Recently, I spent the better part of a day assembling furniture that was “Made in China.” Leaving aside the fact that the instructions were clearly lost in translation, and the pictures of the nuts, bolts and assorted parts looked nothing like the content of the carton (not even the ones that were left over after final assembly), I got to thinking about why we can’t – or simply won’t – make things like tables, chairs, and dressers here in this country.

Could it be, as we are told, time and time again (mostly by advocates of standardized testing under the guise of raising standards and achieving goals), that we are falling behind the rest of the world –- China, for one – in such areas as math and the sciences?

Well, let’s see. The Chinese stole the plans and designs for that chair I was attempting to put together. They clandestinely copied it, without regard to specifications, thereafter mass-producing same in a factory staffed by what is essentially slave labor working in inhumane conditions. And then, as if to rub salt in the wound, they sold the stuff back to us via Lowes and Home Depot, profiting handsomely from what, in reality, was good, old American ingenuity.

But I digress. For the real question remains, if America’s education system is failing us so badly, our students lagging behind the rest of the world, why is half of the free world – and almost all of the world that lives under the yoke of Totalitarian regimes -- clamoring to get in to America’s colleges and universities?

And get in, they do!

Why, in any given year, upwards of 10% of the incoming freshmen class at most American colleges and universities is comprised of international students. [At some colleges, that number is closer to 20%]. In fact, there are more international students on American campuses today than ever before in our history. In 2012/13, according to the Institute of International Education, there were some 819,644 international students at colleges and universities in the United States.

While American students drown under the tide of more than a trillion dollars in student loan debt, our own government, through grants and entitlements, pours millions of dollars into the coffers of these colleges, funding the ever-increasing influx of foreign students. Recruiters receive generous compensation – officially sanctioned, no less, by organizations such as the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) – for bringing foreign nationals to our shores to live and study on our college campuses. [It is a violation of federal law, by the way, to be compensated to recruit American students. Go figure!] 

Folks, educating the world has become a big business. And the world is buying in, in droves. In the process, American students, already facing fierce competition at home for fewer seats and scarce resources, are increasingly short-changed.

Don’t get me wrong. Before you berate me as Rush Limbaugh on steroids, hankering to close our borders, build electrified fences, deport anyone who cannot demonstrate a bloodline to a native American, let me be perfectly clear: I am all for diversity and globalization. I believe that, as a free, democratic, progressive society – one that has thrived because we are a nation of immigrants, and not despite our E Pluribus Unum – we should take a lead in educating the world.

Indeed, the world looks to us, not only as that beacon of freedom and torch of liberty, but for our innovation, our know how, our “can do” attitude.

That said, when we must deny enrollment at our colleges and universities to 10% or more of American students, whose seats in the lecture halls and research labs would be filled by international students, we do a disservice not only to those students left behind here at home, but to the very future of America.

Yes, educate the world. After all, those who are educated, informed, and enlightened are more inclined to build bridges than bombs, and, in dispelling ignorance and displacing dogma, both at home and abroad, those who are educated would more likely become teachers rather than terrorists. 

And educate the world right here in America, where we have the very best schools (public and private), the very best teachers, and the very best tools (Common Core and College Board notwithstanding) to lead the way.

Keep in mind, though, that if we do not educate America first, not only raising the bar, but giving every student in this country (and I necessarily include those who would be covered by the Dream Act) the opportunity and the wherewithal to reach that bar, we haven’t got a snowball’s chance in Hell of educating the world, let alone making it a better, safer, more beautiful place for everyone.

Now. Does anyone have a metric ratchet? 

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