Sunday, February 8, 2009

Education IS Economic Stimulus

Politics is not the theme of this blog. And that is not going to change. However, this morning I listened to Bill Gate's TEDTalk from last week. In a subtle way it intersected with an element of the politics around the economic stimulus bill.

I have watched a number of TEDTalks over the years and am inspired by the presentations of great thinkers and innovators. I couldn't wait to watch Bill Gate's "unplugged" talk about the work of his foundation.

Bill explored two issues that his foundation is trying to address. The first was eradicating malaria. Nice cause and there was one quote in this segment that caused me to go "hmmm." With millions of people in the world dying of malaria, did you know that there is more medical research funding in the prevention of baldness than there is the prevention of malaria. I guess that demonstrates the power of wealth.

The second question explored by Gates was about education. His question is, "How do you make a teacher great?”

In his talk, he cites research that suggests the biggest differentiator in quality school education is a good teacher and unfortunately, our system is not doing enough to develop good teachers.

Like many people, as the details of the economic stimulus plan became public, I didn't think that any substantive investment in school education should be a part of the stimulus package. I'm a proponent of public education but I didn't see any quick economic stimulus from the education components of the bill that came from the House of Representatives. My thinking is changing.

Consider this Bill Gate's thought that I am paraphrasing from his talk.
A top teacher will increase test scores over 10% in a year in the average classroom. If we could place these top teachers into all of our classrooms for two years, the entire educational difference between the US and Asia would go away. If we had them for four years, we’d blow the rest of the world away.
A quick burst of teacher and school development could make a difference for both our short and long term economic needs. With this perspective, my thinking about education as a part of our stimulus package is changing. Somewhere along the line, we need to be investing in our teachers. As I am known to say, "It's all about learning!"

I would encourage you to visit TED for inspiration. It is highly recommended.

Also, the Gates Foundation web site provides links to relevant research on the impact of education.

Thanks for reading and putting up with a little bit of politics. Please lead quietly.

It's all about learning.


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