Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Taking on Education

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009 at 10:32 am
Taking on Education
In the opening of his speech today at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the President met critics head on who complain of too much change, too fast:

Every so often, throughout our history, a generation of Americans bears the responsibility of seeing this country through difficult times and protecting the dream of its founding for posterity. This is a responsibility that has fallen to our generation. Meeting it will require steering our nation’s economy through a crisis unlike any we have seen in our time. In the short-term, that means jumpstarting job creation, re-starting lending, and restoring confidence in our markets and our financial system. But it also means taking steps that not only advance our recovery, but lay the foundation for lasting, shared prosperity.

I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time. They forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad, passed the Homestead Act, and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of Civil War. Likewise, President Roosevelt didn’t have the luxury of choosing between ending a depression and fighting a war. President Kennedy didn’t have the luxury of choosing between civil rights and sending us to the moon. And we don’t have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term.

The President explained why, on education in particular, we cannot afford to wait, noting that even within a few years America will see a different reality: "By 2016, four out of every ten new jobs will require at least some advanced education or training."

The President pledged to end pointless partisan finger-pointing, and to ensure that new investments also came with new reforms. He pointed to deep commitments both in the recovery act and his budget proposal, while also telling the audience that "It is time to start rewarding good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones."

He proposed five pillars of reform:

1) "Investing in early childhood initiatives" like Head Start;

2) "Encouraging better standards and assessments" by focusing on testing itineraries that better fit our kids and the world they live in;

3) "Recruiting, preparing, and rewarding outstanding teachers" by giving incentives for a new generation of teachers and for new levels of excellence from all of our teachers.

4) "Promoting innovation and excellence in America’s schools" by supporting charter schools, reforming the school calendar and the structure of the school day.

5) "Providing every American with a quality higher education--whether it's college or technical training."

And for students themselves, the President had a message for them as well:

Of course, no matter how innovative our schools or how effective our teachers, America cannot succeed unless our students take responsibility for their own education. That means showing up for school on time, paying attention in class, seeking out extra tutoring if it’s needed, and staying out of trouble. And to any student who’s watching, I say this: don’t even think about dropping out of school. As I said a couple of weeks ago, dropping out is quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country, and it is not an option – not anymore. Not when our high school dropout rate has tripled in the past thirty years. Not when high school dropouts earn about half as much as college graduates. And not when Latino students are dropping out faster than just about anyone else. It is time for all of us, no matter what our backgrounds, to come together and solve this epidemic.

1 comment:

  1. Anthony J. Gerst:

    Here is a more radical idea on revamping our system of primary and secondary education. Remember if you please, that not that long ago in America you were required to have a liberal arts degree before moving onto more professional studies at the postgraduate level. Why not create a K-14 public educational system. Change the hours, the curriculum and the duration of the academic year.

    Instead of five eight-hour days go to a five ten-hour a day week, using day five for extra curricular activities, health and life studies including volunteer programs within a community, scheduled one-on-one help for struggling students and sporting events for students keeping up grades. These activities could go a long way in helping to address America’s weight problem. It should be easy enough for an astute reader to see the benefits of such a program, particularly how day five could help create a more civic minded community in America. Bare in mind pre K-1 should advance in time duration so that by grade two students are prepared for the ten-hour days.

    Instead of having a long summer break why not cut this back to six weeks, two, of which would be at the end of December. Maintain two weeks at the beginning of July and have two, one-week intervals mixed in throughout the year, say early spring and early fall. The objective here is to maintain the knowledge obtained by not allowing long intervals between school-years.

    The suggestions above are mild compared to the next one; what, you are shocked? As stated, this writer puts a large amount of emphasis upon the liberal arts for the creation of a civic minded society. So first create a K-10 academic standard based upon our current K-12 curriculum, at this point we should focus our young student’s minds upon the liberal arts. The 11-14 part of a new educational system would be 75 percent liberal arts training and 25 percent math and sciences. For that matter you could arrange this at a 60-40 split and utilize these students in helping with the day five activities. By changing our system to this model we would instill within students going to universities a more well rounded education. By the teaching of liberal arts we endow an individual with the ability for more independent thought and at the same time are preparing them for the higher challenges to come with four-years of concentrated math and science capabilities.