In a previous blog — “Workforce Readiness: The Link Between Education and Economic Competitiveness” — we looked at the warning Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board and former governor of West Virginia, gave us in his Huffington Post article, “Addressing America’s Education Deficit.” Caperton’s take: The U.S. is losing its ability to compete globally because our education system is failing too many of our young people.

Bob Herbert, in his recent New York Times Op-Ed article, “Putting Our Brains On Hold,” used the College Board report to take the discussion a step further and ask why we are experiencing a decline in the  educational attainment rate that causes workforce un-readiness.

“We’ve increasingly turned our backs on the very idea of hard-won excellence while flinging open the doors to decadence and decline,” Herbert says.

Here’s an excerpt from his op-ed:

According to a new report from the College Board, the U.S. is 12th among developed nations in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees. The report said, “As America’s aging and highly educated work force moves into retirement, the nation will rely on young Americans to increase our standing in the world.”

The problem is that today’s young Americans are not coming close to acquiring the education and training needed to carry out that mission. They’re not even in the ballpark. In that key group, 25- to 34-year-olds with a college degree, the U.S. ranks behind Canada, South Korea, Russia, Japan, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, Israel, France, Belgium and Australia. That is beyond pathetic.

“While the nation struggles to strengthen the economy,” the report said, “the educational capacity of our country continues to decline.”

Everybody is to blame — parents, students, the educational establishment, government leaders, the news media and on and on. A society that closes its eyes to the most important issues of the day, that often holds intellectual achievement in contempt, that is more interested in hip-hop and Lady Gaga than educating its young is all but guaranteed to spiral into a decline.

Corporate Voices for Working Families believes that obtaining postsecondary education is critical for the workforce of the future and for America’s economic competitiveness. We are currently researching many Learn and Earn models in which businesses form partnerships with local community colleges and other education providers to help younger workers work while getting their postsecondary education. Additional information, research and publications involving the full range of our workforce readiness work are available on the Corporate Voices website.

By Keiko Iioka

Keiko is working with Corporate Voices as an intern following her graduation from American University with a degree in international studies.