Elections in 2012
Election years are often interesting times as they bring out some of the best and the worst in our politicians. The world will be particularly well entertained in 2012 as the USA, France and China will change their governments (there may be slightly less open debate during the government change in Beijing!). Last week, things got underway in the USA as Republicans began the long process of choosing their nominee for the November elections.
For challengers in this process, the sad truth is that your greatest hope of winning is living with an economy in a total mess and having a half decent plan to fix it. For obvious reasons, candidates tend not to openly wish for more job losses up to voting day. This leads them to searching for some weird and wonderful ideas to keep them talking during the endless debates. Some of the suggestions so far have been so magnificent that one BBC journalist has even asked the question:‘Are the Republican candidates all crazy?’
Abolishing the Department of Education
Among some of the crazy ideas, 2 of the 5 remaining Republicans candidates, Mr Paul and Mr. Perry, are suggesting that the US should abolish their own Department of Education.
They give two main reasons for doing this. The first one is financial. By abolishing the DoE the government will save…wait for it….nearly $70 billion. Now, that might sound like a bit more that your monthly allowance, but it is only a fraction of the $3, 456 billion federal budget. Indeed, this has increased considerably since 2002 mainly due to the No Child Left Behind policy brought in by the last Republican President, George Bush. It is also the equivalent to 5 months in presence of the US army in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The second is ideological. Given that the founding fathers didn’t mention education, there should be no reasons for the government to be involved. Now, I’m no expert on the US constitution, but I don’t think it mentions having a nuclear arms deterrent either. This has hasn’t stopped the country from creating one.
International Students and the USA
If you work in international affairs and your job is to attract international students you know just what a strong competition is offered by many US universities. They have wonderful campuses, a good level of research output, dominate global ranking systems such as the Shanghai Jiaotong World Ranking of Universities and have an excellent pedagogical approach towards their students. Granted, the DoE deals primarily with first and secondary school children. However, you have to ask if the universities would be quite so good if the raw material (ie. the kids!) being sent to them was substandard. And part of the success in these rankings is based on the high research output, much of which is financed by the DoE.
George W. Bush, pin up boy in international affairs
Abolishing the DoE would actually be great news for the rest of us. In the post 9-11 world, the Bush government brought in a series of measures that restricted international students from going to study in the US. The share of world international students going to the US dropped from 28% to just over 20% today. This was a massive boost for countries that were trying to develop their international recruitment. Every international office in Australia, New Zealand and many European countries should have a poster of George W. Bush hanging over the office door in thanks to his contribution to their increased activity.
Abolishing the DoE would give a similar comparative boost to the rest of the world. Perhaps the Founding Father didn’t really think about central coordination of some education polices. But perhaps the world has changed a bit since the constitution was written! Not suprisingly, in all other countries across the world this doesn’t seem to be a question at all. You would be declared a lunatic just for thinking of abolishing your department of education.
Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen in the USA either. Opinion polls suggest that neither Mr. Paul, nor Mr Perry seem destined to become the official nominee. The American Republicans, it would seem, are wisely casting their votes elsewhere. If ever you needed proof that the Department of Education was doing a good job, you have it right there.
There is a rumor going around Washington DC, that there was some kind of election last week. Things are back to normal now with college students practicing their football plays in front of the Capitol. Just in case you missed the election the results can be summarized as follows. $6 billion dollars spent, nothing changed. But that is just the point; sometimes the status quo is the best option. It is having the possibility to choose that counts.
Last week I was fortunate enough to be in New York during the Presidential Elections and in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. It was an interesting reminder that being close to something may give you a totally different perspective on how events are unfolding. This doesn’t always mean you get a better one.
I have a wonderful colleague, Lisa Jane Perraud, who works for the Careers Service at my school and has done great job over the past few years. However, this week even she has surpassed herself with this photo! She is currently in New York with 28 students from my school that are studying finance. Lisa Jane has been working extremely hard over the past 2 months to organize a marathon week of company visits (the students will have had 13 in a week!)
I want to use this post to publicize a blog that is being written by some 28 students from my school, who are currently studying finance in New York. The students have gone up there for one semester to study a program that we jointly set up with Pace University to give them the ins and outs of finance in the USA, and also to show them some of the best practices of working in the United States.
Don’t tell your English professor that I told you this. Foreign accents are wonderful and whether you are travelling for study, business or pleasure you should do everything to keep yours. They can be good for business too.
International Affairs in Higher Education