Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We Need to Start Talking Seriously about Education Now!

According to Ed Week, it is pretty unusual for candidates to talk about education this close to an election. That is part of the problem. We know that education and the economy are joined at the hip. Up to now, what has driven economic policy is maximizing short term profit, also known as greed. A similar engine drives education. For example, gains in test scores is taken as improvement, and as long as there is a cosmetic appearance of improvement, the population is pacified and grant funders are happy to continue giving money. Now there is some lipstick on a pig.

Teaching to the test is not a sustainable strategy for getting the kind of profound improvements America needs to successfully compete in the global arena. It is a cliche but education IS an investment in the future. Americans must lift their heads and look toward the horizon. Yesterday Jeffrey Feldman said the meme for the election should be "grandchildren." You bet. I have written many times that American society has the education it wants. We know this because if it were not so, society would demand something else. Instead, we waste decades and generations bouncing from one educational fad to another. When will America say with Obama, "Enough!"

I say this election, even now, even this late in the election cycle, is a perfect time to put education and its implications for the economy front and center. It is harder work and not as fun as parsing every word out of Palin's mouth, but surely a much more long-term profitable use of time, energy and brain cells. When Bush touched the third rail of Social Security, society stepped in. Everyone with a brain and an internet connection added their two-cents worth to that debate. Except for the diehards, non-partisanship ruled the day as society concluded that privatization would be a supremely bad idea.

It is past time for society to get excited, even passionate, about the education of future generations. We can begin by examining the candidates' positions on education. I have already started. Please join me. Comment here, there, and everywhere. Most blogs have blogrolls. Use comments and Digg to create a tsunami network of education conversations. Look for creative ways to reallocate present resources. Make the media sit up and take notice.

I agree with Robert Gordon, an advisor to the Obama campaign.
McCain sounds pretty good on education, but when you scratch even a little bit beneath the surface, there’s no there, there.

The McCain campaign begs to differ.
Senator McCain ... is interested in empowering families and speaking directly to the educational needs of Americans, as opposed to the system,” said Eugene W. Hickok, a former deputy secretary of education under President Bush who is advising the McCain campaign. “Whereas Obama, beyond his mantra of more money, more money, is really just supporting these traditional approaches to the system.”

Let's go beyond such back-and-forth of political campaigns and make education an issue right up there with the economy and foreign policy. Americans need an education race mindset and commitment like that of the 1960s space race. Let's work hard to prove Paul Manna wrong.
“As for [education] being a centerpiece, I don’t think that’s going to happen with just two months to go” before the election, said Paul Manna, an assistant professor of government at the College of William and Mary, who studies politics related to education. “It’s hard to see how it’s going to gain traction.”

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