Forget the Pointy Heads, Bring it to Main Street

As many continue to push (with limited impact) to make education a primary discussion topic for the 2008 presidential races, some education discussion is starting to seep through.  Maybe we’re getting sick of talking about waterboarding and obstructionists in Congress and four-year old votes.  But little by little, we’re starting to get a few interesting nuggets.  And none more interesting that Hillary Clinton and the writeups she received in The Washington Post these past two days.

In this morning’s editions, the Post has Hillary running new campaign commercials calling for the end of No Child Left Behind.  This may be news to Senator Kennedy and his work on NCLB 2.5, but Hillary is now opposed to the law.  Perhaps the rhetoric is the price one pays to win the endorsement of the NEA.  Or perhaps she has heard the high-stakes testing chorus sing one too many verses on the perils of NCLB.  Regardless, Hillary now joins Bill Richardson on the “all our educational ills are due to NCLB” bandwagon.

The more interesting piece, though, was included as part of a massive profile of Hillary appearing in the Sunday Post.  Dana Milbank has a great piece, entitled Teaching the Teachers, that provides a glimpse into how Hillary truly thinks about education.  The article can be found at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/08/AR2007120801442.html.

What it demonstrates is that, in Hillary-land, education is a discussion between policymakers and practitioners only.  It is a talk for the government and for teachers.  And those other stakeholders we know are necessary — the parents, the students, the business community — and all those affected by the end result of our K-12 system,  are really just an after-thought, unimportant to the discussion.

Milbank sums up Hillary’s thinking best — “Let’s hear it for facility preparedness and adequacy! Put your hands together for kinesthetic learning and the de-homogenization of the classroom! Save the in-age cohort!”

Hillary’s talking inside baseball, and she only seems to want to speak to those who are warming up on that field.  Instead of seeing education as a great equalizer, as an issue that touches virtually every citizen, and as a continuous issue with real impact on the economy and the healthcare system and criminal justice and all points in between, she sees it as a theoretical discussion for the practitioners.  And that’s a real shame.

Yes, these issues may indeed be important when discussing education reform with teachers and administrators.  Sure, you need to show teachers you know the issues and you are one of the smartest people in the room when it comes to their concerns and their priorities.  But you can’t lose sight of the larger constituency here.

We all want to hear how you are going to improve our schools, improve the quality of teaching, and boost student achievement.  But instead of presenting a doctoral dissertation on the motivational misgivings of the North American third grade classroom, how about offering some practical solutions on how we, as a community, can do better?  When you were First Lady, it took a village.  When it comes to improving our public schools, it still takes a village.  Relate it to me.  Talk to me.  Show me what I can do to improve the quality of our schools and the instruction they offer.

Clearly, Hillary must have demonstrated this vision when she won the AFT endorsement earlier this year.  Again, now is the time to show it to us.  If you want to kill NCLB, that’s great.  But tell us what you will do instead.  We’ve had enough of the politics and communications of destruction.  The time has come for the rhetoric of solutions.  And if they are real solutions that can work in a school and a class like mine, all the better.

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