Fourteenth in reading, 17th in science, 25th in math, and 17th overall.
Those rankings composed America’s dismal placement in global education, according to a report published last fall by the education firm Pearson.
Disappointingly, a nation that regards itself as the leader of the free world does not even rank in the top ten educational systems worldwide. As a political science major at The University of Mississippi, those rankings got me thinking.
One Thursday, while pouring over notes I had taken for my Introduction to International Relations course, I was suddenly hit with an elementary realization and question: Why do political leaders around our nation slash spending and cut funding for education when America ranks behind countries like Singapore, Germany and the United Kingdom in economic competitiveness?
The answer is simple: that logic constitutes no intelligible sense.
Political leaders today continually fret over the nation’s deficit and our ability to pay off our loans in order to save future generations of Americans. Their policies though, are actually doing quite the opposite.
I considered the Heckscher-Ohlin trade theory.
In essence, it states that countries gain their comparative advantage, or the ability to produce a product cheaper than others, by producing and exporting what factor endowments that country has in abundance.
The United States, for example, is abundant in skilled labor and human capital or, in effect, highly educated workers.
So, according to the Heckscher-Ohlin theory, the U.S. will be at its highest capacity of economic competitiveness when it is producing highly skilled labor and human capital. That leads me back to this question: Why do political leaders today, like Republican Governor of Texas Rick Perry, cut spending and slash funding for education?
In order to balance a budget that once claimed a deficit of $27 billion, Perry slashed $5.4 billion of spending geared toward the Texas education system.
Now, with a budget surplus of $8.8 billion, Perry still refuses to send some of that money back to economically anorexic Texas schools. He claims that he is saving Texas for future generations, but he is in fact driving Texas and the United States further away from economic competitiveness.
Without funding for education, how is America supposed to produce highly skilled and educated workers?
The factor of endowment that provides America its best fiscal advantage. With countries like South Korea and Singapore making strident gains in their education systems, ranked second and fifth worldwide respectively, their economies continue to grow, taking America out of the driver’s seat.
Relating back to the Heckscher-Ohlin trade theory, cutting funding for education makes our workers less skilled and less competitive in a world market.
Our workers find themselves falling into jobs that are comprised of unskilled labor, a factor of endowment that is scarce in America, and very uncompetitive relative to the market worldwide.
Our political leaders must recognize that their policies are discouraging educational and economic growth and, in order to genuinely save America for future generations, invest in the students and leaders of tomorrow.
Brandon Carr is a political science freshman.