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.