Improve Education and Immigration Reform Enhance Economic Performance
Improving education and increasing access to the cream of the creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial crop must become the primary thrust in American economic recovery, both in the short and long-term.
Craig R. Barrett, Former CEO and Chairman at Intel reminds us that "To compete in the twenty-first century, individuals and countries will have to add value in the workplace to command a high standard of living and be competitive in the global marketplace. Education is the key to adding value. The United States recognizes that its K-12 education is not doing the job. You need good teachers with content expertise, high expectations, and feedback systems to help struggling students and teachers. These three requirements are difficult to implement in a massive public education system designed more for working adults than for learning students".
To compete into the 21st century and beyond America must return to utilization of one of it's age-old business development and innovation strategies. America must once again, encourage immigrant population innovation and contribution, which has continually enhanced society, primarily through educational opportunity and availability. From the combination of immigrant inclusion, and superior academic preparation, world-beating technology, science, and industrial excellence has placed America in a dominant role in practically every sphere of business and economic activity the world has known. Nearly every generation in American history contains an account of an immigrant, immigrant son or daughter, or non-native born person, arriving, rising up, and supplying a critical invention, operational device, or major intellectual/scientific contribution that has changed the nation, and often the world, and "America" has claimed them all.
George Washington Carver, one of a number of "forced" immigrants overcame slavery, poverty, and racial discrimination, after which he discovered more than 450 products that could be made from the peanut and other cultivated plants. Carver made it possible for many Southern farmers to diversify their crops, and became known as "the miracle worker" throughout the South.
Thomas Edison, son of a Canadian immigrant, was an American inventor and business person. Numbered among his inventions are the development of a practical light bulb, toward the end of 1879. In 1880 he designed first light bulb to have all the essential features of a modern light bulb--an incandescent filament in an evacuated glass bulb with a screw base.
German-born Albert Einstein, who supplied the theory of relativity and work in quantum mechanics had set off a revolution in physics.
Norbert Rillieux, an African-American inventor, patented his vacuum evaporation system in 1843. He designed it to evaporate the liquid part of sugar cane juice more efficiently, more safely, and less expensively than the open-kettle system then in use.
Jonas Salk, grew up in the "Jewish immigrant culture" of New York, his parents, Daniel and Dora Salk, were from Russian-Jewish immigrant families. Salk began his studies at Townsend Harris High School, a public school for intellectually gifted students, known as"a launching pad for the talented sons of immigrant parents who lacked the money—and pedigree—to attend a top private school." He is best known for his discovery and development of the first polio vaccine.
Wernher Magnus Maximilian, Freiherr von Braun was a German-born rocket scientist, aerospace engineer, space architect, and one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology in Nazi Germany during World War II and, subsequently, the United States. He was chief architect of the Saturn V launch vehicle, the superbooster that propelled the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon.
Perusing this Who's Who list of accomplishments, the question that must be addressed is Who, What, and Where "was" America during the innovation and creativity spurred by, and in the wake of these marvelous contributions to the country, and to the world. The names of the cultural icons listed above, aren't refered to in the "immigrant conversation", they do however remain prominent cornerstones in the "American conversation". Success, business development, booming industrial growth, all seem to quell the voices demanding America take an isolationist position regarding immigration practices.
Tom Brokaw, in his post "Can America keep best, brightest immigrants?" provides a secondary approach in a dual pronged theory, resulting in increased creativity, and innovation. He says,"The facts are that "Many foreigners come here, get educated, and want to stay, but can’t. How can the U.S. take advantage of their potential?"
Fact: "The United States issues only 85,000 of the so-called H1B visas for highly skilled workers each year. And these expire after six years."
The H1B visa program in fact encourages America to deport the Brauns, Salks, Einsteins, and Rillieux's who take advantage of America's educational offerings, only to be forced through expired H1B visas to leave the country, quite often against their desire to remain.
The second cornerstone in America's climb back to the top, is significantly improving American K-12 education. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a system of international assessments that focuses on 15-year-olds' capabilities in reading literacy, mathematics literacy, and science literacy. PISA also includes measures of general or cross-curricular competencies such as problem solving. PISA emphasizes functional skills that students have acquired as they near the end of compulsory schooling. Audrey Busch of the National Council for the Social Studies, offers a sobering assessment in an op-ed "PISA Scores Released: What does this mean for education policy?", Ms. Busch goes on to state, "PISA results historically have driven nations’ education policies and can provide indicators of a country’s ability to internationally compete. Tuesday sounded an alarm for the United States. The U.S. students who were assessed as part of this PISA ranked 26th out of the 65 participating countries. Specifically, they ranked 17th in Science, 14th in Reading, and 24th in Math*". There is no "new" data to present here, but the significance of the lowered placement of American K-12 students compared to their global competitors is staggering. If every child is a sports celebrity, TV, Movie, or Reality star, who will run America? Buying, coddling, and not demanding academic excellence from every child, endangers the futures of all children, and ultimately the freedom America now enjoys. The implosion won't be caused by illegal immigrants, or even home-grown terrorists, but by the lack of responsibility, accountability, and culpability of American parent.
Eryn Green in the article "The Education Reform Roadblock: American Identity" poses a most pertinent set of questions, "What is education reform, really? More than a question of efficacy and efficiency; it's more than the quandary of how to streamline the factory. It's about how we manufacture our future, and thus it is a question of the most sensitive nature":
"What version of America do you believe in"?
"What does an American look like"?
"What kind of American are you"?
"And questions like those makes people uncomfortable". "Why?"
Who, What, When, and Where is America
Therein lie the real issues in both education and comprehensive immigration reform. America has always been a land of Immigrants. Tracing backwards to Americas early frontiers, the Land of First Contact, opines that "hunters who traveled slowly across North America thousands of years ago arrived at the continent's northeastern edge as the last ice age was retreating, about 9000 years before today". Further, "It would be another 8000 years before the descendents of the early migrations that traveled northwest from Africa would make their way across the Atlantic Ocean and eventually bump up on the shores of Labrador and northern Newfoundland. Those Middle Age Europeans who developed the boat building technology that would allow them to explore faraway lands were Norse mariners, often called Vikings". The descendants of those early immigrants to these shores made war against the "Native People" already present, and eventually placed them on reservations and government subsistence. Could this be Who America is?
Deborah Samuel in the Yale National Initiative offers a recount of later American history related to What America does with populace's labeled different, in a course Content of Curriculum, "Chinese Immigration, Exclusion and the Chinese-American Experience" she offers; "trace the United States in the nineteenth century, we find a progression from a nation that welcomed outsiders to work and settle its land to that of a "gatekeeping" nation. We became a nation that used many excuses to practice exclusion, including that of national security, but in fact practiced a form of racism aimed particularly at the Chinese and Mexicans. In the early twentieth century, we extended the definition of "race" to included people of Southern and Eastern Europe as well. And in the mid-twentieth century we even went so far as to intern our own citizens of Japanese descent. Through a system of laws, a bureaucracy was created that continues to this day. Yet in the last 150 years, has this system ever accomplished its stated or even its non-stated goals?" Reviewing the events from America's past, it must be asked "Where is the Real America"? As illustrated by the sheer prejudice evidenced in these documents, is America truly, Land of the Free, and Home of the Brave, or simply "America the convenient".
However, coming full-circle and dove-tailing the education and immigration reform issues, the question becomes clear. Looking long and hard at the real issues causing difficulty in education reform, race, culture, diversity, teacher and student preparation, and an acknowledgement that everything is not all right. Simply throwing more money will not improve the academic outcomes of children in our K-12 student population. Returning America to global prominence will require a multi=pronged approach. Retaining and attracting the "Best & Brightest" from around the world, easing their transition as some of the highly skilled workers fueling economic recovery. Valerie Strauss, in a Washington Post article, asks a different question, "How poverty affected U.S. PISA scores", where she interjects something long-known to educators, who've failed to accurately assess and address the problem, “Two countries with similar levels of prosperity can produce very different results,” Ángel Gurría, the O.E.C.D. secretary general, said in a statement on Tuesday. “This shows that an image of a world divided neatly into rich and well-educated countries and poor and badly educated countries is now out of date.” America, resting on past achievements will not return the leadership role once implied by American interaction. Changing the paradigm of declining K-12 education disparity, and retaining the 'best & brightest' from around the globe, remain "paramount tools" in the toolbox of re-invention.
It is in times of plenty when the American "inclusive" gene appears at its highest. Today, as the media shapes and express' the "American" view of the Immigration conversation, it is increasingly the "view" of the journalist, commentator, editor, or producer that frames the "image" many have in their minds. Images of illegal drugs, border crossings, and illegitimate access to government entitlement programs paint a picture of immigrants as poachers on the American taxpayer. Developing a comprehensive Immigration strategy and policy, placing increased emphasis on Math, Science, and Reading skills in K-12 education, and re-defining the societal benefits of diversity, in the media and the workplace, will create a creative and innovative generation of Americans prepared and willing to once again become a true leader among the economies of the world.
There are many "illegal" activities associated with immigration, they are all against the law, and each presents the potential for tremendous harm to American society as a whole. These activities do not however accurately define the "American Immigrant", they describe the "illegal immigrant, they are not the same. It's now time for the Who, What, When, and Where in "America" to define, develop, implement, and actively take part in the real "Immigration Conversation".