Playing Hooky.

We know where they stand on energy, economy, and the war. John McCain’s favorite foods are shrimp and pepperoni and onion pizza, Barack Obama (still) loves “The Wire”, and yes, Hillary Clinton does know how to text message her daughter (thanks for clearing that up, Tyra). From stump speeches to televised debates, however, the candidates’ plans to address the state of the country’s educational system are noticeably absent.

What gives? One explanation is that voters themselves are less concerned with education this time around. In poll after poll, Americans are reporting that the issues most important to them are some combination of the war in Iraq, the economy, terrorism, healthcare, and immigration. No wonder, then, that these same topics are the ones most often broached by the would-be Commanders in Chief.

Education also tends to be difficult to address in sound bites. The requisite responses to questions about the No Child Left Behind Act — sing its praises if you’re a Republican, condemn it as an unfunded mandate if you’re a Democrat, pledge to improve it in either case — are digestible enough. But how to discuss complex issues like merit pay for teachers, school accountability, or widespread systemic reform with an electorate that has little understanding of what these things really mean? Apparently, the answer is: Don’t. Clinton landed the endorsement of the American Federation of Teachers early. The jury’s still out on the National Education Association’s pick, although Clinton and Huckabee received nods from the New Hampshire chapter. Away from these specialty audiences, it seems easier to avoid the topic completely.

Information regarding the candidates’ positions and voting records is out there for those interested in finding it. There’s also at least one nonpartisan truancy officer dedicated to making education more visible in the 2008 election: Ed in 08, sponsored in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, plans to spend some $60 million pushing the issue, pledging in its unveiling “to be a constant presence in and around where the candidates are going to be.” Based on the initiative’s success so far, we’d give it a check minus.

Latest posts by -k- (see all)

  • No Child Left Behind fails even were it a reformed, funded mandate. The problem with it stems directly from its central assumptions — that education mandates work, that teacher performance can be accurately, fairly, objectively assessed, that holding teachers accountable for student achievement will improve either students or achievement.

    Throwing money at any problem only works as far as you can trust the recipient. The government doesn’t trust its recipients.

  • I heard Edwards talk about affordability for college education and financial aid. Of course this was when he was speaking at UCLA.

  • -k-

    eyeingtenure- I don’t know many educators that would disagree with your basic point re: NCLB (although, for me, such a sweeping statement about teacher accountability seems a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater). But again, discussions centering on how flawed and unfair the Act is tend to grossly oversimplify the magnitude of what we’re dealing with and the other options we have for addressing these problems.

    I’m not sure what you were implying with the comment re: money- care to expound?

    cindy- Post-secondary education gets touched on even less often, it seems. Clinton has talked in the abstract about ‘making college affordable’, as has Obama- the latter has also spoken in favor of free college tuition at the state level for any student with B-average (!). What kinds of ideas did Edwards have?

  • if i’m not mistaken, didn’t Edwards want free community college for everyone? I may be confusing him with Obama.

  • Giving people money in a spirit of goodwill is all well and good, but NCLB-style restrictions and qualifications on that money ruins that sense of goodwill.