Rice makes plea for education in America

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on "Face the Nation," November 27, 2011. CBS

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she's concerned about the economy, the deficit, and the "jaded" nature of American politics - but she says the country's "biggest single problem" is with the public school system.

Rice, speaking to CBS' Bob Schieffer on a special Thanksgiving edition of "Face the Nation," argued that the nation's educational system is failing crucial populations, and that "it's gonna drive us into class warfare like we've never seen before."

Responding to a question about the current state of American politics, Rice argued that "we've become a bit jaded as a country."

But she said that wasn't her biggest concern with the future of America right now.

"I think we've got a deeper problem," she said. "It speaks to the way that, for instance, I and my family got ahead. I think the biggest single problem we've got is the K-12 education system."

Discussing what she described as the "terrible witch's brew" of race and poverty as a constraint on populations, Rice said that now, because of the "failing public schools," Americans in a number of communities may not have the chances she did.

"I think it goes back to whether or not race and class - that is, race and poverty - is not becoming even more of a constraint," Rice told Schieffer. "Because with the failing public schools, I worry that the way that my grandparents got out of poverty, the way that my parents became educated, is just not gonna be there for a whole bunch of kids."

She argued that providing adequate public education only to those who can afford to pay to live in a good school district would awaken a sense of "class warfare like we've never seen before."

"When I look out there and I see that I can look at your zip code and tell whether or not you're gonna get a good education, that's gonna go right to the core of who we are as Americans," she said. "And, yes, we will have unemployable people. Yes, we will continue to have the statistic we have now: Only 30 percent of the people who take the basic skills test to get into the military can pass it. "

But, she added, "I think it's gonna drive us into class warfare like we've never seen. Because education, even in the segregated South, was always the way that you got out."

Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, who appeared alongside Rice, "The Help" author Kathryn Stockett, and "Boomerang" author Michael Lewis on the show, also said American education must be improved in the name of innovation.

"At the moment, particularly, we've become very divisive as a culture," Isaacson said. "We can't get things done. I mean, Steve Jobs used to talk about the difference between leadership in the private sector, where if he wanted to create a new product, he and people would decide what to do. But if he wants to have a factory built in California, it can't be done because there's, you know, just too much to go through, and he ends up outsourcing the jobs."

"We're gonna end up with a country that doesn't really have a great manufacturing base, if we don't watch out, with our education system and our ability to build factories," Isaacson added.

He was not without hope, though, that the country could correct its path.

"I think that's easily reversible because we're a very creative culture, we're very imaginative," he said. "We know how to do what Steve Jobs did, which is connect imagination to technology. But we have to make sure we're doing that this century like we did last century."

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