Obama "just served up a plate of leftovers...that wasn’t very good to begin with"
We all want to know how Obama is doing on education, right? I came across an article at Edweek that discusses the pros and cons:
To be sure, his economic-stimulus package shows he is ready to pump far more money into education than Mr. Bush did. And Mr. Obama says he opposes private school vouchers, a consistent Bush agenda item.
Still, some observers see little difference between the two so far—and aren’t happy at the similarities.
“He is operating almost in a straight line from President Bush,” said Diane Ravitch, an education historian at New York University, who co-writes a blog for edweek.org. She has criticized core elements of Mr. Obama’s K-12 agenda, such as his enthusiasm for the charter sector and what she worries is an overreliance on standardized testing to judge schools and teachers.
“Obama is, in effect, giving George W. Bush a third term in education,” said Ms. Ravitch, who served as an assistant secretary of education under the first President Bush.
To be sure, there are plenty of things for everyone to like--as the article itself says, "The president carefully couched his rhetoric in ways that make it akin to a Rorschach test, with something for almost everyone. "--but what can we make of Obama's actual positions? I lean more toward the "we don't know squat about what will happen" camp because of Obama's ambiguity. The signs I see are not very promising. There are a few things from this article that I found important, regardless.
The first thing is that there are a lot of people who don't know how to react with Obama:
“A lot of liberals and those on the left desperately want to believe that Obama represents a qualitative change, not just in education, but in all kinds of domestic and foreign-policy issues,” Mr. Kohn said. “And even as many of them become slowly disenchanted, the political issue becomes: How hard do we push?”
To push back or not to push back. Besides the tedious 11-D chess players here who stop at nothing to apologize, there are some who welcome the change of Obama and want to wait and see what he'll do even if the signs are not very promising. There are also us racist cynics who have a hard time taking Obama at his word when he says nice things since we've been burned before (e.g. FISA, transparency, etc.). Although it should be obvious, its always worth pointing out that there are those of us in the latter group who want and/or need Obama to succeed as a liberal, and push back hard in the hope that he will govern as a liberal. A lot of disagreements these two groups have (sans the 11-Ders) are about how much to push back.
Another thing of importance I found was this:
She and other union officials say that Mr. Obama’s election brought about a critical change that isn’t about policy or money. It’s a belief—reinforced by the president’s public statements—that teachers and their unions will have a seat at the table in policy discussions.
“He’s going to listen,” said Anne T. Wass, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, an affiliate of the 3.2 million-member National Education Association. “There wasn’t very much trust in President Bush as far as our issues, and very little access.”
The belief part strikes me as lame and part of the mind-fucking we've grown accustomed to. As a very pro-union guy who has worked on both sides of the same union line, I know that many upper level union folk fail to put the priority on what's best for union members. When I see "a seat at the table" and "He's going to listen", I almost always visualize the leadership hobnobbing over wine and cheese with the president. Nothing was more blatant to me than the SEIU launch a huge universal health care initiative in 2008 only to endorse Obama, who brought out the Harry and Louise ads. I want strong unions as a counter to corporate excesses and greed and it ticks me off when unions throw away their time, energy and resources like that. But I won't get into that, it makes me irritable.
The final thing (there are really many issues, but I only chose three this time) is this:
“There was a lot of overlap between Bush I and Clinton, and between Clinton and Bush II,” said Mr. Rotherham, a former aide to President Bill Clinton. “Not surprisingly, there’s going to be a lot of overlap between Bush II and Obama.
“That says less about any of them per se than the direction education reform has been going for well over a decade.”
There are disagreements among people in the field, as the article demonstrates. But notice the part in italics. It should be rewritten as "education reform in the Village". I sat in classes and lectures at a top ed school not too long ago, and there are definitely differences in opinion in the field. But in Washington, one side tends to be winning more than the other side. I'll leave it for others to guess which side I think is winning.
In summary, we need to keep a watchful eye on what Obama is doing about our education policy.