In “Starving the Future” Mr. Blow says if you compare investments made in education by the United States with initiatives in China and India, Americans have reason to be afraid, very afraid. Ms. Collins, in “Arms and the Duck,” says the gun lobby fairy tale resurfaces. News flash: It’s only in the movies that people are good shots during a violent encounter. A bunch of Rambo wannabes all armed to the teeth in a movie theater… what could possibly go wrong? Here’s Mr. Blow:
America is in trouble.
Emerging economic powers China and India are heavily investing in educating the world’s future workers while we squabble about punishing teachers and coddling children.
This week, the Center for American Progress and the Center for the Next Generation released a report entitled “The Race That Really Matters: Comparing U.S., Chinese and Indian Investments in the Next Generation Workforce.” The findings were breathtaking:
• Half of U.S. children get no early childhood education, and we have no national strategy to increase enrollment.
• More than a quarter of U.S. children have a chronic health condition, such as obesity or asthma, threatening their capacity to learn.
• More than 22 percent of U.S. children lived in poverty in 2010, up from about 17 percent in 2007.
• More than half of U.S. postsecondary students drop out without receiving a degree.
Now compare that with the report’s findings on China. It estimates that “by 2030, China will have 200 million college graduates — more than the entire U.S. work force,” and points out that by 2020 China plans to:
• Enroll 40 million children in preschool, a 50 percent increase from today.
• Provide 70 percent of children in China with three years of preschool.
• Graduate 95 percent of Chinese youths through nine years of compulsory education (that’s 165 million students, more than the U.S. labor force).
• Ensure that no child drops out of school for financial reasons.
• More than double enrollment in higher education.
And the report also points out that “by 2017, India will graduate 20 million people from high school — or five times as many as in the United States.”
As I have mentioned before, a book written last year by Jim Clifton, the chairman of Gallup, called “The Coming Jobs War,” pointed out that of the world’s five billion people over 15 years old, three billion said they worked or wanted to work, but there are only 1.2 billion full-time, formal jobs.
This should make it crystal clear to every American that we don’t have any time — or students — to waste. Every child in this country must be equipped to perform. The country’s future financial stability depends on it.
As if to underscore that point, the Center for American Progress pointed out that “between 2000 and 2008, China graduated 1.14 million people in the STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, subjects; the United States graduated 496,000.”
But instead of dramatically upping our investment in our children’s education so that they’ll be able to compete in a future that has more educated foreign job seekers, we seem to be moving in the opposite direction. A White House report issued last Saturday noted that:
“Since the end of the recession in June 2009, the economy lost over 300,000 local education jobs. The loss of education jobs stands in stark contrast to every other recovery in recent years, under Republican and Democratic administrations.”
Not only is our education system being starved of investment, but many of our children are literally too hungry to learn.
A survey of kindergarten through eighth-grade teachers released this week by Share Our Strength, a nonprofit that seeks to end child hunger, found that 6 in 10 of those teachers say “students regularly come to school hungry because they are not getting enough to eat at home,” and “a majority of teachers who see hunger as a problem believe that the problem is growing.”
The report quotes a teacher in the Midwest as saying, “The saddest are the children who cry when we get out early for a snow day because they won’t get lunch.”
It is in this environment that Representative Paul Ryan proposes huge cuts to food assistance programs. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, Ryan’s plan “includes cuts in SNAP (formerly known as the food stamp program) of $133.5 billion — more than 17 percent — over the next 10 years (2013-22), which would necessitate ending assistance for millions of low-income families, cutting benefits for millions of such households, or some combination of the two.”
Representative Todd Akin, he of “legitimate rape” infamy, even said earlier this month that the federal government should stop financing the National School Lunch Program altogether. That man is just a font of humanity.
We will need to make choices as we seek to balance the nation’s budget and reduce the deficit, but cutting investments in our children is horribly shortsighted.
And, as we pursue educational reforms, beating up on teachers — who are underpaid, overworked and always blamed — is a distraction from the real problem: We’re being outpaced in producing the employees of the future.
We’re cutting back, while our children’s future competitors are plowing ahead.
The longer I live the more grateful I am that I don’t have children or grandchildren who will have to live through the coming mess. Here’s Ms. Collins:
We had a shooting near the Empire State Building. An aggrieved ex-employee of an apparel company killed his former co-worker, and was himself killed by police. Except for the famous-landmark location, it was not actually a very big story. Remember the mass shooting at the lumberyard in North Carolina earlier this year, or the one last October at the California cement plant? No? Neither does anybody else except the grieving families.
Nine passers-by were also wounded, and it seems almost certain that some or all were accidentally hit by the police. This isn’t surprising; it’s only in movies that people are good shots during a violent encounter. In 2008, Al Baker reported in The Times that the accuracy rate for New York City officers firing in the line of duty was 34 percent.
And these are people trained for this kind of crisis. The moral is that if a lunatic starts shooting, you will not be made safer if your fellow average citizens are carrying concealed weapons.
This is not the accepted wisdom in many parts of the country. (Certainly not in Congress, where safety was cited as a rationale for letting vacationers take loaded pistols into federal parks.) Shortly after the mass murder at the movie theater in Colorado, I was waiting for a plane at a tiny airport in North Dakota, listening to a group of oil rig workers discuss how many lives would have been saved if only the other theater patrons had been armed. “They could have nipped it in the bud,” one man told another confidently.
People, try to imagine what would have happened if, instead of diving for the floor, a bunch of those moviegoers had stood up and started shooting into the dark. Or ask a cop.
We are never going to have a sane national policy on guns until the gun advocates give up on the fantasy that the best protection against armed psychopaths bent on random violence is regular people with loaded pistols on their belts.
Is there anything the other side can concede in return? Well, gun control advocates have to be careful not to say anything that demeans hunting. Virtually every politician in America has already gotten that message. (See: Senator Chuck Schumer holding dead pheasants.) But it’s true that some city-dwellers can be snotty on this point.
“You don’t mess with hunting and fishing because that’s part of who we are,” says Kathy Cramer Walsh, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who specializes in civic engagement. “A lot of times, talk about regulating guns and ammunition is seen as the outside trying to change who we are.”
I’ve been thinking about guns and Wisconsin lately, especially since Paul Ryan, a big fan of the arm-the-world theory of public safety, was picked to be a vice-presidential nominee.
Wisconsin has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the country. (The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives it 3 points out of a possible 100.) It was also, of course, the scene of a terrible mass shooting this month by Wade Michael Page at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee.
Page had a high-capacity magazine, which allowed him to shoot at least 17 bullets before reloading. Those magazines tend to be a common theme in all our worst mass shooting incidents. The gunman at the shopping center in Tucson where Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot had one that held more than 30 bullets. The Colorado movie theater shooter had a 100-bullet magazine.
The magazines used to be illegal before Congress let the assault weapons ban elapse. Getting rid of them again would not stop mass shootings, but it would limit the number of victims. And you do not need a high-capacity magazine for hunting. In fact, many states outlaw them for hunting because they don’t want one person mowing down an entire flock or herd.
Under federal law, you only can use guns with a maximum three-bullet capacity if you’re hunting migratory birds. Even the most completely mindless faction in the National Rifle Association appears willing to give that a pass.
“Hunting’s a different thing,” said Jeff Nass, the president of Wisconsin Force, an N.R.A. affiliate. “The ducks and geese can’t shoot back.” Mass shootings, Nass contended, do not occur because crazy people have access to weapons that allow them to hit a large number of people in seconds. “Mass shootings come into play because nobody’s there defending themselves,” he said. “The solution is self-defense.”
So the guy driving toward the Sikh temple with the high-capacity magazine on his gun was legal until he started shooting. The guy sitting in the duck blind, no. Mull that one over the weekend.