Michelle Rhee: Olympic effort needed for American education

Judy Hartnett's picture
Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Like so many Americans, I’ve been hanging out in the living room with my family watching the Olympics.

I’m sure I won’t be the only mom who has to clear furniture out of the way while my daughters try to imitate gymnast Gabby Douglas, also known as the “flying squirrel.” And no doubt my husband, Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player, will have the remote control on lockdown when Kobe, LeBron and the rest of this year’s Olympic basketball team hit the court.

I get as caught up in the Olympics as everyone else. But, as someone deeply involved in education, what I’d really like to see is some of the competitive spirit on display around our athletic prowess also directed to the competitiveness of our education system. Because the sad truth is that our students aren’t doing nearly as well as our athletes.

This spring, the Council on Foreign Relations warned in a new report that the United States has failed to adequately prepare kids to compete globally, a problem that the authors said was a threat to our national security. Now imagine what would happen if the U.S. Olympic Committee came out and said American athletes were so poorly prepared they wouldn’t even compete in key Olympic events, let alone win medals. We’d be furious and insist on a national effort to turn the problem around.

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