Monday, December 13, 2010

Uncle Arne Pennybags

But the findings, I'm sorry to report, show that the United States needs to urgently accelerate student learning to remain competitive in the knowledge economy of the 21st century.
Arne Duncan

And I'm sorry to report that our knowledge economy--our bankers, masters of derivatives; our brokers, masters of the 30 millisecond trade; our mortgage lenders, masters of the liar loans; our MBA's, masters of the mega-mergers--is what got us into this mess.

We still grow a lot of corn, wheat and soybeans. We still have abundant sunshine, decent soil, and plenty of people willing to work.

We still have an aging infrastructure, plenty of iron ore and coal, and plenty of people willing to work.

We still have thousands of miles of coastline, sturdy boats, and plenty of people willing to harvest the grace of the sea.

The only things worth even a nickel in a true economy come from the earth. Water. Wheat. Lumber. Ore. Corn. Petroleum. Cotton. Wool. Soybeans.

The only things worth even a nickel in a true economy are tangible. You can hold them. They are not abstract.

Real gross domestic product--the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States--increased at an annual rate of 2.5 percent in the third quarter of 2010.

A lot of knowledge-based professionals made a lot of money the past few months extracting money from the "real gross domestic product," money made from the incredibly fruitful land under our feet here in the States.

The unemployment rate "edged up" to 9.8% in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Fewer people working, more money made.

I live a few miles away from the Goethals Bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel, and Port Newark. No one pretends to hide the infrastructure in urban areas; the deterioration is obvious.

"More than a quarter of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Leaky pipes lose an estimated seven billion gallons of clean drinking water every day. And aging sewage systems send billions of gallons of untreated wastewater cascading into the nation’s waterways each year."

While those in power continue to siphon the goods of a growing economy, using fancy paper from fancy schools to lead fanciful lives, we keep telling the kids education matters because it will get you a good job.

Teaching a new generation of children how to take a piece of the pie they did not bake themselves will not make us stronger.

We do need children who can think, who can create, who can see the fallacies spewed by those now in charge by virtue of birth or connections or money.

A decent public education goes a long way to creating that kind of citizen. Education matters, even if Arne is confused as to why.


John T. Spencer said...

I am bothered with those reports for so many reasons (skewed data, especially regarding China).

Meanwhile, I teach.

Today was a freebie. After four grueling hours of standardized tests, we designed more eco-friendly homes. Kids asked questions like "why do rich people need family rooms and living rooms?" or "why don't we build underground?" or "Can't we hang up clothes instead of using driers?"

It wasn't science. It wasn't even engineering (though there were some cool models they built today). It was a cleansing. It was a conversation.

At its core, it was home economics. They asked me questions about how to plant a garden. Someday we'll have one at our school, I hope.

doyle said...

Dear John,

Home economics matters. Everything else we do--language arts, math, science, art, wood shop, history, etc.--should serve our place at home, in the neighborhood, in our larger communities.

But first the home.