THE SPEECH I AM WAITING FOR
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.”