The Speech I’m Hoping to Hear



Like most political junkies, I’ve been paying close attention to the prolonged campaign for the presidency.  Sadly, except for widespread bashing of the Common Core, no candidate is saying much about education.  Because that’s the issue I have reported on for 41 years, I’m still hoping to hear at least one of the would-be Presidents say something positive about children and education. To advance that hope, I am offering this speech to whichever candidate wishes to adopt its ideas.



“My fellow Americans, I want to say a few words about a topic of vital importance that rarely–if ever–has come up in this campaign for the nomination: Children and their education.


America’s children are part of a President’s constituency.  Because children have civil rights, and because government has a long tradition of helping those most in need, it will be my duty and responsibility to help protect children, especially the disadvantaged and those with special needs.


However, I want to assure you that, if you honor me by electing me to lead this nation, my administration will not try to micro-manage–or even manage–America’s schools.  Those duties and responsibilities belong to local communities and state governments. I think we can agree that the two previous Administrations, only one of which was from my party, conclusively demonstrated that Washington cannot run public education. Although the Republicans’ “No Child Left Behind” and the Democrats’ “Race to the Top” began with good intentions, both ended up damaging children, teachers, and schools.


So that’s my promise to you: the schools are not Washington’s responsibility, and my administration will behave accordingly.


However, I will not be reluctant to use the Presidential ‘bully pulpit’ to speak about our children’s future, because America needs all her children to grow to their fullest potential.  The days when it was acceptable for our schools to sort children into winners and losers–sending some off to college while others were shuffled off to do physical labor–are long gone.


That education system was designed to look at each child and ask, “How intelligent is he/she?”  Or, more bluntly, “What’s he/she good for?” Those days are over, because, quite frankly, we simply don’t have enough children to continue this practice, not if we want a strong economy and a strong democracy.  If we don’t change how we teach all our children, other countries are going to eat our lunch–or eat us for lunch.


What if we were to ask a different question?  What if the adults in charge looked at each child and asked “How are you intelligent?” instead of “How intelligent are you?”  Asked “What about you is good?” instead of “What are you good for?”  The answers would help identify each child’s strengths and interests, allowing adults to create approaches to teaching and learning built on his/her assets–and giving to every child real opportunities to soar.


This is being done with remarkable success in a handful schools. Frankly, it is a worthy goal for all schools, and it’s an achievable goal because, in the hands of skilled teachers, technology allows individualization in ways that no one even dreamed of 50–or even 15–years ago.


Once students have grown and graduated and are applying for jobs, there’s plenty of time to ask the competitive, sorting questions.  Those shouldn’t be avoided, because we all must be judged on what we are capable of doing.  But judgment day should not be in elementary school.


My administration will do all it can to support schools and educators who ask that key question, “How is each child intelligent?”   At every opportunity in this campaign and as your President, I will urge parents to demand that approach, and we will ask the Congress to provide funds to support it.


All our children deserve no less.  Thank you.”


Any takers?



8 thoughts on “The Speech I’m Hoping to Hear

  1. Thank you so much for bringing our attention to this most important issue. It is right and reasonable to expect those seeking office to speak to what should be a top priority in our society~ namely the education of our children. While I believe that state and local decisions should contribute in large part to the establishment of priorities for their schools I also believe that the federal government has a responsibility to assure that all children are provided a free and appropriate education.
    In the past few years states such as Kansas and Arizona have cut funding for education to the bone. There are also pressures in the production of educational products to bend or completely ignore the history they say they are covering.
    I find the prospect of the greater expansion of Charter Schools disturbing as they are very selective as to the children they accept. The Charter School is able to select out children whose learning needs differ from those that the school prefers to have in its classrooms.
    Our country continues to have a funding system for it’s schools based on state and local taxes.
    I feel the federal government must assure, through whatever means it has at it’s disposal, that there is a level playing field between states and local communities to assure that all children are receiving an appropriate education, that school buildings are appropriately maintained and that those who are working daily to provide educational services are receiving a livable wage with benefits.


  2. I would agree with this speech if It was not just about education, meaning what’s happening in schools. In order to grow and thrive the youth needs a 24/7 enriched environmet that is challenging on all aspects of being human. It provides in activitities and conditions like arts, sports, outdoor, babycare, labour, scouting, play, care, a favourable situation at home and good nights of sleep. Inspired by Robert Putnam and words of both the Clintons the motto of my favourite speech would be: it’s the community stupid!


  3. “If we don’t change how we teach all our children, other countries are going to eat our lunch–or eat us for lunch” – I don´t like this statement in the this quite good speech. Because it is working by producing fear – nothing also for to work wih children:)


  4. I am not surprised at the thoughtfulness and yes, comprehensiveness of the content of your speech, John. It attests to your character, intelligence and integrity as a policy maker, reformer and journalist. It is so well stated that I worry that a candidate whose intentions are less than sincere, may plagiarize it and alas, not mean a word of it!


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