The civil-rights battle of our time

My latest column for the Financial Times looks at America's education deficit, and what it costs the country.

The most ambitious US presidency in living memory hardly needs to extend its list of tasks, you might think. Yet the country's long-term economic prospects turn on something that is all too easy to neglect, just as it has been neglected in the past. The US is failing calamitously in primary and secondary education. The average quality of its workforce is falling, and its schools are adding to the problem rather than mitigating it.

Much of what ails the country - including growing economic inequality - can be traced to this source. Politicians recognise the fact, and prate about it endlessly. Barack Obama puts improving the schools alongside health reform and alternative energy whenever he lays out his long-term goals.

The trouble is, fixing the schools is not something that a crisis ever forces you to do. The consequences of a third-rate education system creep up on you and, experience shows, can be tolerated indefinitely. Many vested interests prefer it that way. Talk about the issue and move on is the line of least political resistance.

You can read the rest of the article here.