There are years where little changes and then there are years where there are major changes. It is often only through reflection and history that the size and magnitude of change becomes apparent. For example 2007 was the year the Great Recession developed as the irregularities, lack of regulations, pyramiding and real estate financial gambles of Banks and Wall Street in the USA and Europe crumbled. It was somewhat easy to see in 2008 how it occurred. It is also interesting to see that in many ways the USA government knew a problem was developing and President Bush appointed Ben Bernanke on February 1, 2006, to be chairman of the United States Federal Reserve. Interestingly enough Mr. Bernanke was particularly interested in the economic and political causes of the Great Depression, and he has published many academic journal articles on the subject and his views. Bernanke’s evolving perspective focused on monetarist theories and especially the work of Milton Friedman’s.
It was Friedman’s view that the depression was largely caused by the Federal Reserve reducing the money supply. In a speech at the University of Chicago celebrating Milton Friedman’s ninetieth birthday (November 8, 2002), Bernanke said, “Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.” Heading the attack on the Great Recession, that according to the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research (the official arbiter of U.S. recessions) began in the United States in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, Bernake held true to his promise and it is just now in 2014 that the Federal Reserve is beginning to ‘taper‘ their stimulus via massive inflows of money it has provided the USA and world economy.
The point here is that seemingly unpredictable events tend to be very predictable if one follows the right people and watches in the right places. So with Washington’s continued insistence on getting involved in public education it might be good to look back at the February 2013 “Preparing a 21st Century Workforce: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education in the 2014 Budget” put forward by President Barack Obama. In it he states “We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.” Probably a bit of a hollow promise if past practice is an indicator of the future reality and that reality is actually stated in the document when it is stated that:
The Administration is proposing a comprehensive reorganization of STEM education programs. The 2014 Budget makes choices to enhance the impact of STEM Federal investments by reorganizing or eliminating 114 STEM education programs in 11 agencies, while increasing funding in support of a cohesive national STEM education strategy focused on four priority areas: K-12 instruction; undergraduate education; graduate fellowships; and informal education activities. This will decrease the number of STEM programs from 226 to 112, a 50 percent reduction, in order to:
- Help Federal STEM efforts reach more students, more teachers, more effectively by re-orienting Federal policy to meet the needs of those who are delivering STEM education: school districts, States, and colleges and universities.
- Reduce fragmentation of the Federal STEM education investment, reorganizing efforts and redirecting resources around more clearly defined priorities;
- Enable rigorous evaluation and evidence-building strategies for Federal STEM education programs;
- Increase the impact of Federal investments in important areas such as graduate education by expanding resources for a more limited number of programs; and
- Provide additional resources to meet specific national goals, such preparing and recruiting 100,000 high-quality K-12 STEM teachers, recognizing and rewarding excellence in STEM instruction, strengthening the infrastructure for supporting STEM instruction and engagement; increasing the number of undergraduates with a STEM degree by one million, and broadening participation in STEM fields by underrepresented groups.
So some of the impact from one of these ‘consolidations’ and lack of planning? A Scientific American Salon article titled, ‘Obama budget imperils education‘ states “Suzanne Wilkison recommended that materials developed by the NIH Office of Science Education underpin a N.C. Department of Public Instruction statewide high school course on biomedical technologies. More than 7,000 students took the class last year. Wilkison recently helped educators piece together another course based on six NIH curriculum supplements, one of which tracks the evolution of medicine—now its future is unclear. “We contacted the Office and said, ‘North Carolina just started down the path of creating this course using your tools,’” says Wilkison, president of the N.C. Association for Biomedical Research. “‘What should we do?’”
Of course there was no answer and the state was left to figure it out on there own, which may not be a bad thing. Bottom line…there is a load of unprecedented change in USA education right now. Keeping up is difficult but it is necessary if parents, students and educators are to benefit from the resources that are available from Washington and yet BE AWARE that these resources may just as quickly disappear or morph into something else!