August 01, 2007

Guns, Butter, or Semiconductor Engineering Training?

Dr. X posts this from what's left of Progressive New College:

"Just out of curiosity, when did the Democrats quit giving a damn about education? Of course the Republicans don't care - their kids will be fine in their private schools, and their vision of society works best when you have clueless Morlocks tending the machinery. Ask anyone from Guatemala or El Salvador.

"But I remember when Democrats cared a lot about education (once upon a time Republicans did, too, but that was long ago). Nick Begich, for one, made it a centerpiece of his campaigns.

"But today, not so much. In California, a state controlled by the Democrats since 1970, more money will soon be spent on prisons than on schools.

"Hillary Clinton's website lays out the things she cares about: the word 'education' does not appear, nor any specific proposal for improving the public education system that enshrines special interests (both left and right) at the expense of actual knowledge or understanding.

"John Edwards promises to do something about: health care, poverty, rural America, tax reform, tax simplification, working families, predatory mortgages, debt and savings, and food safety. Education? Not so much.

"Well, some candidates care about it, or at least care enough to put it on their websites. Biden wants to make it easier to go to college (I don't mean to be dismissive - actually doing that would be a big, big deal). Obama has some concrete proposals.

"But I think Richardson has the clearest take on it: pay up for good teachers. Why is this so hard? What is wrong with making 'Public School Teacher' a respectable profession again? There are about 3 million school teachers in the U.S. Let's go crazy and pay them all $100,000 a year. OK, I know, that would cost $300 billion - an incredible sum.

"Yes, incredible - almost half of what the Iraq War will cost us from this day forward. And almost 3/4 of what it has already cost us.

"But so what? We're a rich country. We're trying to hold our lead. We can only do that by producing millions of highly skilled workers. And it's impossible to do that without great basic education.

"Seriously... If the Democratic Party can't get its act together on this issue, there won't be much need for future elections. No open society can hope to survive with its educational system in this condition. Social mobility in the U.S. is already poor, and is well behind more advanced societies, such as Canada and the Nordic countries.

"If the Democrats won't fix it, who will?"


Blogger Corresponding Secretary General said...

I haven't yet decided who to vote for, it's so early in the game and the candidates need to put some more meat on the bones before I choose. But for now I'm pulling for Edwards and I think you've given him short shrift.

Edwards rolls up his education ideas in his major anti-poverty initiative and he addresses the problem from several fronts. Like addressing concentrations of poverty through housing assistance, indexing the minimum wage, expanding banking access to the poor and addressing payday and abusive lending. Not terribly exciting stuff, but smart stuff.

He also supports higher pay for teachers and he also proposes more college scholarships for teachers and a mentoring program for new teachers. (After my abortive stint as an 'emergency substitute' fifth grade math teacher, where I was left almost totally alone and never even saw the principal, this seems important.) And, as the auntie of a high-school dropout, I think his 'second chance' high school program (in connection with his support of the Bridge Program ) is, again, pretty smart and seems to show he's dug a bit into the problem.

Here's a chewier take on Edwards platform: link

Like I said above, I'm not yet a true believer, but I think Edwards is talking about the right things in a pretty smart way. What say ye?

August 2, 2007 at 10:20 AM  

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