We DO Need An Education

The first sentences of Pink Floyd’s inimitable song ‘Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)’ goes “We don’t need no education”…”We don’t need no thought control“. With all due respect to one of the greatest bands of all time, while I certainly agree with the latter, I disagree with the former.

“A world-class education is the single most important factor in determining not just whether our kids can compete for the best jobs but whether America can out-compete countries around the world. America’s business leaders understand that when it comes to education, we need to up our game. That’s why we’re working together to put an outstanding education within reach for every child.”

~President Barack Obama, July 18, 2011

Contrast that statement with this one from Texas dumb arse governor and former GOP Presidential candidate, Rick Perry, during a debate:

“I will tell you: It’s three agencies of government, when I get there, that are gone: Commerce, Education and the… what’s the third one there? Let’s see. OK. So Commerce, Education and the… The third agency of government I would…I would do away with the Education, the … Commerce… and…let’s see….I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”

Thankfully, Mr. Perry is no longer a candidate for the highest office in the land — but his incessant babbling utterances delivered during that debate don’t stray too far from the GOP platform: get the federal government out of education and place that responsibility solely in the hands of state government and parents.

I present no flip answers to what is an important issue but I do have a question: If education is considered to be, as many on both sides of the aisle have suggested, an important issue in the areas of both civil rights and national security then why, after a seemingly endless number of GOP debates, hasn’t education been closer to the forefront of the discussions? If we’re going to be serious about the future of this nation then shouldn’t we be more concerned about investing in education? Isn’t a nation’s progress bound to its investment in education?

In terms of the candidates’ respective backgrounds, to his credit, Newt Gingrich has said since he began his revisionist teaching career that of all the domestic issues, the quality of education is among the top most important policy problems. Mitt Romney has been a supporter of former President Bush’s No Child Left Behind program but says accountability measures are needed and “some improvements need to be made to the law”. So much for specifics. Rick Santorum doesn’t seem to care as long as creationism and an anti-homosexual agenda is in the curriculum and Ron Paul’s view of anything having to do with the federal government tends to be ‘get rid of it’.

It would make sense to eliminate any entity that isn’t doing the job that it was intended to do; waste is inefficient. But can this be said of the Department of Education? We know there’s no such thing as an organisation that has no points of inefficiency and ineffectiveness but is complete elimination warranted?

What evidence do we have that turning the responsibility of education over to the states and the control of parents — with no real oversight — would be a good thing? For many of us, the very thought of state control is cringe-worthy. Why? Because we’ve seen that some states (such as South Carolina) made changes only made when forced to by the federal government — and the updates to their system took place so that they wouldn’t lose funding.

How about Texas?  They’re a perfect illustration of how the issue isn’t solely about children being taught; it is also about what they are taught and by whom. The Texas School Board has too much power; they, through sheer purchasing power, set the standards in terms of what many publishers are ‘allowed’ to put into textbooks. It’s interesting to hear their rationale for re-writing history…*sigh*…adding more religion and removing words like ‘slavery’ don’t actually change history, you know — but some real book learnin’ would have taught them that.

Maybe it’s time we get serious about looking at how education is funded; state and local governments fund education through property taxes so economically disadvantaged areas often lack much needed resources. No matter what the root of the problem is, we won’t solve it if we’re spending time debating about which candidate has truly earned his conservative bona fides. Just as with education, we need candidates who meet quality requirements.