“An absolute wake-up call for America.” That’s what U.S. Education Secretary Arnie Duncan called the recent release of test scores showing how American kids compared with their peers around the world. The test is called the Program for International Student Assessment or PISA. Here's how American kids ranked: 17th of 34 countries in reading, 21st in science, 26th in math, which doesn't look good.
How do we improve them? We have a terrific panel. Joel Klein is the former chancellor of New York City's school system. Wendy Kopp is the CEO and co-founder of Teach for All and the founder of Teach for America. Sal Khan, well, Sal Khan is one of the most innovative educators in the world and of course the founder of Khan Academy. And Tom Friedman is the three-time Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the New York Times.
Watch the video for the panel or tune into GPS today at 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
Watch Global Lessons on Guns, a Fareed Zakaria GPS special, this Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on CNN
By Fareed Zakaria
It’s a year since the tragedy at Newtown, yet remarkably little has changed. Despite the loss of 26 lives in the Sandy Hook School shooting that day, including 20 children, Washington has failed to coalesce around any really substantive changes to America’s gun laws. Sadly, that means it is only a matter of time before the next mass shooting.
As part of a GPS special on the issue, we went all over the world in search of solutions and lessons that we might apply here to bring down the epidemic of gun violence that afflicts us. We saw many interesting ideas that worked, all of them centering around some simple, common sense ideas that would put some checks on the unfettered sale and possession of firearms.
What we did not find was a large-scale, nationwide example where expanded attention to mental health issues could be tied to a reduction in homicides or suicides using guns.
This might surprise you. Every time there is a serious gun massacre in the United States – and alas these are fairly common – the media focuses on the twisted psychology of the shooter and asks why we don't pay more attention to detecting and treating mental illness.
By Laicie Heeley, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Laicie Heeley is the director of Middle East and defense policy at The Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
Two weeks after the P5+1 powers reached a deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program in return for some sanctions relief, the American public is still trying to make sense of the deal.
Multiple polls, including from Washington Post/ABC and Reuters/Ipsos indicate strong American support for the deal with Iran. Yet a new Pew Research poll suggests many Americans are skeptical about Iran’s intentions, with a plurality disapproving of the agreement. Given that the agreement is so complex, it’s understandable that the U.S. public is making up its mind about the deal. But the reality is that after decades of disappointment, the United States is finally approaching a win with Iran. This is a good deal for the United States and its allies.
The details of the accord, reached in Geneva by the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, square firmly within America’s national security and non-proliferation interests by freezing the progress of Iran’s nuclear program before it reaches critical weapons capacity, while also initiating a rollback of the most sensitive parts of Iran’s nuclear program. That’s a boost for both U.S. and international security. Leading national security experts from across the ideological spectrum agree, including former National Security Advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who have found common cause in championing the possibilities an accord presents.
By Fareed Zakaria
The United States has done very well in harnessing the talents of its top 1 percent and in attracting the top 1 percent from the rest of the world to live and work here. These are the engines of innovation, growth and dynamism. But the country’s vast middle class — and below — has seen its wages stagnate for three decades. And this is getting worse as technology and globalization depress job prospects for people in the middle.
The real story of these tests has been “the rise of the rest.” The United States has muddled along over the past few decades, showing little improvement or decline. Meanwhile, countries including South Korea and Singapore have skyrocketed to the top, and now China, Vietnam and Poland are doing astonishingly well. These countries have workers whose productivity levels have been rising in tandem with their educational achievements.
There are many reasons, but to put it simply, many of these countries are playing to win.
By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.
The debate over America’s alleged decline was one of the subtexts of policy debates during last year’s U.S. presidential election, and it remains a recurring theme in the partisan punditry of foreign policy scholars today. But at a time when the Obama administration has been focusing on domestic challenges like the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that many foreign policy experts have turned bearish on the United States. And the American public appears to agree – U.S. global power and prestige are in decline.
Public support for U.S. global engagement was already near an historic low earlier this year, and it has declined further still. The public thinks that the United States does too much to try to solve the world’s problems, and increasing percentages want the U.S. to “mind its own business internationally” and pay more attention to problems at home.
Indeed, for the first time in surveys dating back 40 years, a majority of Americans say the United States plays a less important and powerful role as a world leader than it did a decade ago, according to the latest Pew poll “America’s Place in the World,” a quadrennial survey of foreign policy attitudes conducted in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations. The share saying the U.S. is less powerful has increased 12 points since 2009 and has more than doubled – from just 20 percent – since 2004.
GPS speaks with International Crisis Group analyst Yanmei Xie about recent tensions in East Asia, China’s air defense identification zone, and what it means for U.S. ties with Beijing.
What exactly is the air defense identification zone that China has announced?
The air defense identification zone, announced last month, covers a set of islands – called Diaoyu by China and Senkaku by Japan – whose sovereignty is hotly disputed by the two countries. Beijing has demanded that from now on, aircraft entering the zone have to report their flight plans, maintain communication and show identification, or “China’s armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond.”
What’s behind the move?
Challenged at sea, Beijing could be hoping to assert greater control over the contested islands by unilaterally establishing administrative rights over the airspace above them. It has already been eroding Japan’s administration of the disputed waters by regularly dispatching patrol vessels to the area since the Japanese government purchased three of the islands from a private owner in September 2012.
The move may also have been driven by the People’s Liberation Army’s desire to expand its power projection. The PLA for years has been arguing that Japan’s air defense identification zone unfairly restricted Chinese military aircraft’s movement and advocated for the establishment of one of its own.
China’s sudden declaration, however, is puzzling in light of its foreign policy goals. Just a month ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping in a high-profile speech, stated that “safeguarding peace and stability in the neighboring region is a major goal” of the country’s diplomacy.
Watch Global Lessons on Guns, a Fareed Zakaria GPS primetime special, this Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on CNN
By Frederick P. Rivara, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Frederick P. Rivara is the Seattle Children’s Guild Endowed Chair in Pediatrics and adjunct professor in epidemiology at the University of Washington. The views expressed are his own.
With the anniversary of the Newtown shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School almost upon us, it is worth revisiting a troubling reality noted in a commentary I co-wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association just a week after the tragedy – the 17-year effort to suppress research into guns.
Between 1985 and 1997, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded research examining the public health importance of gun-related injuries and the association between ownership of guns and risk of violent death – homicide and suicide – in the home and in the community. (In the interests of full disclosure, I participated in some of the research funded by the CDC.)
However, in 1996, pro-gun members of Congress essentially eliminated gun research funded by the CDC by inserting the following language into the appropriations for the Center: “[N]one of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
By Jeffrey W. Hornung, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jeffrey W. Hornung is an associate professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, and an adjunct fellow with the Office of the Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. The views expressed in this article are his alone.
China’s more assertive posture in regional territorial disputes took a new turn at the weekend with its decision to implement an Air Defense Identification Zone. At a time when tensions in the region are already high due to a lingering territorial dispute between China and Japan, China’s action has escalated tensions in the East China Sea. Now, with Beijing apparently demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of diplomacy with its neighbors, the region is forced to confront provocative and potentially destabilizing behavior.
On November 23, China’s defense ministry unilaterally announced the establishment of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. According to the new rules for conduct in this ADIZ, any aircraft flying into China’s ADIZ is required to submit flight plans to Chinese authorities, maintain two-way radio communication, and keep radar transponders turned on. Should a plane refuse to follow these instructions, China’s military will “adopt defensive measures.”
ADIZs are, by themselves, not controversial, acting as early-warning perimeters for self-defense. But while there are no international rules concerning their size or establishment, China’s action is provocative for two reasons. First, it may be attempting to set new rules for aircraft flying above waters considered a state’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Second, it chose to establish an ADIZ that overlaps considerably with those of both Japan and Taiwan as well as a sliver of South Korea’s. Provocatively, included in China’s ADIZ are territorial disputes it maintains with Japan over the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu in Chinese) and with South Korea over Ieodo (Suyan Rock in Chinese).
Fareed speaks with Robert Caro, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, historian and author of Dallas, November 22, 1963, about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
So you know there are people who look at where Johnson was, dead in the water. A Life magazine article was about to come out. You describe, you know, which was an investigative story, that would have further undermined him. People look at all that and say, boy, this assassination not only made Johnson president, but saved him from what might have been a complete collapse. I mean, is it possible that had the assassination not happened, Johnson would have been so humiliated, he would have had to resign?
Well, to answer that part of your question, Johnson himself felt that whether he had a second term or not, he was finished. That's the word he used, "I'm finished."
And you know how we know that he really felt that way? He told several of his key aides, who, if he had further ambitions, he would have wanted to keep with him. He said, "I'm done."
One of them was asking him, can I go to work for somebody else? He says go with him, I'm finished. So you say that Johnson really felt that his career might be over.
On the other hand, nothing that I ever found...I've been doing research on Lyndon Johnson for a lot of years. And I have to say that nothing that I found in writing or any interviews, led me to believe that whatever the story of the assassination really is, that Lyndon Johnson had anything to do with it. I never found anything that led me to believe that.
By Graham Allison, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Graham Allison is director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He is author of Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. The views expressed are his own.
As we mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it is instructive to consider what he might have done if faced with the Iranian nuclear challenge today.
In what historians agree was his “finest hour,” Kennedy successfully led the U.S. through the most dangerous confrontation in history, the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. The odds of war were, in Kennedy’s view, “between 1 in 3 and even.”
When the Soviet Union was found emplacing nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba, 90 miles off American shores, Kennedy declared that totally unacceptable — as President Obama has declared an Iranian nuclear bomb. The question was how to eliminate this danger without war.
Initially, Kennedy chose a naval quarantine to stop further Soviet shipments of missiles to Cuba. While this signaled American resolve and strength, it did not prevent the Soviets rushing to complete installation of missiles already on the island. As the clock ticked down to the moment warheads in Cuba would become ready to launch against Washington and New York, Kennedy’s options narrowed.
By James Holmes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: James Holmes is professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College. The views voiced here are his alone. This is the fourth article in a series on America’s identity and image since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
As we remember the passing of John F. Kennedy, 50 years ago on Friday, it’s fitting that we leaven a solemn occasion by also remembering the optimism he brought to the Oval Office. President Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address remains a bracing bit of rhetoric even today, half a century on. But rhetoric demands substance as well as verbal flourishes. Three takeaways from the address are worth revisiting as America again mulls its place in the world and strategies for achieving its goals:
Unlimited commitment. Kennedy vowed that America would “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” This is more than a statement of steadfastness in the Cold War. In strategic terms, it's a statement that the United States affixed such importance to its goals that it was prepared to spend as many national resources – lives, treasure, military assets – for an indefinite time if that's what it took to outlast the Soviet Union.
Strategist Carl von Clausewitz would instantly grasp the import of Kennedy's words. Clausewitz maintains that the value of a nation's political goals determines how many resources it expends attaining those goals, and for how long. The corollary for Clausewitz is that if an endeavor starts costing more than it's worth, statesmen should cut the best deal they can and get out. This simple cost/benefit logic is central to rational foreign policy and military strategy.
By Jesse Walker, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jesse Walker is managing editor of Reason magazine and the author of The United States of Paranoia. The views expressed are his own. This is the third article in a series on America’s identity and image since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
For 50 years, every poll on the subject has shown at least a plurality, and usually a majority, of Americans believing John F. Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy. A 2008 survey sponsored by CNN and Essence suggested that 58 percent of the country believes a conspiracy killed Martin Luther King; for black Americans, the figure was 88 percent. A 1996 Gallup poll had 71 percent of the U.S. agreeing that the government is hiding something about UFOs – not necessarily alien bodies, you understand, but something.
Yet for all this, America is not unusually suspicious. Conspiracy stories flourish all over the world, some of them far less plausible than the notion that more than one man was involved in the King or Kennedy killing. As I write, Europe is undergoing one of its periodic panics about international child-stealing gypsy conspiracies. Over the summer, the prime minister of Turkey blamed a global plot for the protests against his government. Last year, the host of Nigerian Idol lashed out at the local press for reporting that he was a high-ranking member of the Illuminati. In Iran, it is apparently considered savvy to claim that the Holocaust was a hoax. The fear of conspiracy isn’t the property of any one nation – it’s more like a universal human trait.
But if Americans are not unique in being suspicious, it’s true that we can be suspicious in distinctive ways. Every country’s conspiracy stories reflect that country’s culture, and that’s as true of the United States as any place else. There is an American style of paranoid politics.