November 15, 2005 10:26 AM PST

Democrats unveil 'innovation agenda'

Delivering high-speed Net access to all Americans within five years was among a medley of priorities outlined by the U.S. House of Representatives' Democratic leader on Tuesday.

"Universal broadband--whether it's delivered by Wi-Fi or WiMax, or hard line--will put all Americans, no matter where they live, no more than a keystroke or a mouse click away from the jobs and opportunity broadband both creates and supports," Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California said in prepared remarks for a morning appearance at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The suggestion mirrors a proposal by President Bush last year but appears to be more modest. The president clamored for a deregulatory approach that would grant broadband access to "every corner" of America by 2007.

Among other goals Pelosi presented: granting scholarships aimed at producing 100,000 new scientists, mathematicians and engineers in the next four years; doubling research and development spending, and boosting tax incentives; seeking alternative-energy sources that lessen the nation's reliance on Middle East oil; and providing assistance to small businesses (PDF here).

If Congress doesn't act soon, other countries following the U.S. "blueprint" for technological pre-eminence will get further ahead, she said. This year, she noted, 70,000 engineers will graduate from U.S. institutions, while India and China will produce 350,000 and 700,000 engineers, respectively.

It didn't take long for the announcement to transform into a political football, as House Republicans speedily pounced on the plan. House Speaker Dennis Hastert issued a statement warning that the Democrats' plan would inevitably lead to "more taxation, litigation and regulation."

Hastert also accused Democratic leaders of voting against several pieces of legislation considered important to tech interests.

It was unclear on Tuesday how the Democrats' plans would be financed or when they might be introduced in Congress. Pelosi remarked in her speech, "we intend to submit them to the rigors of pay-as-you-go budgeting, so they will not add to the deficit but instead will grow our economy."

Partisan politics aside, trade associations representing big technology companies were quick to praise the announcement.

"We support any effort in Congress--by either political party--to ensure continued investment in innovation for the future," Robert Holleyman, CEO of the Business Software Alliance, which represents industry bigwigs like Apple Computer, Cisco Systems, Intel and Microsoft, said in a statement.

Pelosi said she and her colleagues gleaned ideas for their agenda from recent trips across the country to meet with academics, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs from the high-tech, biotech and telecommunications realms.

Tech company executives have lamented what they have described as a declining U.S. educational system and a shortage of skilled U.S.-born workers. But the nation still retains the top spot in some areas of global competitiveness--namely the supercomputer realm.


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Give me a break
"Tech company executives have lamented what they have
described as a declining U.S. educational system and a shortage
of skilled U.S.-born workers." Well, what do you expect?

The U.S. educational system is in decline because teachers aren't
held accountable. Tenure is more important than performance.

There is a shortage of skilled U.S. born workers is because all
the jobs have been shipped offshore, by those tech company

Who's going to major in a field that requires you to move to a
3rd world country for a job?
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You need a break to really consider education.
Obviously, Mr. Crusoe, you truly are stranded on an island, because your statements reflect your disregard for education and the well-being of students. Do not be deceived into thinking teachers are not held accountable. They are. Teachers are held accountable for nearly everything. And they have job security apart from tenure; tenure actually exists so that teachers can't be fired for having disputes over the "truth." What people like you say is that teachers are just given this job forever as some sort of ritual, and that none of them deserve it. If you look at actual numbers, teachers earn a very low salary, starting off at something like $30,000. Unless you live in a cave, which may be possible with a name "R Crusoe", you will have heard that there is a teacher shortage. Teachers are in high demand because their salaries are equivalent with garbage collectors. Nothing against garbage collectors, but seriously, driving a truck and moving a robotic arm really doesn't require much skill. Teachers have so much work to do (this "hold them accountable" BS increases paperwork, preparatory work, and student work) that nearly all "free time" is spent doing lesson-plans or grading papers or some other invasion of free time. Teachers are stereotyped as having bags in which they carry things. Yet this is accurate because (surprise surprise) they are taking papers HOME to work on at HOME! How would you like it if you went to work for 8 hours a day and then went home and worked for another 4. This is the reality of teaching.
The next flaw with your argument is the whole "accountability" thing itself. If you really want to consider accountability, consider its complete repercussions. Hypothetical situation: a surgeon is operating on your spouse's brain tumor. The surgeon plunges the scalpel into your spouse's head and then takes the bone cutters to get into the brain. When you are told of this, you are outraged at this man for killing your wife. You are likely to tell him that he is incompetant and not fit to be operating. But if we're holding his teacher accountable, then the surgeon goes away unscathed and the teacher is punished. What about the fact that the surgeon FAILED half of his medical school classes or the fact the he never showed up for class or that he was too lazy to look up a solution to a problem. He's a fungus, feeding off of the productivity of others and then blaming them when the results are insatisfactory. Obviously this is a very extreme scenario, but trying to pin blame on teachers when the students themselves are the problems is just ridiculous. Now consider another situation: two teachers are hired, one graduating at the top of her college class and the other scraping by at the bottom of his same class. Now the more capable teacher decides she wants to help out those children who really need it. She goes to a very inner-city school in the Bronx. She finds it very difficult to teach, because the students are from families where the parents were never married, the parents are involved in illicit activities (be they drugs, violent crime, gangs), or in some cases, the parents are in jail. Most parents are unemployed. Now it is "uncool" in these areas to be "smart". Some kids are verbally ridiculed, others are physically harmed. In this subsection of society, many highly capable and intelligent children are taught from their earliest days that if they fail, it "isn't their fault". It may not be the child's fault that he or she is poverty-stricken. But it is the student's fault if he or she puts forth no effort to learn. This teacher is held accountable for her students' standardized tests. I repeat: this TEACHER is held accountable for HER STUDENTS' standardized tests. Not only are the tests biased toward middle-class whites, but economic stats have an impact too. The teacher is reprimanded for not doing her job (which has apparently gone from teaching toward getting children to fill in bubbles on a multiple-guess test) and she is put on an "individualized plan." Meanwhile, the other teacher, teaching at a respectable middle-class elementary school in Manhattan, gets "proficient" test results, despite the fact that he doesn't really care for children and does only enough to get by. So, in this situation, which I can say is NOT an exaggeration, the more able teacher was puinshed? We are short of teachers; we should encourage people to become teachers, not discourage them by holding them accountable for power they don't have (the power to PARENT the children). That's the whole bottom line here: parents are the key to good educations. If the parent is involved, the teacher can effectively teach. Unfortunately now many parents want it both ways. They don't want their children to have to "work" for their grades nor do they want to take responsibility for "bad" grades. What's the result? Laziness, irresponsibility, and the scores of other problems in society. It doesn't surprise me one bit that we have lawyers suing McDonalds in this age where a teacher is held unilaterally accountable notwithstanding the fact that Johnny spent all his time skipping class because he was "sick". Now teachers are told to be responsible for their students' performance. This forces the teacher to completely take over all of their students' self-motivation or whatever. What this business of accountability has effectively done is amputate teachers above the knees, drop them in the Himalayas, and tell them they have 24 hours to reach the top of Mt. Everest. Sorry, not gonna happen, and the most that the teachers can do is crawl. Given such little leverage, many teachers go through the motions or simply pile assignments one on top of the other. They figure, "if I'm accountable for the student, I'll have to be the student, and therefore I will have to give the student the motivation."
Now is the time for me to tell you something: I am, in fact, a high-school student. I see the problems with "education" every day. I have seen the noble aspirations of very gifted teachers crumble because of an already bureaucratic system intent on making more houses of paperwork. I have seen parents blame teachers for everything, regardless of students' actions. And in the end, teachers are not heard. I consider myself, and am considered by my teachers, to be a highly self-motivated learner. But self-motivation isn't valued; conformity is valued. It isn't necessary that one will go home and research something that interests him if instead he could be doing math problems that he is capable of solving and would do if he felt he needed review. I am being screwed by this system. Bottom line: tests scores keep going up and up, and companies are still complaining that skilled workers are harder to come by in the US. So how much "accountability" do we need? How about everything is held accountable. Everything is accounted for, and everyone spends their lives filling out paperwork (that happens to be about filling out paper work, and so on). What is accountability? A political pawn. A tool for politicians to be elected. It's the lesson Hitler knew all too well: tell people what they want to hear. What if I told you that teachers need to work harder so that your little angels can be smart? I wouldn't tell you that you would have to work for it too.
How about a new paradigm in which students are held responsible for their actions and for their work. Teachers teach, and students are responsible to obey the teachers. If the student fails a test, tough beef. The student will have to try harder next time. If the student is confident in the material, or even bored, he or she can be tested for proficiency, and then move on. If a student never shows up to class or is constantly in trouble, he or she will be responsible for them. The point is this: you can be accountable for yourself, no one else. If you are given a job demanding 40 hours a week and you show up for only 20, you'll be fired, despite the fact that you had "other commitments" or whatever.
If you want to be constructive, why don't you look at some better problems with education, such as the fact that students are put into "cookie cutters" with this standarized testing culture, including gifted students and mentally-handicapped students. Or the fact that the difficulty of standardized tests varies from year to year with the content being chosen BY THE STATES so that politicians can bend the results as political statistics. Or the fact that teachers are paid uncompetitive wages. Or the fact that many school buildings are falling into disrepair. Or the fact that a stiff grade scale (A B C D F) really emphasizes the "grade" rather than actual learning. Consider the entire picture, rather than equating your situation with that of a teacher. I know nothing about you, other than this misguided political view, but I do know that whatever you do, you are likely held accountable for results, and therefore you want teachers to be held accountable for their results as well. Unfortunately, children cannot be results. Children are people, and until they're treated as people rather than some object being manufactured in an assembly line, these problems with responsiblity will continue.
Posted by CNerd2025 (98 comments )
Link Flag
Completely missing the real issue
Virtually all these initiatives miss the real issue.

What happened in grade schools and high schools years ago (and is still happening) has been happening in colleges and universities for about a decade or two: grade inflation and graduation to clear the ranks.

I routinely run into engineers in many fields which know less about their specialties than I do (when I'm NOT in their specialty). I've met EEs who've graduated with a 3.5+ averages in their field who've known less about electronics than I did coming out of high school in the 70s. I've met PhD physicists that know less about the core concepts than I did as an undergraduate. I've met architects who have no idea of how fluid dynamics plays into how piping is done in buildings. I've met mechanical engineers who give me a blank stare when I talk about plastic versus elastic deformation.

Not only must teachers be held accountable, but schools must be held accountable for graduating students who are not competent. Graduating another 100,000 engineers a year who are not competent only hurts the industry.

I'm not asking for Nobel quality out of all graduates, but a EE who can't describe how a transistor works or a physicist who can't calculate the Earth-moon Lagrange points is a detriment to us all.

This is most definitely NOT a blanket statement. There are some great schools out there that have very high standards. At some of the best schools the worst graduate is better than the best graduate at some of the worst offending schools. My suggestion is to figure out how to fix the offending schools. That is a harder thing to do, but it is the right -- and necessary -- thing to do.

I would rather the U.S. schools graduate 100% of the number they do now and have 99% of them be competent than add more and more incompetent engineers just because we need to graduate more warm bodies with the title "engineer".

{getting off my soapbox now}
Posted by shadowself (202 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hold the IDIOTS accountable
Did it ever occur to you that "a EE" (sic) who doesn't know what a transistor is ought to have the motivation and self-determination to perhaps ::emphasis::learn::/emphasis:: what one is. Or perhaps he slept through those college classes. Perhaps he was graduated for some sort of quota, or for the fact that he had enough credits in the different required areas, or the fact that he copied notes from his friends and memorized them the night before the test, or perhaps that he doesn't really care any more how a transistor works. He knows what it is used to do and he can use it. That's that.
Posted by CNerd2025 (98 comments )
Link Flag
Broadband users are largely Democrats
Recent studies show a strong correlation between broadband use and Kerry support ( <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a> ). No wonder the dems want to expand broadband. They may want to think about expanding electricity to the red states first though...
Posted by fouber (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
this does not mean that there is a correlation between the two.

Studies show that as ice cream sales increase so do the number of drownings (really they do!)

but this does NOT mean that there is a correlation between drowning and icecream!

The hidden factor (called a confounding variable) is..... weather. As warm weather increases so do the number of people swimming.. and as the number of people swimming increases so do the number of people drowning. Also as the temperatures rise so do ice cream sales.

I read the article at the link you posted and found it to be an interesting blurb but not much else.
Posted by The user with no name (259 comments )
Link Flag
what he said
What the other poster was looking for was this: it is a spurious correlation. It is not that broadband users are Democrats, but rather the characteristics of Broadband users explain their voting behavior. Urban residency, higher income, higher education, youth, these factors all correlate highly with broadband usage and voting Democrat.

Expanding broadband access would actually reduce these disparities and equalize access. Once everyone has broadband access, the characteristics of these users will be identical to the population as a whole. Your argument, from this perspective, makes no sense. There is no subversive plot to "turn" a good portion of the country Democrat by giving them broadband access. Mentioning this merely signifies your inferiority.
Posted by looj (1 comment )
Link Flag
So if Broadband is such a big deal, what is ...
the penetration rate in India or China?

And what is 'broadband' used for? The Pew Internet project has stats:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

And we see downloading music and videos is a big consumer of bandwidth. But Pew doesn't talk about this:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

-Sex is the #1 searched for topic on the Internet. (Dr. Robert Weiss, Sexual Recovery Institute, Washington Times 1/26/2000)
-60% of all web-site visits are sexual in nature. (MSNBC/Standford/Duquesne Study, Washington Times, 1/26/2000)
-There are 1.3 million porn websites (N2H2, 9/23/03).
-Pornographic web pages now top 260 million and growing at an unprecedented rate (N2H2, 9/23/03).

I would say Broadband is a nice to have, not a need to have.
Posted by BigWilly1008 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Oh, Please Give me a break.
I bet it will work real well, just like our wonderful welfare system. Democrats have too many of their own problems to work out. The last thing i want is my broadband pipe being government subsidized.
Posted by fsjonsey (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
That's why they're called "Progressives"
The one thing the Democrats have understood well from FDR onward, and that the Republicans never get, is how important public policy is to the economy when applied correctly. FDR's extension of the telephone and electrical grids to the far rural reaches of the country using regulation and subsidy made us the leading economy of the world for the rest of the 20th century; Bill Clinton's policy of facilitating the wireless communications network and giving short-term tax exemptions to internet commerce positioned us for the current era. Bush doesn't understand, nor do his capitalist cronies, that tax breaks and indirect payoffs to their allies don't create infrastructure: positive policy and targeted subsidy create infrastructure. It's the method for wringing economic progress from technology and the Democrats are poised to put it in play when they take back the Congress in '06.
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I have to agree
Lifelong Republican here.

Not being a Democrat myself, and looking at how things are panning out in the economy, I would agree that there is no domestic focus. It is making me move to vote Democrat in 2006, something I have never done. Just this week my party was pushing a budget bill that makes cuts to education. Couple that with tax cuts that have no focus, and an unwillingness to tackle the issue of offshoring, and you have an economy going the wrong direction.

Personally I'm tired of hearing the politics of fear and greed that have become the staple of today's GOP. There was a time when the GOP were concerned with increasing America's business economy and well paying jobs. Now it's all about who can appease the evangelicals the fastest and incursions into foreign countries.

We need to focus on domestic issues, so I see that it's time for a change.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Link Flag
Public Policy
America will gets it broadband act together eventually I believe.. but in the mean time.. I frankly find it odd that the U.S. ranks 16th in the world in broadband penetration. After all it was America's R &#38; D that brought us the internet in the first place. Government has a role to play in making sure this infrastructure is expanded. It was pointed out that there is a parallel of how there was a universal fund implented to subsidize the expansion of electricity into rural communities. I live in a rural area and broadband just arrived in my community about a year ago because of a similiar program. And as far as other public policies goal this nation would do itself a lot of good in my opinion if it would change its public policy regarding federally funding r&#38;d of stem cell research. Another needed course correction; alternative energy. A good place to start on that policy would be to begin phasing out all the corporate welfare going towards traditional energy resources. As far as education goes, I think the U.S. needs a shake up. I think our K-12 system is too monpolized. How is it our colleges are some of the best in the world, and not our high schools? I think "choice" has a lot to do with it.. and competition. Also this issue that india and china are graduating a massive amount of engineers and scientists.. I say good for them. Many of them will work for an American company. The truth is there are many engineers and scientists in America already that can't even find a decent job. I don't believe this notion of skill shortage. I think it is more of an issue of where is the cheapest labor. And that is a totally different topic.
Posted by detunedradio (3 comments )
Link Flag
OMG I thought the topic was high speed internet ! I am a college student who would love for the government to establish a way of EVERYONE being able to get high speed internet. I currently can only get dial-up(which is CRAZY slow)!!!! So i think the idea would be GREAT !!! There needs to be a way for all these internet provider to be made to make their high speed internet service abailable to anyone who wanted them no matter where they live!!!!!!
Posted by mshaw6273 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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