of the past. Those who engage in such tactics are not friends of the black community but may, in the end, be doing it as much harm as genuine racists.
Serious Thought Should Be Given to Unintended Consequences of War with Iran
At the present time, many are speaking of launching a pre-emptive strike against Iran. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank writes that:
It's beginning to feel a lot like 2003 in the capital. Nine years ago . . . there was a similar feeling of inevitability - that despite President George W. Bush's frequent insistence that "war is my last choice," war in Iraq was coming.
In the case of Iraq, one of the key reasons given for launching our attack was that Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. This, of course, turned out not to be the case. Once again, some are urging an attack upon Iran because of that country's nuclear program. Our experience in Iraq should give us pause. Not only did we go to war with a country that had not attacked us, had no weapons of mass destruction, and no connection with the terrorists who were responsible for 9/11, but we did serious damage to our economy and lost untold numbers of American lives in an effort which now seems difficult to explain and understand.
Everyone agrees that Iran does not currently have nuclear weapons. U.S. intelligence believes that Iran is several years from achieving a nuclear capacity and it remains unclear that the Iranian leaders have made a decision to move in that direction. Those who have studied this region are most critical of those who call for war.
Gary Sick, national security adviser on Iran during the country's Islamic revolution, does not envision a situation in which Iran decides to break out and build a bomb, unless it is first attacked. Actually crossing the nuclear threshold would be "inviting an attack," Sick said, and would not be in Tehran's interest. But if Iran doesn't build a bomb, its demonstrated capability to do so, Sick explains, will make it a member of a small club of nations, such as Japan, Brazil and Sweden, that can acquire a nuclear weapon if they break away from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In either case, Iran's goal is to assert its position as a major player in the region, one that the world should take seriously and with which it should consult.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has documented that Iran is putting all the pieces in place to have the option to develop nuclear weapons at some point. If Supreme Leader Ayatolla Ali Khamenei decides to produce a bomb, Iran is believed to have the technical capability to produce a testable nuclear device in a year or so and a missile-capable device in several years. But as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 16, it does not appear that Khamenei has made this decision.
Colin Kahl, an associate professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, who was deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East from 2009 to 2011, argues:
Khamenei is unlikely to dash for a bomb in the near future because IAEA inspectors would probably detect Iranian efforts to divert low-enriched uranium and enrich it to weapons-grade level at declared facilities. Such brazen acts would trigger a draconian international response. Until Iran can pursue such efforts more quickly or in secret - which could be years from now - Khamenei is unlikely to act.
A full page ad in The Washington Post was headlined: "Mr. President: Say No to War of Choice With Iran." The signatories included General Joseph Hoar (USMC, Ret.), Brigadier General John H. Johns (USA, Ret.), Major General Paul Eaton (USA, Ret.), Tom Fingar, former Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis, and Paul Pillar, former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia. They declare:
The U.S. military is the most formidable military force on earth. But not every challenge has a military solution. Unless we, or an ally, are attacked, arms should be the option of last resort. Our brave servicemen and women expect you to exhaust all diplomatic and peaceful options before you send them into harm's way. Preventing a nuclear-armed Iran is rightfully your priority and your red line. Fortunately, diplomacy has not been exhausted and peaceful solutions are still possible. Military action is not only unnecessary, it is dangerous - for the United States and for Israel. We urge you to resist the pressure for a war of choice with Iran.
In Israel, opinion is sharply divided over the question of pre-emptive war. Many respected Israelis believe that a pre-emptive attack against Iran would be a serious mistake for Israel and would do it serious long-term harm. Political scientist Yeherkel Dror, an Israel Prize winner and founding president of the Jewish People Policy Institute, says that with regard to Iran, Israel needs to rely on "ultimate deterrence," that an attack on Tehran's nuclear facilities will not only be counterproductive and that the real danger Israel faces is from a gradual wearing away of its staying power.
"Assuming you attack, then what?" he says.
In five years, they will recuperate with absolute determination to revenge. The idea that an Israeli attack will make Iran into a peace-loving country is not on my horizon. I don't know anything like this in history. I know the opposite from history. . . . Iran has a very low probability of being a suicidal state. They have a long culture, a long history, and they are much more involved in the Shia-Sunni conflict than the Israeli side issue. I think no one has any doubt that if Israel's future existence is in danger it will use mass killing weapons.
The Jerusalem Report notes that:
Three men once most closely involved in Israeli efforts to stop Iran - former Mossad chiefs Meir Dagan (2002-2011), Efraim Halevy (1998-2002) and Danny Yatom (1996-1998) - all see a lone Israeli military attack as a last resort, to be avoided if at all possible.
Speaking at the Hebrew University last May, Dagan derided an Israeli strike as "a stupid idea," it might not achieve its goals. It could lead to a long war, and worse, it could give Iranian leaders justification to build a nuclear weapon. In Dagan's view, precipitate Israeli action could break up the current anti-Iranian consensus, leading to less pressure on Iran, not more.
According to The Jerusalem Report:
Dagan holds that there is still time; last year he estimated that Iran would not have a nuclear weapon before 2015. . . . Efraim Halevy says Israel should recognize that it is a regional power and act like one. He says the country is too strong to be destroyed and the Israeli people should not have existential fears about Iran or anything else. . . . Israel's strategy should be to work with its allies to convince the Iranian regime to change course without force coming into play. In Halevy's view, this is achievable since the Iranian regime is dedicated primarily to its own survival and will likely back down if it feels threatened by even more crippling sanctions. Israel should be using its international connections to ratchet up pressure on the Iranian regime, while preparing a military option if, and only if, all else fails.
It seems clear that if Iran were ever to develop and use a nuclear weapon there would be massive retaliation, endangering the country's entire population. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, and never used them precisely because of a fear of retaliation, what became known as Mutual Assured Destruction. Iran would have to be suicidal to even think of using such a weapon.
The available evidence is that Iran is not suicidal. General Martin Dempsey recently explained that he viewed Iran as a "rational actor." Although some protested this characterization, Time's Fareed Zakaria points out:
Dempsey was making a good point. A rational actor is not necessarily a reasonable actor or one who has the same goals or values that you or I do. A rational actor is someone who is concerned about his survival.
Compared with radical revolutionary regimes like Mao's China - which spoke of sacrificing half of China's population in a nuclear war to promote global Communism - the Iranian regime has been rational and calculating in its actions.
In an essay in the Washington Monthly, former senior U.S. intelligence official Paul Pillar writes:
More than three decades of history demonstrate that the Islamic Republic's rulers, like most rulers elsewhere, are overwhelmingly concerned with preserving their regime and their power - in this life, not some future one.
For the most powerful country in the world to even think of a pre-emptive war against a country that has not attacked us, has no nuclear weapons, and there is serious question about whether or not they have even decided to pursue them in the future, would itself be an irrational act. It is time for a serious debate - and serious discussion of the consequences of any such action. And if the time comes when the U.S. decides that an attack on Iran does make sense, it should be done in the form of a declaration of war by the U.S. Congress, as called for in our Constitution.
Efforts Grow to Restore Private Property Rights
Respect for private property is an essential element of a free society. In his Discourse on Political Economy, Rousseau writes that:
It should be remembered that the foundation of the social contract is property; and its first condition, that every one should be maintained in the peaceful possession of what belongs to him.
In The Prince, Machiavelli notes that, "When neither their property nor their liberty is touched, the majority of men live content."
In our own society, there have been increasing efforts to limit the rights of property owners. Fortunately, efforts are now growing to reverse such trends.
In March, the Supreme Court ruled that an Idaho couple facing ruinous fines for attempting to build a home on private property that the federal government considered protected wetlands may challenge an order from the Environmental Protection Agency.
This case was considered the most significant property rights case on the court's docket this year, with the potential to change the balance of power between landowners and the EPA in disputes over land use, development, and the enforcement of environmental regulations.
Critics called the EPA action an example of overreach, as the property in question was a small vacant lot in the middle of an established residential subdivision. The government argued that allowing EPA compliance orders to be challenged in court could severely delay actions needed to prevent imminent ecological disasters.
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for a unanimous court, said that Michael and Chantell Sackett are entitled to appeal the EPA order, rejecting the agency's argument that allowing landowners timely challenges to its decisions would undermine its ability to protect sensitive wetlands.
In the decision, Justice Scalia wrote:
The law's presumption of judicial review is a repudiation of the principle that efficiency of regulation conquers all. And there is no reason to think that the Clean Water Act was uniquely designed to enable the strong-arming of regulated parties into "voluntary compliance" without the opportunity for judicial review - even judicial review of the question whether the regulated party is within the EPA's jurisdiction.
The EPA issues nearly 3,000 administrative compliance orders a year that call on suspected violators of environmental laws to stop what they're doing and repair the harm they have caused. Business groups, homebuilders, road builders and agricultural interests all came out in opposition to the EPA in the case.
Mr. Sackett said that the Supreme Court ruling affirmed his belief that "the EPA is not a law unto itself." He said that, "The EPA used bullying and threats of terrifying fines, and has made our life hell for the past five years."
Senator John Barasso (R-Wyoming) said that:
This decision delivers a devastating blow to the Obama administration's "War on Western Jobs." This victory by one Western couple against a massive Washington bureaucracy will inspire others to challenge the administration's regulatory overreach.
The case stemmed from the Sacketts' purchase of a 0.63 acre lot for $23,000 near Priest Lake, Idaho in 2005. They had begun to lay gravel on the land, located in a residential neighborhood, when they were hit by an EPA compliance order informing them that the property had been designated a wetland under the Clean Water Act. Justice Scalia noted that the property bore little resemblance to any popular concept of a wetland, protected or not.
The Pacific Legal Foundation in Sacramento, which represented the Sacketts, called it
. . . a precedent-setting victory for the rights of all property owners. . . . The Supreme Court's ruling makes it clear that EPA bureaucrats are answerable to the law in the courts like the rest of us.
There are also efforts under way to stop the abuses of the policy of eminent domain. In February, the Virginia General Assembly gave its first approval to a constitutional amendment restoring the sanctity of private property. The measure was made necessary by the 2005 Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London, that gave towns and cities free rein to grab land - not for public uses - but for the use and benefit of well-connected developers.
Over the years, the Supreme Court has expanded the scope of government takings by redefining "public use." The Washington Times declares that:
Originally, the term was applied to such things as parks, roads or rail lines - all of which were open for use by the entire community. The high court elasticized the concept to include land intended for a public "purpose" such as eliminating blight or other catch-all categories related to public safety. The Kelo court went further to rule that economic growth, and the tax revenue that would accrue from it, was sufficient to justify a land grab.
Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli and Governor Robert McDonnell have been leading the fight to reform that state's property laws over the developer interests that, until now, have succeeded in blocking the amendment from consideration. The measure clarifies that eminent domain may be used only for purposes that are truly public. Land could not be transferred by the government to private entities to generate more tax dollars.
Christina Walsh, of the Institute for Justice, which argued the Kelo case before the Supreme Court, states that:
The power of eminent domain is supposed to be for "public use" so government can build things like roads and schools. . . . But starting with the wildly unsuccessful urban renewal efforts of the 1940s and 1950s, "public use" has been stretched to mean anything that could possibly benefit the public. . . . It has been demonstrated time and again that eminent domain is routinely used to wipe out black, Hispanic, and poorer communities, with less political capital and influence in favor of developers' grand plans.
Groups across the political spectrum have recognized the need to limit this abuse of power. The diverse coalition has included the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Federation of Independent Business and the Farm Bureau. There is now a bipartisan bill, H.R. 1433, making its way through the House that would strip a city of federal economic development funding for two years if the city takes private property to give to someone else for private use.
In all these cases - the Supreme Court decision concerning the EPA, the proposed constitutional amendment in Virginia - and the legislation now being considered in the House, we see a commitment to restore private property rights, an essential ingredient of a genuinely free society. All of these efforts should be encouraged and supported.
Understanding the Reasons for America's Growing Class Divide
The question of economic inequality has become an important part of our national conversation. Recently, the Congressional Budget Office supplied hard data on the widening economic gap. Among Western countries, America stands out as the place where economic and social status is most likely to be inherited.
What is less often discussed are the reasons for this disparity. A key element has been the dramatic changes that have taken place in recent years in family life.
In 1965, the respected liberal intellectual, and later Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, wrote a controversial report on the perilous state of the black family, pointing out that 24 percent of births among blacks and 3 percent among whites were out of wedlock. In retrospect, we can see that the decline in the American family was only beginning. Today, out-of-wedlock births account for 73 percent of births among blacks, 53 percent among Latinos, and 29 percent among whites.
Recently, a front-page article in The New York Times reported that more than half of births to mothers under age 30 now occur out of wedlock. Many are casting aside the notion that children should be raised in a stable two-parent family.
The economic class divide that is attracting increasing attention cannot be considered outside of an understanding of the lifestyle choices of those involved. Almost 70 percent of births to high school dropouts and 51 percent to high school graduates are out of wedlock. Among those with some college experience, the figure is 34 percent and for those with a college degree, just 8 percent.
The breakdown of the family has a significant impact upon children. Children in two-parent families, University of Virginia sociologist Bradford Wilcox shows, are more likely to "graduate from high school, finish college, become gainfully employed, and enjoy a stable family life themselves."
In the new book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, Charles Murray, of the American Enterprise Institute, focusing on white Americans to avoid capitalizing on the problems faced by minority groups, sees a significant decline in what he considers America's founding virtues - industriousness, honesty, marriage and religiosity - over the last 50 years.
That decline, he illustrates, has not been uniform among different segments of the white population. Among the top 20 percent in income and education, he finds that rates of marriage and church attendance, after falling marginally in the 1970s, have plateaued at a high level since then. And these people have been working longer hours than ever before.
In contrast, among the bottom 30 percent, those indicators started falling in the 1970s, and have been plunging ever since. Among this group, he reports, one-third of men age 30 to 49 are not making a living, one-fifth of women are single mothers raising children, and nearly 40 percent have no involvement in a secular or religious organization. The result is that children being raised in such settings have the odds stacked against them.
Discussing Murray's book, columnist Michael Barone declares that:
These findings turn some conventional political wisdom on its head. They tend to contradict the liberals who blame increasing income disparity on free-market economics. In fact it is driven in large part by personal behavior and choices. They also undermine the conservatives who say that a liberation-minded upper class has been undermining traditional values to which more downscale Americans are striving to adhere. Murray's complaint against upscale liberals is not that they are libertines but that they fail to preach what they practice.
Society does not, of course, move only in a single direction. Some indicators of social dysfunction have improved dramatically, even as traditional families continue to lose ground. There has, for example, been a dramatic decline in teenage pregnancies among all racial groups since 1990. There has also been a 60 percent decline in violent crime since the mid-90s.
Still, something is clearly happening to the traditional working-class family. Part of it, of course, is a reduction in the work opportunities available to less-educated men as many unskilled jobs move abroad to cheaper labor markets, such as China. Adjusted for inflation, entry-level wages of male high school graduates working in the private sector had health benefits, but, by 2009, that was down to 29 percent.
In 1996, sociologist William Julius Wilson published When Work Disappears: The New World of the Urban Poor, in which he argued that much of the social disruption among African-Americans popularly attributed to collapsing values was actually caused by a lack of blue-collar jobs in urban areas.
As with all complex social problems, there are many causes. Charles Murray makes an important point about the importance of marriage and family in fostering economic security and well-being, something which cannot be ignored in confronting the question of economic inequality.
Writing in Time, Rich Lowery, editor of National Review, notes that:
No one wants to be preachy about marriage when everyone knows its inevitable frustrations. . . . At the very least, though, we should provide the facts about the importance of marriage as a matter of child welfare and economic aspiration. As a society, we have launched highly effective public-education campaigns on much less momentous issues, from smoking to recycling. It's not hard to think of a spokeswoman. Michelle Obama is the daughter in a traditional two-parent family and the mother in another one that even her husband's critics admire. If she took up marriage as a cause, she could ultimately have a much more meaningful impact on the lives of children than she will ever have urging them to do jumping jacks. For now, the decline of marriage is our most ignored national crisis. As it continues to slide away, our country will become less just and less mobile.
Students Are Not Learning What They Need to Compete in Today's Economy
There is growing evidence that our colleges and universities are not teaching students what they need to compete for jobs in our high-tech international economy.
A 2010 study published by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 87 percent of employers believe that higher-education institutions have to raise student achievement if the U.S. is to be competitive in the global market. Sixty-three percent say that recent college graduates do not have the skills they need to succeed. And, according to a separate survey, more than a quarter of employers say entry-level writing skills are deficient.
A recent book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, by Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia, point out that gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills are either
. . . exceedingly small or nonexistent for a larger proportion of students. It has been found that 36 percent of students experience no significant improvement in learning (as measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment) over four years of higher education.
Most universities do not require the courses considered core education subjects -math, science, foreign languages at the intermediate level, U.S. government or history, composition, literature, and economics.
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) has rated schools according to how many of the core subjects are required. A review of more than 1,000 colleges and universities found that 29 percent of schools require two or fewer subjects. Only 5 percent require economics. Less than 20 percent require U.S. government or history.
ACNA President Anne Neal declares:
How can one think critically about anything if one does not have a foundation of skills and knowledge? It's like suggesting that our future leaders only need to go to Wikipedia to determine the direction of our country.
Eight years ago, leaders at the University of Texas set out to measure something few in higher education had thought to do - how much their students learn before graduation. The answer that emerged was: not very much. The conclusion is based on results from a 90-minute essay test given to freshmen and seniors that aims to gauge gains in critical thinking and communication skills. Both the University of Texas and several hundred other public universities have joined the growing accountability movement in higher education in an effort to quantify collegiate learning on a large scale.
Last year, University of Texas freshmen scored an average 1261 on the assessment, which is graded on a scale similar to that of the SAT. Seniors averaged 1303. Both groups scored well, but seniors fared little better than freshmen. "The seniors have spent four years there, and the scores have not gone up that much," says New York University's Richard Arum.
Needless to say, it is not only our colleges that seem not to be properly preparing our students. Our high schools have fallen dramatically behind in teaching algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. This means, writes economist Walter Williams, that:
There are certain relatively high-paying careers that are probably off-limits for life. These include careers in architecture, chemistry, computer programming, engineering, medicine and certain technical fields. For example, one might meet all of the physical requirements to be a fighter pilot, but he's grounded if he doesn't have enough math to understand physics, aerodynamics and navigation. Mathematical ability provides the disciplined structure that helps people to think, speak, and write more clearly.
Drs. Eric Hanushek and Paul Peterson, senior fellows at the Hoover Institution, looked at the performance of our young people compared with their counterparts in other nations in their Newsweek article, "Why Can't American Students Compete?" last year. In the latest international tests administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, found that only 32 percent of U.S. students ranked proficient in math - coming in between Portugal and Italy, but far behind South Korea, Finland, Canada, and the Netherlands. Seventy-five percent of Shanghai students tested proficient. In the U.S. only 7 percent could perform at an advanced level in mathematics.
In a 2009 The New York Times article, "Do We Need Foreign Technology Workers?," Dr. Vivek Wadhwa of Duke University said
. . . 49 percent of all U.S. science and engineering workers with doctorates are immigrants, as were 67 percent of the additions to the U.S. science and engineering workers with doctorates are immigrants, as were 67 percent of the additions to the U.S. science and engineering work force between 1995 and 2006. And roughly 60 percent of engineering Ph.D. students and 40 percent of master's students are foreign nationals.
Recently, President Obama proposed making kids stay in school until they are 18. This would not do much to address the nation's educational woes, say education specialists. "It's not the slam bang that it looks like," said Russ Whitehurst, director of Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution. "It's not like you raise the age to 18 and they're going to go ahead and graduate - they're just going to stay in school."
There is much talk about the need for "everyone" to go to college - and very little discussion about what is actually being taught in our colleges. Professor Richard Vedder of Ohio University argues that:
The number going to college exceeds the number capable of mastering higher levels of intellectual inquiry. This leads colleges to alter their mission, watering down the intellectual content of what they do.
Simply put, colleges dumb down courses so that the students they admit can pass them.
Professor Walter Williams notes that:
Much of American education is a shambles. Part of a solution is for colleges to stop admitting students who are unprepared for real college work. That would help reveal the shoddy education provided at the primary and secondary school levels. But college administrators are more interested in larger numbers of students because they translate to more economy.
Beyond this, the nation's security is also at risk if schools do not improve, warns a report by a panel led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Joel I. Klein, a former chancellor of New York City's school system.
"The dominant power of the twenty-first century will depend on human capital," the report said. "The failure to produce that capital will undermine American security."
The report said that the State Department and intelligence agencies face critical shortages in the number of foreign-language speakers, and that fields like science, defense, and aerospace face a shortage of skilled workers that is likely to worsen as baby boomers retire.
According to the panel, 75 percent of young adults do not qualify to serve in the military because they are physically unfit, or have criminal records, or inadequate levels of education. It said 30 percent of high school graduates do not do well enough on an aptitude test to serve.
In our global, high-tech economy, we cannot afford to continue the educational system we have. It is high time that we turned our attention to making the necessary changes and reforms that would keep America competitive in the twenty-first century. *