Saturday, September 05, 2009

Republicans on Education

The response from the DNC about wild-eyed Republican furor over Obama's education address is pretty funny (via Washington Monthly).

“What this absurd episode shows is that the GOP can in fact come up with new ideas. For example, it’s now clear that the new Republican education platform will argue against personal responsibility, hard work and staying in school.”

Cheeky it may be, but very appropriate for opposing a President who wants to talk to kids directly and encourage them to do well in school. It helps that it would have come from a President who didn't descend from a legacy or a well-heeled family.

Remember when having the President as a messenger of the positive effects of school was a widely accepted notion?

- Murphy

What Student Could Learn From the Education Address

There is certainly one aspect of this tempest in a teapot that students could benefit from, they have cat-bird seats for the decline of modern political discourse.

Now, American politics has always been a rough game. And the insults and accusations have even involved trading charges of adultery (see the war between Jefferson-Hamilton in those esteemed days of the founding fathers).

But the immediacy of modern communications, compounded by the declining standards of the major news networks, has allowed the sideshows of politics to be elevated to acceptable dialogue.

There have always been heated debates over contentious topics. These debates often draw in the fringe, like moth to a flame. It's why meetings about Airline security are interrupted by 9/11-truthers claiming President Bush was part of the CIA conspiracy. It's also why folks who claim the government will off everyone over 65 who gets sick show up at Congressional town hall meetings and work themselves into a froth.

Yet in the past these claims were treated for what they were: baseless accusations that evolve from an overheated imagination. The media would listen and even check out those things that could be checked out, even if it sounded outside the realm of possible ("It's true! The law says everyone will be required to donate one kidney. Everyone!"), and would dismiss the rest (trust me, if you have ever attended public meetings as a member of the media, you will meet no end of people with pamphlets and theories-all as convinced as former Governor Sarah Palin of their correctness).

Now, however, the fact that a charge has been made is reason enough to let it stand in the daylight. Engaging reason and asking for evidence draws accusations of bias-something no mainstream journalist is apparently able to stand up to.

To go even further, to stop providing a forum for those who consistently repeat false statements is apparently even more heinous, verging on black-listing. Just because it is a prominent figure blowing smoke, doesn't obscure the truth any less.

This is not to place blame on journalists entirely. Those with an axe to grind have found the modern media a fine whetstone. They have learned how to game the system and have turned its some of its fine attributes (openness and even-handedness) against itself.

Others have simply built their own Trojan horse and let it lose in the world of journalism. They can then reference their own broadcasts as justification for continuing the spiral. The ultimate in self-reference.

The ultimate in dust-jacket credibility.

If students of today are going to have a shot at having a future in which they can be proud to get involved in public life, they are going to have to learn the value of critical thinking, the skills to educate themselves about an issue, and the confidence to stand behind their ideas.

The current climate of public discourse is currently providing them with a template not for the rebirth of civil society but for its further cheapening.

- Murphy

President's Address Doesn't Pass the Test for Some Missouri School Districts

While I am sympathetic to the concerns of School Board members who don't wish to be drawn into a manufactured controversy, it is somewhat surprising that they aren't embracing an effort by the President of the United States to highlight education.

That said the one concern they seem to share, according to today's Post-Dispatch report, falls under the headline of "does it fit the curriculum." In a the modern public school world, educators have little time to do more than prep their students for the next round of NCLB-required tests and worry whether a small drop in performance will hang a scarlet letter around their otherwise acceptable curriculum.

It makes sense that rather than be drawn into some debate spurned-on by fringe-minded, conspiracy types, they would rather be left to teach their students.

While an address by the President lauding the benefits of education and encouraging kids to stay is school may not count as the standard supplemental materials, I think it certainly falls in-line with any good civics curriculum.

- Murphy