10/21/2010 12:40 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Education: the Path to the American Dream

You may have seen the recent NBC series on how our education system is failing our nation's children. That's a big worry to seniors, because those are our grandchildren.

Education is a complicated topic. It's a challenge that isn't solved simply by pumping money into it. People have tried that. Foundations have spent fortunes, and they haven't seen significantly different results.

I'm convinced that the biggest killer in the education system is a confused sense of accountability. Who does the education dollar really belong to? Because when you attach accountability to the wrong outcomes, you can predict dismal results.

Imagine you had a stomachache, and I gave you a dose of Pepto-Bismol. In fact your stomachache turns out to be appendicitis. But I say, "Well, my job was to give you a dose of Pepto-Bismol. So I've done my job. Sorry you had a bad outcome."

In education, the job has become about giving the dose of math, science or literacy. It doesn't matter, in terms of accountability, whether you've just treated the wrong thing, whether the dose works, or whether that's what the student needed in order to be prepared for life.

Education should take its accountability not from the dose, but from the attitude students have toward math or science or literacy, their mastery of these skills, the way they function in society, their ability to do college-level work when they enter college and the balance of their talent to become an effective citizen.

Education doesn't want to step up to this accountability level. And that's just wrong.

I'm on the side of education reform that would create competitive alternatives so that kids and families could once again be the beneficiaries of the education dollars.

The best example our nation ever had of that sort of reform was the GI Bill at the end of World War II. When the GI Bill was introduced, thousands of veterans had vouchers in their hands to spend at any school. Because universities competed for those vouchers, they became very, very good. That's what changed the landscape of the American higher education system. The GI Bill created a level playing field, so that no matter what your socioeconomic background was, you had a chance to be successful.

That's one reason why most seniors I know are passionate about education. We credit our education with being the key that opened the most valuable doors in our lives, and we want our grandchildren's education to provide a powerful key for their future too.