The connection between Brexit, education and the race for U.S. president
Here’s a piece on the connection between Brexit, education and the race for U.S. president, written by Marc Tucker, president and chief executive officer of the National Center on Education and the Economy, a non-profit policy analysis and development organization based in Washington D.C. He researches and writes about the policies and practices of countries with the best education systems in the world. In 2014, the Education Commission of the States awarded him the James Bryant Conant award for his contribution to American education. His most recent book is “Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems.”
By Marc S. Tucker
We are told that the narrow majority of voters in the British referendum on staying in the European Union were mainly working people with less education than those who voted for staying in the Union. We are also told that almost every economic expert who weighed in on the controversy, irrespective of their politics, said that the British economy would suffer if Britain left the E.U. and that the very people most likely to vote for exit were those likely to be hurt the most. But, evidently, the winning side did not care what the experts had to say and voted for exit anyway.
What are we to make of this? I think a majority of Brits have lost confidence in both their political leadership and the experts, from both parties—the leaders of both the Labor Party and the Conservatives came down hard on the side of staying in the EU. For years, these ordinary, working class Brits have heard their leaders talk about the benefits of trade and of being in the E.U. (which amounts to the same thing, since being in the European Union was sold mainly on the benefits of free trade inside the Union).
While they saw their country benefiting, the benefits did not flow down to them. They saw the City—Britain’s hugely powerful financial establishment—getting fabulously rich, they saw the price of real estate in London going so high they could no longer afford to live there, and they saw many in the south of England getting ever more wealthy, too. But not them, not the working stiffs from the midlands and the north who made things and fixed things and sold things in small retail shops. They saw Polish plumbers taking their jobs and British car companies getting sold off to global companies without a British nameplate and their jobs in that industry disappearing. Somebody was getting rich for sure, but it was not them.
The experts had long argued that free trade with the world and access to the European market on insider terms would be good for Britain and the politicians had agreed. Were the experts wrong? No, they were right. In the aggregate, trade has worked for Britain. But who cares about the aggregate if you are among those in the aggregate who are getting hurt, who are working harder and harder every year and getting less and less as others are becoming fabulously wealthy.