Education? Blah! It's All About Tourism!

Education? Blah! It's All About Tourism!. The Detroit News ran a story
this week about a bill being considered by Lansing that would mandate
that schools start after Labor Day. The rational being that a longer
summer would mean more tourism revenue. As explained by a
representative of the Michigan Hotel, Motel & Resort Association,
“it would provide a tremendous economic boost to our state at a time it
is sorely needed, right now, a good deal of our tourist operations
count on the month of August”.
To put this in perspective, take a look at some of the statistics
pertaining to education worldwide, comparing the United States to other
countries. Only about half of all adults in the U.S. are considered to
be at least moderately literate (Sweden wins with 74.9%). 79% of U.S.
17 years old are receiving secondary education (there are 8 countries
in Europe, Asia, and North America with over 90%). And when it comes to
the percentage of the population in secondary education, the U.S. ranks
22nd (after Japan, Canada, Spain, France, Bahrain, Lithuania, Israel,
and more). All that even though the U.S. spends the largest percentage
of it's GDP on education. (Here are some detailed U.S. stats).
These numbers can be debated and interpreted in a variety of ways, and
lots of people have lots of opinions about the education system here.
And to be fair, indications are that things are getting better.
There is no Federal law dictating the numbers of days that kids must be
in school. That is a State level decision, and all States but one
(Minnesota, where it is a district level decision) have rules dictating
a minimum numbers of days (or hours) of instruction per year. As per
the U.S. Department of Education, the average is 180 days. To put that in perspective, a UNESCO
study of 43 countries shows that 33 of them have school years longer
than 180 days (some go as many as 220 days per year).
Or put differently, kids in the United States spend far less time in
school than do kids in most other (studied) countries. I remember when
I first moved here from England being amazed that summer vacations
lasted almost 3 months (as opposed to 5-6 weeks back there), and
horrified seeing kids walking home from school at 2:00 p.m.
Based on those statistics, despite spending more than any other country
on education, we are not adequately educating the next generation.
That's terribly worrying, especially with the transitioning job market,
and considering the work skills that will be required in the future. If
losing jobs to other countries is a problem now, failing to adequately
educate our children guarantees that the situation will be worse in the
But, hey. The economy in Michigan is bad, and tourism will save the
day. A tough economy necessitates sacrifices, and what better sacrifice
than the education of our children! [Ben Forta's Blog]

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