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Enhancing U.S. Education and Competitiveness

U.S. President Barack Obama touches the spiked hair style of a child while visiting the Clarence Tinker elementary school children while at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, September 17, 2014.  Larry Downing / Reuters

During his trip to Asia last November, U.S. President Barack Obama sat down to a working lunch with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul. In the space of little more than a generation, South Korea has developed one of the world's best-educated work forces and fastest-growing economies -- and President Obama was curious about the South Korean miracle. "What is the biggest education challenge you have?" he asked Lee. Without hesitating, Lee replied, "The biggest challenge I have is that my parents are too demanding."

That anecdote usually makes Americans chuckle -- and wince. It highlights how U.S. students are falling behind their peers in advanced nations in the global race for economic competitiveness. Most South Korean parents, even the poorest, insist that their children learn English starting in elementary school. As a result, South Korea has had to bring in thousands of foreign-language teachers. I wish

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