Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rice: Education Is A National Security Issue...

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice takes part in a conversation on leadership, legacy and life at the Women's Conference 2008 in Long Beach, California October 22, 2008.
REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Rice Cites Education As Top Concern
By Steve Gorman
Wed Oct 22, 2008

LONG BEACH, California (Reuters) – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday that failing public schools pose her greatest national security concern, one she warned could undermine the United States' ability to lead and to compete in a global economy.

Equal access to educational opportunities, she said, also lies at the heart of one of the nation's most important core values -- the belief in the United States as a true meritocracy.

Rice, a Stanford University professor before joining the Bush administration, spoke at a conference of women organized by former TV journalist Maria Shriver, the wife of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As an educator, Rice said it broke her heart to see "kids who might be the next Nobel Prize winner ... trapped in some public school that's just basically warehousing them."

"But as a secretary of state, it makes me terrified because ... if we cannot do better in educating all of our people, then we are not going to be competitive in a global economy," she said. "We're going to become protectionist, we're going to turn inward, the United States is not going to lead."

Moreover, she said, the lack of quality education for all children jeopardizes the fundamental American belief that every citizen has the opportunity for success, no matter their background or place of origin.

"If we can't keep that true for every American, we're going to lose who we are, and then we won't lead, and so it is for me the most pressing national security issue," she said.

Rice offered little in the way of concrete solutions for addressing inequities in public schools -- suggesting part of the answer lies in "the best practices" adopted by schools that succeed and "having high standards."

And she acknowledged that education has not been one of the more pressing issues addressed in the presidential campaign.

Asked if she harbored any political aspirations for herself in the near future, Rice said she planned to return to Stanford University once she leaves public office to teach, write books and to "work on these issues of educational opportunity."

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Osterman)

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