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NCLB Outrages

Last Presidential Debate Includes First Direct Exchanges on Education

Ohanian Comment: So
the candidates were finally forced to talk
about education. And it revealed what we've
known: Neither has a clue. Obama's launch into
the standard corporate line that "[education]
probably has more to do with our economic
future than any" issue, seemed especially
fatuous, wrongheaded, and perhaps deliberately
deceptive, given what's currently happening on
Wall Street, in home mortgages, etc. The unions
have left him off the hook, declaring
themselves "out to lunch" on education
imperatives. When he's president, we'd better
tell him immediately that the honeymoon is

McCain? His platform seems to be Vouchers and
De-Professionalization. A couple of people
commenting on the Chronicle website had
good lines about McCain's advocacy of putting
retired military into classrooms, bypassing
colleges of education:

  • Why the hell even go to college if I can
    be certified to teach by the U. S. military

  • Can you imagine if we told a banker,
    lawyer, physician that all one has to do is
    join the military and he can slide right into
    the profession? How low has our intellectual
    stock dropped if we believe in McCain's idea
    that simply carrying a gun and staying out of
    harm's way will qualify one to be a teacher?

  • by Sara Hebel

    In the last question in the last of three
    presidential debates, John McCain and Barack
    Obama fielded their first, and only, question
    in these forums that focused squarely on
    education policy.

    Near the end of the 90-minute event at Hofstra
    University, the debate’s moderator, Bob
    Schieffer of CBS News, asked the candidates to
    respond to trends that show that the United
    States spends more per capita on education than
    other countries yet trails many nations on
    measures such as students’ abilities to compete
    in mathematics and science. Mr. Schieffer asked
    whether that posed a national-security threat.

    Senator Obama responded first, saying “this
    probably has more to do with our economic
    future than any” issue. He agreed that the
    problems Mr. Schieffer identified do have an
    effect on national security.

    He said the nation’s education problems need to
    be fixed by spending more money and by
    reforming the system. He touted the importance
    of early-childhood education, said the United
    States needed to recruit a new generation of
    teachers, especially in math and science, and
    argued that the government should provide
    teachers with more professional development and
    better pay in exchange for being required to
    meet higher standards.

    The Democrat said the United States needed to
    make college more affordable and help students
    who are taking on high levels of debt.
    Graduating from college with large amounts of
    loans, he said, deters students from pursuing
    some careers. He pitched his plan to provide
    students a tax credit of up to $4,000 for
    tuition in exchange for performing community

    Senator Obama also challenged Senator McCain’s
    commitment to improving college access and
    affordability. The Democrat said one of his
    opponent’s advisers had responded to a question
    about why Mr. McCain didn’t have more-detailed
    higher-education proposals by saying that the
    government can’t give money to every interest
    group that comes along. “I don’t think
    America’s youth are interest groups,” Senator
    Obama said. “They’re our future.”

    Senator McCain didn’t respond directly to that
    charge. In his answer to Mr. Schieffer, the
    Republican called education the “civil-rights
    issue of the 21st century” and said providing
    choice and competition among elementary and
    secondary schools would help improve inequities
    in the quality of education children receive.

    He voiced support for programs like Teach for
    America and Troops to Teachers. He also urged
    changes in the student-loan programs that would
    make sure graduates are given repayment
    schedules they can meet and that would raise
    the maximum amount students can borrow in
    federally supported loans, pegging those
    increases to the rate of inflation.

    Both candidates made passing references to
    college issues and education policy in other
    portions of the debate.

    During a discussion about trade and energy
    policy, Senator McCain touted the need to
    create education and training programs for
    displaced workers at community colleges.

    Senator Obama spoke several times about the
    need for the nation to make sure more people
    can go to college and said the government
    should put more money into education to make
    sure every young person can learn. He noted
    that his running mate, Joseph R. Biden Jr.,
    shares his priority about expanding college
    access. —Sara Hebel

    — Sara Hebel
    Chronicle of Higher Education


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