Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Washington as Venture Capitalist

Updated January 26, 2011, 10:53 AM

Bruce Fuller, a former World Bank sociologist, is a professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley.
The president argued persuasively -- with rousing tones of economic nationalism -- that more agile and productive workers are required if America’s economy is to combat the rising challenge from East Asia. “We need to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world,” Mr. Obama said.
If the president is serious about innovation in education, Washington can't simply be a pallid regulator with rules and punishment.
It’s “our generation’s Sputnik moment,” he said, referring to President Kennedy’s investment in education, science and new technology. Ronald Reagan deployed a similar storyline in 1983 -- with the nation in economic doldrums -- when his White House task force warned of “being overtaken by competitors throughout the world.”
What’s fresh about Mr. Obama’s education strategy is that he doesn’t want to just pour money “into a system that’s not working.” Instead, he wants the federal government to create incentives for innovation within the public schools -- Washington as venture capitalist.
It fits nicely with the president’s wider narrative about the future of government and rekindling America's creative spirit: he sees a leaner and smarter set of public efforts aimed at inducing corporate titans to build a greener, sustainable economy, while motivating educators to deliver more able human capital.

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