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Why Are The Presidential Hopefuls Ignoring Education?

Why Are The Presidential Hopefuls Ignoring Education?

In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on March 4, Joel Klein calls for moving education into a central position in the presidential election, or more specifically, the Republican primaries.

Klein, who was chancellor of the New York City Department of Education from 2002 to 2010, and is now chief executive of News Corp.’s education division, points out that only 1 percent of the time and questions in Republican debates have touched on schools since an education forum he co-moderated in New York in October.

Santorum Calls President Obama “A Snob”

Rick Santorum’s calling President Obama “a snob” for wanting all Americans to attend college is probably the only reference to education that most of us can recall from the Republican debates.

Klein rightly explains that new research shows that only one-quarter of America’s 52 million K-12 students perform on par with the average performance of the world’s five best school systems — which are now in Singapore, Hong Kong, Finland, Taiwan and South Korea. Even worse is U.S. performance in advanced achievement in math and science, the best predictor of the engineering and scientific prowess that will drive future growth. Sixteen countries produce at least twice the percentage of advanced math students we do, according to research from Harvard and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

As a parent, and as a teacher, I am outraged that education is not front and center in debates about the future of this country. How do our presidential candidates believe the country will move forward, if not through educating our young people?

Klein too is outraged, but he moves from discussing presidential debates into proposing his own solutions to the education ills of this country. And his first solution is to suggest that Common Core Standards are the answer to our educational problems.

American Education Should Look To The Finnish Model

I disagree with him. As I discussed here, the U.S. educational system should look to the Finnish model and emulate a method that really works. First, it’s important to develop high professional standards for teachers; in Finland only one in ten applicants is accepted into teacher training. Next, abolish the idea of punishing teachers and schools for the poor performance of their students – especially when that performance means the standardized tests administered one day a year. Finland only administers standardized tests to seniors in high school. Administrators should be in the business of mentoring and encouraging new teachers, not punishing them.

Klein speaks highly of the education reform movement, but the main mechanism of school reform today is to identify these teachers who can raise their students’ test scores every year. Presumably, the thinking goes that if the scores go up, students will enroll in college and poverty will disappear.

No More No Child Left Behind?

I have a better idea: why not get rid of the No Child Left Behind Act, with its nonsensical requirement that all students, regardless of ability or disability, should be proficient in math and language arts by 2014.

In short, while I take issue with Klein’s solutions to our educational woes, I do agree that it’s past time for a real debate on education amongst our presidential hopefuls. Americans should demand from the candidates a substantial discussion on how they plan to prepare our children to function in a global age.

What do you think?

Related Stories

Using Students’ Standardized Test Scores To Evaluate Teachers Is Wrong

Santorum: Public Education Is “Anachronistic”

10 Years Of No Child Left Behind: Flawed Beyond Fixing?

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220 comments

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9:21PM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

Of course they're ignoring education! The hopefuls only care about your kids before they're born! Now that they're in school, they're not any of the presidential concern. They don't want to pay taxes for that, so they can have more to complain about with those that can't afford to send their kids to private schools.

7:24PM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

Because they find it up to standard????

3:29PM PDT on Mar 11, 2012

Ok I am done with this Eugene just loves to rage. When his original premise is destroyed je simply says I wasn't talking about that. ad infinitum

If you want to live in Singapore MOVE THERE.

12:16PM PDT on Mar 11, 2012

To answer my own question:

"While paint thinner is easily available and locally accessible to Japanese, other stimulants and hard drugs like heroin and cocaine are not. The strong interest in the recent arrests of pot users at local universities highlights how Japanese cannabis users have taken to growing their own hemp plants to circumvent the problem of high costs of buying foreign sources of cannabis."

Drug use as yet is limited in Japan. It is promoted by peer pressure and the example of drug use in the entertainment industry.

12:02PM PDT on Mar 11, 2012

Myron said, " I am not convinced that youth drug abuse has been eradicated in Japan."

What youth drug abuse?



10:45AM PDT on Mar 11, 2012

Sorry. "...Yours: Relevance?...."

10:43AM PDT on Mar 11, 2012

Last comments, Eugene: Yours: Relevance. Mine: Feeding time is over.

10:36AM PDT on Mar 11, 2012

Jefferson felt so strongly about education as necessary to democracy
that, as President, he submitted to congress an amendment to the
Constitution to legalize federal support for education in his State of the
Union Address, December 2, 1806. "Education is here placed among
the articles of public care. . . ." And, "Every government degenerates
when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves
are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their
minds must be improved to a certain degree. . . . An amendment to our
constitution must here come in aid of the public education. The
influence over government must be shared among all people."
The amendment was never considered, so, Jefferson turned his efforts
to his beloved state of Virginia. He developed a comprehensive plan for
education which encompassed elementary, secondary, AND university
levels. He also wrote, ". . . (T)he children of the poor must be thus
educated at common expense." It is unclear whether Jefferson believed
that an amendment was necessary to empower the Federal
government to aid education or only to mandate that the Federal
government do so. (I am convinced the latter, only, is correct.) What is
crystal clear, however, is that he did believe that The Federal
government SHOULD do it, as part of it's job of promoting the general
welfare.

About that, Jefferson was right.

10:24AM PDT on Mar 11, 2012

Well, Laurel, I'm here, and actually pretty moderate on this issues, as I'm confident are most Americans. It's just this damned recent troll irruption on Care2 conceals that fact. The GOP really is just manufacturing more rope for their November hanging.

10:24AM PDT on Mar 11, 2012

The District of Columbia has been experiencing "black flight" for many years now. That's why the black population of neighboring Prince George's county has gone up.

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