In light of my previous post on the economic difficulties academia is currently facing and this study by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, it is clear that there is one step that Obama should take to stimulate the economy. Fix the educational system from start to finish!
First, to fix primary education, he should quickly get to work on reforming education law and should move to complete his campaign promise to hire an “army of new teachers.” Before hiring that army, he needs to change how schools operate (essentially, he needs to bust a couple of teacher unions) and how much teachers are paid. Teachers should not be paid to teach to a test but should be paid according to the quality of teaching that they provide to students. It should be easy for bad teachers to be removed from the classroom and replaced with good ones. It sounds so simple but in so many places, it is a difficult thing to accomplise.
Beyond primary education, things get difficult but what could be easier than giving out large numbers of scholarships. Universities are big businesses! Schools like Duke are some of the largest employers in the area that they operate. If they have to start cutting staff or projects, it will have a knock-on effect. If the federal government gave a large amount of money out as scholarships (especially if they gave them for certain subjects, such as teacher training or science), it could mean that they would not have cut staff or projects. Besides the immediate effect a measure such as this could have, the benefits for the future would be even greater! Not only could the USA stop lagging behind much of the world in access to Higher Education, but it would (if targeted correctly) be the solution to many of the other problems that we face – including climate change, alternative energy, and the banking crisis.
More than anything else, I think that trying to stimulate the economy through educational stimulus is a better use of money than building more bridges and roads!