If educators were looking for some new directions in President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, they were disappointed.
President Obama: Strong Orator
Before I continue, let me say that I think Mr. Obama did a fine job with his speech; it was a steady speech, without too many stand-up-and-cheer moments. He invoked an America that we can be proud of, an exceptional country with many inspirational heroes.
The mood was somber at times, definitely because of Gabby GIffords’ empty seat, and perhaps because of those strange pairings of Democrats and Republicans. But it seemed that overall, his speech was well received.
Treat Teachers With Respect
But as a teacher, I was disappointed. True, Mr. Obama spoke about the importance of parental involvement: “Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and the homework gets done.” He also raised the issue that teachers in other countries are treated with the kind of respect that we don’t get in the U.S.
More Race To The Top
But then he started bragging about his administration’s accomplishments, and in particular Race To The Top(RTTT), the Department of Education’s signature program. While this initiative raises the issue of making schools accountable, which is a good thing, it also relies primarily on standardized test scores to achieve this goal, and that is definitely not a good thing.
In fact, this continues the policy laid down by George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, in spite of the many complaints by teachers around the country that they are constantly forced to “teach to the test.”
No New Education Ideas
And yet Mr. Obama called RTTT “the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation,” and announced that this “should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that is more flexible.” With due respect, Mr. President, this does not make sense.
Call To Pass The Dream Act
Still, while there were no new ideas, the President’s final words on education were more inspirational: a strong appeal for the passage of the Dream Act. He spoke firmly and passionately: “Let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.”
What do you think? What kind of grade do you give Mr. Obama for his remarks on education?
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