Sunday, December 23, 2007

Follow-up on Sen. Obama & education

A few thoughts:
1) I continue to support Sen. Obama's candidacy and want to see him become President for all of the reasons I outlined in an email earlier this year (see, in which I wrote:
I'm convinced that he is the real deal. Why? I think he:

1) Is highly intelligent;

2) Is a good listener and thinker and makes good decisions (which is not the same as being smart; see below);

3) Has a fundamental decency and empathy;

4) Has high integrity and is honest (with others and, more importantly, with himself);

5) Quickly admits his mistakes and fixes them;

6) Is not beholden to anyone;

7) Has the courage to say and do what he thinks is right;

8) Is, at his core, a moderate;

9) Tries his best to bring people together and appeal to common interests (and is very good at this);

10) Understands the enormous challenges facing our nation; and

11) Has a sound approach to thinking about these problems (although admittedly he's been light on the specifics).

2) Sen. Obama is a very strong supporter of Teach for America and of charter schools.
3) No, Sen. Obama is not as bold and courageous as I wish he would be on education reform (and certain other issues), but the truth is that if he were, he'd be 50 points behind in the polls. My views are far from the mainstream on many issues, especially within the Democratic Party on school reform.
The fact that very few Democratic politicians are willing to champion a bold education reform agenda simply underscores how much work we reformers have to do -- and it's going to be a long struggle. As a quick example, check out the article in today's NYT (below) about how Democrats are rushing to bash NCLB, esp. this part:

Alan Young, president of the National Education Association affiliate in Des Moines, got some television exposure about a year ago when he addressed Mrs. Clinton during a town-hall-style meeting. Pointing out that she was on the Senate education committee, Mr. Young urged her "not to be too quick to reauthorize the law as is," but rather to rework its basic assumptions.

In the months since, Mr. Young said he has spoken about the law personally at campaign events with Mr. Richardson, John Edwards and Senators Barack Obama and Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Is is any surprise that Democratic candidates bash NCLB when there are teacher union members like Mr. Young at virtually every one of their campaign events, keeping up the drumbeat of criticism of NCLB, however self-serving and ill-founded?
Sen. Obama has shown real courage on a lot of issues, most importantly Iraq, when it was most assuredly not the popular thing to do in 2003. Here's another story recounted to me by a friend: earlier this year, Sen. Obama was meeting with a group of hedge fund managers and investment bankers in a Wall Street firm's conference room and was asked, "If elected, will you raise our taxes?" He looked around and replied, "Yes." Nothing more, no rationalizing, explaining, sucking up, etc. Just "Yes". Kudos!

Democrats Make Bush School Act an Election Issue

Published: December 23, 2007

WASHINGTON — Teachers cheered Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton when she stepped before them last month at an elementary school in Waterloo, Iowa, and said she would "end" the No Child Left Behind Act because it was "just not working."

Mrs. Clinton is not the only presidential candidate who has found attacking the act, President Bush's signature education law, to be a crowd pleaser — all the Democrats have taken pokes. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has said he wants to "scrap" the law. Senator Barack Obama has called for a "fundamental" overhaul. And John Edwards criticizes the law as emphasizing testing over teaching. "You don't make a hog fatter by weighing it," he said recently while campaigning in Iowa.


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