When schools are forced to rely on sheep

ThinkProgress flags an odd story out of Pennsylvania, where Republican officials have already slashed education funding. In one area, cash-strapped schools are now using sheep, instead of lawnmowers, for lawn care.

Rather than spend money on cutting grass, the Carlisle School District has brought in 7 Romney sheep to tend the fields. “They’ve done a good job so far,” says Superintendent John Friend.

The sheep come free of charge, since they belong to the principal of the middle school. Friend estimates that they will save the district about $15,000 this year in mowing costs.

You know, nothing says “21st century global superpower” like schools turning to sheep because they can’t afford lawnmowers.

I often think about a story President Obama told a while back, after he returned from a trip to East Asia. He shared an anecdote about a luncheon he attended with the president of South Korea.

“I was interested in education policy — they’ve grown enormously over the last 40 years. And I asked him, what are the biggest challenges in your education policy? He said, ‘The biggest challenge that I have is that my parents are too demanding.’ He said, ‘Even if somebody is dirt poor, they are insisting that their kids are getting the best education.’ He said, ‘I’ve had to import thousands of foreign teachers because they’re all insisting that Korean children have to learn English in elementary school.’ That was the biggest education challenge that he had, was an insistence, a demand from parents for excellence in the schools.

“And the same thing was true when I went to China. I was talking to the mayor of Shanghai, and I asked him about how he was doing recruiting teachers, given that they’ve got 25 million people in this one city. He said, ‘We don’t have problems recruiting teachers because teaching is so revered and the pay scales for teachers are actually comparable to doctors and other professions. ‘

“That gives you a sense of what’s happening around the world. There is a hunger for knowledge, an insistence on excellence, a reverence for science and math and technology and learning. That used to be what we were about.”

And here in the U.S. of A., Republican officials are slashing education funding and schools are turning to sheep.

Winning the future? Not so much.