Last night was the annual State of the Union address. As expected, Pres. Obama addressed the importance of education and science funding. “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment” he said, comparing the challenges facing our own education policies in a globalized economy to the Space Race.
Emphasizing the importance of education is of course traditional. In the very first SOTU, Washington stated “[Y]ou will agree with me in opinion that there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness. In one in which the measures of government receive their impressions so immediately from the sense of the community as in ours it is proportionably essential.” (For more on recurring SOTU themes, see: http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/01/26/sotu.common.themes/index.html ).
What ‘sense of the community’ do we get following President Obama’s speech? Unsurprisingly, the community is mixed. Some argue that stressing education is necessary, given our recent failures (http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/105063/20110126/america-science-results-education-obama-state-union.htm ). But for others, education is simply too expensive in the short term. As GOP spokesperson Rep. Paul Ryan responded, “All of this new government spending was sold as ‘investment.’ Yet after two years, the unemployment rate remains above 9% and government has added over $3 trillion to our debt” (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/interactive/speeches/5/republican-response-2011-state-union/.
It has recently been argued that education is one issue on which both ends of the political spectrum can agree (http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/136097-republicans-could-cooperate-with-democrats-on-education-reform ). Perhaps, but not today . . .