It’s been getting harder and harder for the military to find qualified recruits in recent years. That’s partly due to the fact that we have ongoing military conflicts in which combatants are killed on a regular basis. And it’s partly due to the fact that the pool from which they recruit is steadily declining in quality. To highlight the issue, state Senator Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw Township) and Major Generals Thomas Cutler and William Henderson met in Saginaw yesterday to make a few points.
Henderson spoke about how obesity and a lack of general, basic knowledge, in conjunction with criminal records, render three quarters of American youth unfit for military service: ‘Because Michigan’s problems with weight are similar to the national average and the state’s problems with education are worse than the national average, it is likely that at least three out of four young adults in Michigan cannot join the military.’
Now, I’m not certain, but if you had to ask me if an air force general was a Democrat or a Republican, I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say that they’re all Republicans. They went on to say that the solution was $140 million more in state funding for early childhood education. Needless to say, I’m shocked, and, probably more shocking, I’m not sure that more funding is the solution. Americans have long conflated solving problems with spending money. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work, and education is just one such area.
We already spend more on education than any other major economy in the world, and, much like healthcare, the results we have to show for it are pretty piss poor. I’m not opposed to the idea of shelling out another $140 million dollars on early childhood education, but it has to be something that does two things: 1) produce long term, cost effective results and 2) act as a template for further reforms so that the results can be replicated across the entire state.
Spending money on education is like looking for a job on the internet: it’s quick and it gives the illusion of having actually done something when in fact you haven’t done anything. In both the US and in Michigan, we need a fundamental overhaul of how we staff and finance our schools, the expectations that we have, not only of our schools, but more importantly, of our students, and the underlying culture upon which all of this sits.
I’m amazed at the education that my boyfriend received in China, particularly in terms of math and science. Granted, he was part of an academic elite in a nation that places a high premium on scholarship, but the quality of his knowledge in math and applied sciences, even by the time he got to college, was probably far beyond anything that I’ll ever be able to feebly grasp at.
This isn’t a partisan issue. I agree with Sen. Kahn and the Generals. That three quarters of our kids are either too fat, too stupid and too criminal to serve in the military is an abomination. And while increasing spending on specifically targeted programs to combat the program may work, it’s not a substitute for the much harder and much more time consuming job of fundamentally overhauling the cultural priorities that we have. Put simply, you can’t buy standards.