Saturday, March 10, 2012

As a nation, we are often quite good at setting goals -- but in reality we are missing them now more often than we meet them.

A 2010 study by the Paris-based OECD's Project on International Student Assessment reported that the U.S. ranked 31st in the world in math performance and 23rd in science. We were 17th in reading. As for our investments in early childhood education, we remain, embarrassingly, near the bottom of OECD countries in terms of the size of our investment and in terms of the unacceptable rates of infant mortality and childhood obesity.

Goals have now been announced by the Obama administration and several major foundations when it comes to increasing the number of young Americans with postsecondary education experience. For example, the Obama administration wants the U.S. to regain its top ranking when it comes to the number of citizens with post-secondary education degrees by increasing the college attainment rate from 40% to 60% by 2020. Again, these are important goals, but what is the country doing now to reach them?

For most of these issues, we need to adopt an "investment" mentality -- one where we will have to change our behavior now in order to ensure a different outcome in the future. Our "kick the can" mentality is what prevents us from actually tackling these problems because we conclude that "now" doesn't mean today but rather some point in the future when someone else will be in charge.

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