No matter how large your population, it takes education and training to make them productive. The US was the greatest example of this in the 19th and early 20th centuries, as communities raced to build high schools and to ensure that as many children as possible would have the chance to complete at least a high school education.
For about a century, we led the world in mass education. The mid- 20th century period also saw a huge influx of people into universities. But then, in the 1970s, our rate of progress in education came to an abrupt stop, and our record since then has been dismal, while the rest of the world has caught up and surged past us.
Our problems in education add up to a severe fall from our previous heights, and present us with a large amount of work to be done before we can reclaim our position of best-educated nation. The importance of improving our educational system is hard to overstate, because the solutions to many of our other problems are heavily dependent on having a well-educated workforce.
Part 2: Poor high school quality
Part 3: Under-skilled college graduates
Part 4: The explosion in college tuition
Part 5: Interactions – Education