Thursday, October 16, 2008

Comments on McCain vs. Obama on education reform

I watched McCain's speech tonight and thought he did a good job telling his POW story and how it changed him -- frankly, I don't think he has much else to run on.  I couldn't believe the disconnect between what he was saying about, for example, looking out for the average American or for the environment, when his policies are so contrary this, but I give him credit in one area: what he said about education, in which he hit all the right buttons: education as the main civil rights issue today, the alarming number of failing schools, the need to shake up awful bureaucracies, empowering parents with choice, including charter schools, etc.:

Education -- education is the civil rights issue of this century.


Equal access to public education has been gained, but what is the value of access to a failing school? We need...


We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice.


Let's remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.


When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them.


Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have the choice, and their children will have that opportunity.


Senator Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucrats. I want schools to answer to parents and students.


And when I'm president, they will.

This led one of my friends to write:

This decision is going to be tough....VERY tough for us single issue voters. As powerful as an Obama candidacy is, and as much as I disagree with our misguided involvement in Iraq, there just simply is no contest between McCain and Obama on education reform. Did you hear him tonight? McCain gets it. I am sad to say that I STILL don't know if Obama does.

Unlike my friend, however, this decision, after the last two nights, is even more of a no-brainer for me, for two reasons:
A) As much as I care about education reform, I also care a lot about our economy, the environment, the alarming rise in income inequality, our ruined stature around the world, etc. -- and on all of these issues, I think Obama has far superior ideas.
B) On education reform, I think a mix of both candidates' ideas would be the ideal solution -- McCain, for example, didn't talk about important things like early childhood education and making college more affordable.  But here's the key: even if you like McCain's education reform proposals better, you still want Obama to be President because only a Democrat can bring about the needed reforms.  It's like only Nixon could have gone to China and only Clinton could have reformed welfare.  It's the whole idea behind Democrats for Education Reform: it has to be an inside job!  As long as it's Republicans pushing for reform, the unions can continue to make this a Republican vs. Democrat issue (rather than a what's-best-for-children vs. what's-best-for-adults issue) and gridlock will continue.
Think of it this way: would you rather have a President with 90% of what you want, but only a 20% chance of making it happen, or a President with 70% of what you want, but a 60% change of making it happen? (That's McCain 18 and Obama 42.)


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