Education must become a central focus to ensure a stable and prosperous U.S. in the future, write Margaret Spellings and Joel Klein. Klein lead the CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force on U.S. Education Reform and National Security.
In the late 1960s, a Stanford University psychologist began conducting his now famous "marshmallow test" to understand "delayed gratification" – the ability to wait.
He would place a 4-year-old alone in a room with a single delicious marshmallow, promising to give him two marshmallows after a short wait. Some children succumbed to temptation, while others held out for the bigger reward. The children who could control their impulses went on to become better, higher-achieving students.
Why do we bring up this iconic experiment now, in the midst of the 2012 election season?
We believe that helping American children get access to a great education is a two-marshmallow political test. In contrast to relatively quick fixes like even more quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve or temporary deficit spending fiscal policies, addressing the challenges facing U.S. schools and students cannot be achieved over the course of a quarter (or even an election cycle). But underperforming labor markets and the alarmingly high 8.1 percent unemployment rate make the goal of improving our public schools even more obviously critical to America's future. Making smart fixes to the public education system now, as outlined in our recent Council on Foreign Relations report, will pay off later.