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Different Takes On McCain Vs. Obama

McCain and Obama's Education Policies: Nine Things You need to Know HuffPo
For those who don't follow the education debate closely, there are two main philosophies that currently dominate the field: one is that market competition (choice) among schools gets kids learning more, and one is that more learning means investing more and earlier in kids and better teachers.

Ap_mccain_obama_080731_mnWho's the better education candidate? Capitol Hill Blue

 
Obama's education prescriptions are akin to feeding poison to a dying man. The cure for poisoning is not more poison. The cure for failing schools is not ...

Obama and McCain miss the mark on education LA Times
Although Barack Obama and John McCain try to offer solutions to help America break from conventional thinking on educational policy, both senators are missing key pieces to the puzzle of why our public schools are failing.

Obama's liabilities - race and class Washington Post
They saw mandatory school busing as robbing them of their chance to secure a better education for their children by moving into better school districts.

MCCAIN: YOUR CREW IS FEATHERWEIGHT TAPPED
Despite Republican attempts to paint him as all style and no substance, Zenilman reports that Barack Obama has been releasing many more, and much more specific, policy white papers than McCain.

 

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My political predictions are usually wrong, but I see a "Hedgehog and a Fox dynamic." The Fox knows many things, while the Hedghog knows one thing well, and Republicans usually are better at that. The Huffington Post blogger embodied the liberal stereotype which E.J. Dionne mentioned. That Democratic Fox said that "Numbers don't lie," and then cited New York City as an example of using honest research and numbers to increase student performance! If Obama gets friends like the EEP, he doesn't need enemies.

Yes, Ward Connally was right in explaining the political disaster that was bussing, and racism wasn't the whole story. White working people suspected, often correctly, that "the Harvard's" had contempt for blue collar Whites worried about their children's future. The recent blow up among the elite over Affirmative Action is another example. I support Affirmative Action, but it doesn't have any relevance for the Black poor who rarely make it to competitive universities.

But today's equivilant issue is discipline. When teachers complain about the lack of disciplinary backing, "the Harvards" see that as evidence of the racism of "low expectations." Parents see plenty of organizations that defend the rights of disruptive students. (and those troubled students do need our help and due process rights.) But most parents of all races see an urban school system that allows chronic and extreme disruption. "The Harvards" refuse to acknowledge that situation, thus reinforcing the beliefs of blue collar Whites that the elites do not care about them or their kids.

Republican Hedgehogs address this by attacking the whole system but most parents are just upset by the political correctness, and the damage done to thier children.

Obama is saying the right things to address this issue. For me, he's using the right amount of finesse. To turn education into a winner, though, he must be more blunt. Were the Republican hedgehogs in our shoes, they would know how to make this issue the winner, "Bring Back Safe and Orderly Schools!"

John:

As a parent in an urban district, I see an abundance of schools allowing chronic and extreme disruption. Now, I am far from Harvard (never been there), having been educated in a big ten university (many, many years ago), and having picked up subsequent education in the kinds of places that market their educational wares to the non-elite who must work full-time jobs in order to both eat and go to school. My belief in the "soft-bigotry" comes not from any classroom, but from a gaggle of social workers, philosophers, teachers, lawyers and social scientists with whom I have worked "on the streets" or pretty close to it. I am enough of a knee jerk liberal to hope that W's use of the phrase was accidental or something slipped by him when his handlers weren't looking.

But in my work with all those well educated folks who chose to work alongside the products of the streets where we were located, I developed a powerful belief in the value of expectations--not only for learning, but especially with regard to behavior. Behavior, posed as a problem, is something that can be figured out. Adults, working together, can change, improve, shape, whatever, the behavior of the children within a community for which they accept responsibility. I regard schools as such communities. The very language "lack of disciplinary backing," suggests, if not points clearly to, a lack of community, a lack of responsibility, and a lack of working together. These are not things that teachers unions (if not the individual teachers themselves) have advocated for--quite the opposite. What many want the "disciplinary backing" to do is to "get the problems out of the classroom." I can cruise the blogosphere and in five minutes come up with five ascerbic comments from teachers about what they have to put up with (and why parents are to blame).

Discipline is indeed the top concern of parents. Sadly, many go along with the "get them out of the classroom," ideology, as long as it is not their kid who goes. And the places that kids go--despite the best efforts of lawyers, advocates and others, are frequently hell-holes within the juvenile justice (or mental health) system run by fear and wholly untouched by any concept of education (behavioral or academic). How long (and for how many) can we afford this kind of expensive warehousing that leads to an adult likelihood of more expensive warehousing?

In the end, changes are going to have to come to schools and classrooms if we have any hope of all of being able to educate students in ways that allow us to compete internationally. We will have to relearn the things that Bronfenbrenner taught about the necessity of building ties between the systems in which children spend time (those systems being the family and school). We cannot afford to continue schools that exist as isolated missions with no relationship to the community with which they share geography. Teachers will have to learn how to talk to one another and collaborate across the hallway, and accept that disciplinary backing is not something that comes from the office, but something that they give each other, and BUILD with parents and communities. These are things that I would readily support from a policy and funding perspective. But teachers will have to get on board. I just don't think they are.

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