Public Schools, Private Recruits

| January / February 2008

After decades of failure to improve America’s public schools, a host of special interest groups are arguing that it’s time for government to loosen its grip and let someone else have a go. According to the American (July-Aug. 2007), businesses need to assert themselves and start pulling the strings attached to the $2.5 billion they annually invest in schools. Holding the educational system to the sink-or-swim accountability of the market, the conservative magazine argues, would force schools to start fostering the next generation of innovators and risk takers the country needs to compete in the global economy. Good or bad idea? It depends on who you talk to (or want to recruit). In Maryland, reports Mother Jones (Sept.-Oct. 2007), government agencies and defense firms are pouring money into a high school program designed to turn out soldiers, CIA agents, and airport security guards. In Chicago, explains the American Prospect (July 2007), an unlikely coalition of manufacturers, unions, and other groups is transforming a down-and-out high school into a polytechnic academy. By outfitting youngsters in the economically challenged neighborhood with marketable manufacturing skills, the group hopes to attract high-tech business that will rejuvenate the area.

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