Democrats & Liberals Archives

Every Child Ahead

The first wonderful thing to hit me on the Internet after I returned from the hospital with a pacemaker was Obama’s great speech on education. Obama does not want “no child left behind.” He wants no negativity, only positivity. He wants every child ahead.

In his speech he criticizes the main flaw of Bush's education program: testing:

And by the way – don’t tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend most of the year preparing him to fill in a few bubbles on a standardized test. Don’t tell us that these tests have to come at the expense of music, or art, or phys. ed., or science. These tests shouldn’t come at the expense of a well-rounded education – they should help complete that well-rounded education. The teachers I’ve met didn’t devote their lives to testing, they devoted them to teaching, and teaching our children is what they should be allowed to do.

The fact is, No Child Left Behind has done more to stigmatize and demoralize our students and teachers in struggling schools than it has to marshal the talent and the determination and the resources to turn them around. That’s what’s wrong with No Child Left Behind, and that’s what we must change in a fundamental way.

I want to lead a new era of mutual responsibility in education – one where we all come together for the sake of our children’s success; an era where each of us does our part to make that success a reality – parents and teachers; leaders in Washington and citizens all across America.

Filling "in a few bubbles on a standardized test" is not education. Obama, throughout his speech, describes what education truly is. His main points are as follows:

  • Launch a Children's First Agenda that provides care, learning and support to families with children ages zero to five.

  • Recruit, support, and reward teachers and principals to ensure that every school in America is filled with outstanding educators

    We’ll create a new Service Scholarship program to recruit top talent into the profession, and begin by placing these new teachers in areas like the overcrowded districts of Nevada, or struggling rural towns here in New Hampshire, or hard-to-staff subjects like math and science in schools all across the nation.

  • Work with our nation’s governors and educators to create and use assessments that can improve achievement all across America by including the kinds of research, scientific investigation, and problem-solving that our children will need to compete in a 21st century knowledge economy.

    The goal of educational testing should be the same as medical testing – to diagnose a student’s needs so you can help address them. Tests should not be designed as punishment for teachers and students, they should be used as tools to help our children grow and compete. Tests should support learning, not just accounting. Because if we really want our children to become the great inventors and problem-solvers of tomorrow, our schools shouldn’t stifle innovation, they should let it thrive.

  • A refundable $4000 tax credit that covers 2/3 of college cost

  • Gaining parental involvement

    But there is no program and no policy that can substitute for a parent who is involved in their child’s education from day one. There is no substitute for a parent who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, make sure their children are in school on time, and help them with their homework after dinner. And I have no doubt that we will still be talking about these problems in the next century if we do not have parents who are willing to turn off the TV once in awhile, and put away the video games, and read to their child. Responsibility for our children’s education has to start at home. We have to set high standards for them, and spend time with them, and love them. We have to hold ourselves accountable.
What a beautiful speech! You will enjoy reading the whole Obama speech for getting every child ahead! Posted by Paul Siegel at November 20, 2007 5:30 PM
Comment #238816
We’ll create a new Service Scholarship program to recruit top talent into the profession, and begin by placing these new teachers in areas like the overcrowded districts of Nevada…

Forget Las Vegas…send teachers to our inner city schools all over the US…we’re losing an entire generation of kids!!

Posted by: Rachel at November 20, 2007 5:53 PM
Comment #238825

While eloquent and idealistic, his final point is the most poignant and the most accurate. It is the parents responsibility to play an active role in their childs education. This means from the bottom -> up. No child left behind is control from the top -> down. To be intellectually honest, the only system that genuinely parallels a bottom -> up system is educational vouchers. When kids like to learn (only happens in a class with a great teacher) they will do well in school. When kids do well in school, teacher gets a raise for being good at what they do. It is patently ridiculous to pay teacehrs (arguably one of the most important professions in America) some of the most paltry wages, and governmentally broad-brush the pay scale as though all teachers bring the same educational ability/prowess/value to the table because they are teaching from a ready-made cirriculum. If you ever had a teacher in school or college who was worth their salt, you know it is the enthusiasm and passion for the subject that breeds learning, NOT the cirriculum.

The GIANT elephant in the room is wearing a T-shirt that says “don’t hurt my feelings.” Becoming a teacher is the EASIEST collegiate path there is - bar none. A teaching certificate was a fallback plan for a lot of people, and a meal ticket into middle class america. For the rest of the actually worthy teachers, who did it because they enjoy the hell out of it, the notion of being paid the same as the other schmuck (who couldn’t get a kid excited about history if he passed out crack in the classroom) has got to be an eternal slap in the face.

Empowering parents and bringing vouchers into the system provide a means for the free market to do what it does best: breed excellence. Crappy teachers wash out instead of getting “tenure.” and great teachers get paid what they deserve - a lot.

But the left won’t let the crappy-teacher/giant-elephant get their feelings hurt, because it’s not FAIR, they concoct stories about how vouchers would mean schools would have the ability to say “No Thankyou, we’re full,” to minority or underpriveleged students. This is a total crock on it’s face, because providing excellent results to low income and minority families would have become a fantastic business opportunity, and for every “we’re full” you’d get two “please come here’s.”

The left also says Teachers wouldn’t teach in the inner cities if the pay was better elsewhere or in “easier” schools - Also a crock and a slap in the face to every inner city teacher who is there trying to make a difference - AND GETTING PAID GARBAGE for their heroic efforts.

The only down-side to vouchers is the loss of Governmental control. God forbid Uncle Sam doesn’t get to dictate everything to and for and about your kids’ education.

Obama is dead-on on principle (no child left behind IS A FAILURE) but not because of the negative angle of the name or standardized testing. It’s a failure because it is classic Government run horse$#%@!. Life everything the government takes over, it costs ten times as much, works a tenth as good as it could, and makes no one happy.

Let’s hear it for Vouchers.

Posted by: Yukon Jake at November 20, 2007 6:47 PM
Comment #238830

Let me start by saying that I do not support No Child Left Behind. I feel it has been one of the worse policies to come from Washington in a long time. I also do not think any of the candidates has a good sound educational policy. Now with regards to Obama’s education plan. It does sound wonderful but alas after working with and in the schools I can not see any of this making a real difference. So you diagnosis a child’s needs (which is already being done)and then find out that that child’s needs don’t fall within the guidelines or that the child’s problem isn’t significant enough for them to qualify for extra or special services or the funds aren’t there. So many children fall through the cracks and have for years and years and not just under Bush’s watch.

Recruit, support, and reward teachers and principals. Again it sounds good but exactly how is he going to do that. Educators have been promised this year after year after year by well meaning politicans and some changes have been made but never enough to really impact the daily maintainance of schools. There are so many impediments to recruiting, supporting and rewarding such as teachers and principles who have been around forever and are hard to get rid of, a lack of quality pay which negatively impacts the recruitment and retention of teachers, the unbelievable amount of paperwork, the pressure on teachers to comform to a rigid ideology, a system that rewards conformers, a system that penalizes teachers and principles who speak out against the status quo, and the list is endless.

Launch a children’s first agenda. We currently have early intervention for developmentally delayed and disabled children, we have headstart, we have early childhood education classrooms for 4 yr olds, we have kindergarten all of these programs supposedly are there to provide care, learning, and support to families and young children. However, currently the classroom size is not conducive to helping the children who can’t keep up with the government imposed curriculum and so by 4 and 5 years of age they are already behind and already think they are stupid or not smart. The current school emphasis is on academics and does not allow for much time for running and playing. Teachers who know what is developmentally appropriate teach what the state and federal government says to teach whether it is age appropriate or not. Will he be willing to fully fund these programs to make the changes that are needed and will he be willing to institute the curriculum changes that allow teachers to teach age appropriate skills instead of force feeding to all children the ABC’s, reading sight words, and doing simple math. Will he insist that children will be allowed to be children without unrealistic behaviorally expectations.

and of course the last thing-parent involvment. You can’t force, coerce, beg, threaten, or make anyone become an involved parent. Unless the president is willing to address the issues of poverty, young parents, lack of knowledge regarding appropriate parenting, violence in the home, lack of transportation, no english, no babysitters, and that list goes on and on. When families are stressed and worried that they can’t meet the payment on the trailer they live in or that the water, lights, phone are going to be cut off for the upteenth time, or that the car is broken again, or that all they could buy at the grocery store was milk and bread or that they can’t get a job because their skin is too dark, or they don’t speak good english, or they can’t remember where the paper and pencils are in the house, or the baby tore up the older child’s homework page, or both parents work and had a bad day and they are tired and haven’t had supper yet and johnny needs someone to help him with his homework and listen to him read, the family doesn’t have the money for a computer like everyone else and so on being involved and going to school meetings is the last thing on the agenda. And then there are some parents that just don’t care. I think the whole parent involvement thing is pie in the sky. Either parents will or they won’t and you can’t legislate parent involvement.

I do think we need to add art, music, and physical education back into the curriculum.

Our current school system is antiquated and outdated. It is incestuous and resists new ideas. It wastes money, expects and reinforces ridigity, and penalizes nonconforming behavior in children. It teaches all children the same way and does not allow for different types of learning styles. It is a round hole and will shave the sides off of any child to make them fit. A major overhaul is in order. Barack talks well and what he says is flowery, sounds good but really has no meat or substance. Schools have been promised all this before and nothing ever really changes. As you can tell I do not have high hopes for our school system or with any of the promises that any of the presidental candidates are saying. I would love for Barack to prove me wrong but like I said this has all been promised before the only change is the package.

Although I will admit that is has gotten worse under Bush.

Posted by: Carolina at November 20, 2007 7:31 PM
Comment #238833

One last thing to add. I have just read the post from Yukon Jake and as much as I think our current public schools are in bad shape and am afraid for the future—-I DO NOT THINK VOUCHERS are the answer. That is just another republican ploy.

Posted by: Carolina at November 20, 2007 7:57 PM
Comment #238834

No Child Left Behind is just one more poison pill concieved by right wing idealogs to destroy public education. They regard public education as socialist and good education for the underclasses beyond what is needed to be a good prole as a waste. They have some sucess with this but could not pull off the same tactic with SS.
Although vouchers have apeal at first sight they are another attempt at the same “starve the beast” tactic.They would have the effect of pulling badly needed funding out of the public school systems.Those that argue the obvious,that money is not the solution,are correct but lack of funding surely is not the answer either.School choice within districts accomplishes the same thing.
The best thing we can do as parents to improve teachers pay is support them in negotiations. Tell the principle and school board members you stand with the teachers. If it comes to a strike keep your kids at home or even better join teachers on the picketline. Theres an opportunity to really educate your children and set an example for them.

Posted by: Bills at November 20, 2007 8:08 PM
Comment #238835


While we’re being “intellectually honest”, let us then assume that the suburban schools that are “honestly” the better schools are going to use their buses to go into the urban areas where the schools are, to be “honest”, of lesser quality to pick up your voucher child.
How much time are we willing to allow our children to spend “commuting” back and forth to school every day?
If you assume to use those vouchers to send your child to a Parochial School are you willing to commute to parent teacher conferences where that school might be located? If not, then just how “involved” are you willing to be? This of course assumes that your child might be accepted to that school in the first place.

There are those among us that believe that vouchers are this great panacea for what ails the education ills of their children.

I, and my brother and sisters were Parochial school educated. The school we attended was 15 miles from our home. My mother worked the graveyard shift so that we could afford attend. She came home, packed us all into the car and took us to school. When I went to high school I went to a different school, and I played sports so that was yet another burden for my mother. My parents were involved to our schooling and attended virtually all of the PTA meetings at both schools.
Are you that kind of responsible parent, or are you just mouthing the voucher line?

Schools were built within the communities they serve for a purpose. Children that go to school outside of their own neighborhoods have few friendships within their communities. I know this for a fact.
The “friends” I had in school lived somewhere else which made it hard to establish any lasting relationships, and study groups were pretty much out of the question.

It is hard enough to learn, why are we so willing to put even more pressure on our children?

Posted by: Rocky at November 20, 2007 8:18 PM
Comment #238841
Although I will admit that is has gotten worse under Bush.

Just as it got worse under Clinton, worse under Bush I, worse under Reagan, worse under Carter…

In fact, since the Department of Education came into effect, our children have been shortchanged and can be measured by the constant and continual drop of test scores ever since.

It is not a coincidence.

Posted by: Rhinehold at November 20, 2007 9:21 PM
Comment #238843


But neither the importance of education nor the poor quality of our schools affords the federal government a role in the classroom. Education is not mentioned in the Constitution of the United States, and for good reason. The Founders wanted most aspects of life managed by those who were closest to them, either by state or local government or by families, businesses, and other elements of civil society. Certainly they saw no role for the federal government in education.

Once upon a time, not so very many years ago, Congress understood that. The History of the Formation of the Union under the Constitution, published by the United States Constitution Sesquicentennial Commission, under the direction of the president, the vice president, and the speaker of the House in 1941, contained this exchange in a section titled “Questions and Answers Pertaining to the Constitution”:

Q. Where, in the Constitution, is there mention of education?

A. There is none; education is a matter reserved for the states.

The greatest service Congress could perform for American education would be to rekindle the original understanding of the delegated, enumerated, and thus limited powers of the federal government and to return the control and financing of education to states, localities, and families.

Defenders of the federal role in education insist that the Department of Education has no power to impose anything on the nation’s schools. It can only study, advise, inspire, and offer supplemental funding. Of course, our folk wisdom tells us that he who pays the piper calls the tune—as federal money increases, so does federal control.

When the department was created in 1979, many critics warned that a secretary of education would turn into a national minister of education. Rep. John Erlenborn, Republican of Illinois, for instance, wrote, “There would be interference in textbook choices, curricula, staffing, salaries, the make-up of student bodies, building designs, and all other irritants that the government has invented to harass the population. These decisions which are now made in the local school or school district will slowly but surely be transferred to Washington.” Dissenting from the committee report that recommended establishing the department, Erlenborn and seven other Republicans wrote, “The Department of Education will end up being the Nation’s super school board. That is something we can all do without.”

Such concerns were not limited to Republicans. Rep. Patricia Schroeder, Democrat of Colorado, predicted, “No matter what anyone says, the Department of Education will not just write checks to local school boards. They will meddle in everything. I do not want that.” David W. Breneman and Noel Epstein wrote in the Washington Post, “Establishing a cabinet-level department is a back-door way of creating a national education policy.” And Richard W. Lyman, president of Stanford University, testified before Congress that “the two-hundred-year-old absence of a Department of Education is not the result of simple failure during all that time. On the contrary, it derives from the conviction that we do not want the kinds of educational systems that such arrangements produce.”

Posted by: Rhinehold at November 20, 2007 9:29 PM
Comment #238845
No Child Left Behind is just one more poison pill concieved by right wing idealogs to destroy public education.

Right wing ideologues like Ted Kennedy, its main Congressional sponsor?

There are serious problems with No Child Left Behind, such as its unfunded federal mandates. But the idea of having certain minimum standards that students have to be tested on and meet before they advance toward graduation is definitely NOT a problem.

I’m all for teachers having the freedom to use creative approaches to learning, and completely agree that there’s a lot more to education that just being able to regurgitate the correct answers on an exam. But before you advance to the creative approaches, you have to nail down the essentials, and there’s no better way to demonstrate that than testing. Should we also get rid of homework because it involves drudgery for both the students who have to do it and the teachers who have to assign and correct it? Get your students up to the level of basic competence, and THEN get innovative with your teaching approaches as you move your students toward more advanced levels of understanding. Until your students can read, write, and do basic math, all of your innovative approaches to instill higher-level thinking are worthless.

This is just a fact of life, and not only in public education. Doctors, lawyers, cops, bus drivers, engineers, airline pilots, fork-lift operators, secretaries ALL must demonstrate basic competence through testing before they’re allowed to practice their professions. The ability to pass the test doesn’t equal excellence, but it’s a bare minimum, and trying to insulate students from this fact of live, telling them that they don’t have to meet any objective standards, is a gross disservice to THEM. We don’t let a surgeon operate without first demonstrating competence because we might otherwise hurt his feelings, and we don’t let a bus driver drive a bus without first getting a license. If we hold getting a high school diploma to a different standard, then high school diplomas are worthless.

And this is something that’s just as true in the arts, or physical education for that matter, as it is in math, writing or science. A good pianist, for example, doesn’t just mechanically bang out the correct notes. But its not as though he doesn’t FIRST learn how to that. Before you can even think about getting really good, you’re drilled mercilessly in the basics. This is true with basically all human activities.

One of the dirty little secrets of public education, and undoubtedly part of the reason the educational establishment resists testing, is that a significant portion of teachers have themselves not mastered the subjects they are teaching.

If you ever had a teacher in school or college who was worth their salt, you know it is the enthusiasm and passion for the subject that breeds learning, NOT the cirriculum.

I couldn’t disagree more.

It’s wonderful to have a passionate and enthusiastic teacher, but the scientific facts behind how the world works, the history of humankind, the works of Shakespeare, etc., are inherently interesting. If you need a showman of a teacher to rouse any intellectual engagement with the world around you, or can’t at least figure out that this material is of potential use to you and motivate yourself to become a functioning member of society, then you might as well just sit at home playing video games.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 20, 2007 10:05 PM
Comment #238864

From this article: “Obama does not want “no child left behind.” He wants no negativity, only positivity. He wants every child ahead.”

As in no border security or barriers, and open arms to the children of the world to overpopulate our nation with ever more Democratic Party voters. That’s quite a positivity strategy. Screw Obama. The man is a politician and is putting party and power before nation or its own people. I wonder if he sees a likeness to Bush when he peers into the mirror.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 21, 2007 1:40 AM
Comment #238866

David is absolutely right.

And Obama might as well dress up like Barney the dinosaur if all he’s going to do is offer up vague feel-good platitudes and easy solutions to all of the problems in the world and the United States.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 21, 2007 1:58 AM
Comment #238868

Loyal O,
Apparently you confuse cirriculum with subject matter expertise. A cirriculum dictates what subjects are taught on what days and via what methods, it is in no way representative of the expertise of the instructor - hence my point.(good teacher begged the obvious qualification that they had mastery of the material - so I did not iterate the point)

As an adult who has found the things that interest me, and garnered enough knowledge about the things that don’t to know the difference, I challenge you (LO) to ask the average teenager what their favorite subject is, and THEN ask them about their teacher in that subject. I can almost guarantee you, that unless you are God’s gift to Socratic education (which you clearly assess yourself to be) you don’t (as a teenager) find all things interesting and relevant and worth learning simply by virtue of their existence. And the novelty of how much literature has been provided for you to spend your time reading and reading about it, does not entice the typical teenager to absorb it all - God’s gifts excepted.

Give me a break, who said anyone needed a showman? I’m contrasting the kind of Ben Stein delivery containing only the pertinent elements to be found on a standardized test (which clearly would have you salivating for more juicy education in your unquenchable thist for learning) but would have me wondering what the fish were biting on at the lake - regardless of the subject. An interested teacher is an effective teacher. Effective teachers convey material better than blaze’ washouts who fell back on a teaching certificate when they partied too hard in college. Effective teachers deserve to be paid factors more than junk teachers.

We agree on everything else about teachers and standardized testing, but I had to address that jab that makes no relevant sense to public education.

Posted by: Yukon Jake at November 21, 2007 2:01 AM
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