National Defense


So I was listening to CNN on my XM radio this morning (on my way to my second day of the school year.)  And I heard that some big report came out, from some big “nonpartisan” group, talking about the way that money is spent on military endeavors.  And I heard that there were 60 BILLION dollars that were lost by our military due to fraud and “inefficiency”  since 2001.

Really?

I mean…..

Really?

Well.

I was pretty much speechless as I listened to the guy talk about how billions (with a “b”) were lost when military leaders ended up buying items that weren’t ever needed, or  items that didn’t do what they were supposed to do, or when the money simply “ended up in the hands of the insurgents.”

Well, hell.

I mean,…      Really?!

I started to think about all of my years of working in public education.  I started to remember the years when the district where I work had to eliminate special education teachers because there wasn’t enough money.  And I started to remember the time when the people in that same town demanded that the school department stop providing  free water bottles to school committee members during meetings because it was just too expensive.

I was thinking about the conversations that I had when I was the Chair of the School Committee in the little town where I live. I was picturing the night when the Town Manager demanded that the schools “live within your means”.   I remember when we tried to explain that the children needed more books, more pens, more teachers, and we were told that it was time to “tighten our belts.”

Well, crap.

Why is the conversation so different when we are talking about the Defense Department?  Why?

OK. So let’s try to get a grip on this whole issue.

Let’s make some comparisons, OK?  How about if we start with the premise that “national security” includes both military defense and intellectual defense.  Let’s start with the belief that we need to match the Chinese, the Russians, the French and the Arabs in weapons/military might AND educational strength.  Our soldiers need to have weapons which are just as powerful as those of our rivals.  And our students need to have resources that are just as powerful as theirs.

Let’s line things up:

soldiers    =    teachers   (both are in the front lines, leading the action)

weapons  =    up to date books and technology (both equip the leaders with the tools to do their jobs)

body armor       =    teacher training (both protect the provider of the service from attacks)

So: if it is patriotic to demand the latest in weaponry for the military, isn’t it also patriotic to demand the latest in resources for our teachers?

If soldier are heroes, aren’t teachers heroes, too?

If a demand for the latest in body armor means that we value our military, doesn’t a demand for the best training mean that we value our educational system?

I don’t want to imply, in any way, that I lack respect for the role of the military in our national defense.  I am just asking why the discussion is so vastly different  when we are talking about those who fight versus those who learn.  I am wondering why it is alright to demand that kids use both sides of every piece of scrap paper, when we don’t demand that soldiers use only efficient and workable weaponry.  Why is it applauded when our political leaders demand that kindergaten students “tighten their belts” but allow huge Defense Contractors to pad their bottom line with sales to the enemy?

I am patriotic.

I believe in my country.

I believe in National Defense.

I believe that in order to keep our country safe, we need to keep our country educated, engaged and thoughtful. I believe that National Defense includes a commitment to national education.

I think that any country that can calmly accept 60 billion dollars in lost military revenue can afford to put an up-to-date history book in the hands of every child.

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