Message to the President – Education

Today the White House asked me for my opinion.

Guess what?  I gave it to them.

This is the e-mail that was sent to me:

The state of the American education system today is unacceptable. As many as one quarter of American students don’t finish high school. We’ve fallen to ninth place in the proportion of young people with college degrees. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations.

For the sake of the next generation, and America’s economic future, this has to change.

Providing our nation’s students with a world-class education is a shared responsibility. We can’t out-compete the rest of the world in the 21st century global economy unless we out-educate them. It’s going to take all of us — educators, parents, students, philanthropists, state and local leaders, and the federal government — working together to prepare today’s students for the jobs of the 21st century.

That’s why I want to hear from you. As President Obama’s chief advisor on domestic policy, I focus much of my time on education reform. As part of the White House’s new Advise the Advisor program, I’ve posed a few key questions for parents, teachers and students to answer so we can get a sense of what’s working in your communities — and what needs to change.

Take a minute to let me know what you think

The linked page asks questions of parents, teachers and students.  Here are the questions for parents and students, and my responses on behalf of myself and my children:

Responsibility for our children’s education and future begins in our homes and communities. What are some of the most effective ways you’re taking responsibility at a personal and local level for your child’s education?

This is a leading question that misses the point of public education ENTIRELY. Given the economic pressures on middle- and lower- income families, even parents doing a “perfect” job with the resources available are severely handicapped by real life as experienced by 90% or more of Americans. Without strong support for public education, America’s children will get left behind.

To make matters worse, some 30% of American children live in households hostile to basic science and history, as evidenced by the textbook battles in Texas. Without a commitment to real science and real history that ony public education can provide, our children are more likely to be backward, less successful, and prone to things like teen pregnancy which leads to more poverty and disempowerment.

We cannot continue to cut public education, or undermine it with commitments to continue to throw good money after bad with failed experiments like charter schools and faith-based sex education.

In order to compete for the jobs of the 21st century, America’s students must be prepared with a strong background in reading, math and science along with the critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity needed to succeed in tomorrow’s workforce. How has your education prepared you for a career in the 21st century? What has worked and what challenges do you face?

My children face a $10 Billion cut in already inadequate education spending when the state is holding $9 Billion in reserve for a “rainy day”, as if it weren’t pouring. The state also holds billions more in untaxed wealth that could be used to cover the “shortfall”. These resources the Republicans refuse to tap and Democrats are too complicit to insist be utilized.

My children are doing very well, in the top of their classes, but it is not enough that my kids alone do well simply because they have been blessed with an abundance of ability and parents that can afford to have some time and energy left at the end of the day, to assist with homework and to be involved.  All the students in my children’s school and your children’s schools must be given an opportunity to do well. Until the massive wealth disparity is addressed, the band-aid needed is smaller class sizes so that teachers have the time and attention to give each student the opportunity afforded my children by their family’s circumstances.

Who your parents happen to be should not provide unique advantage to any American.


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