The most pressing problems we're likely to face in the coming decades are not military, but technological. Energy independence, disease management, waste management, pollution control and site remediation, urban planning, global warming, effective counterterrorism...all of these things require technological and behavioral responses, and thus depend on our ability to educate citizens to meet these challenges.
Many EU countries are pulling ahead of us on these fronts. And because they really do make educating all their children a priority, that trend is likely to continue. Consider this article on Finland:
Finland spends more per elementary, middle- and high- school student than any other nation on Earth, and comes in second on spending for higher education. School lunches, health care, most class materials and university tuition are all free....Schools are local, community-based affairs, with extremely low turnover in their teaching staffs and strong expectations on parents. Students are all expected to study languages, math and science (and in Finland, girls now outperform boys on science tests). Two thirds of them go to university.How ciuld anyone read that and feel proud of this country's current priorities? While Finland helps its female children to excel in the sciences, we're warning young girls that they'll be sexually undesirable if they "threaten a man's confidence" by knowing things. Which culture is going to be stronger and more secure in coming years? And which will be safer from tyranny?
We're not just wasting young lives in Iraq; we're wasting them every time we allow the anti-intellectual zealots of the Republican party to limit the educational options of our nation's children.