Why I'm not voting for Bush: Education (and Unemployment)

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No Child Left Behind. I just don't like it. That is not to say that I don't think that something needs to be done about our education system. It is to say that NCLB is not it.

(Full disclosure: my wife is a teacher.)

I have yet to talk to a teacher or shool administrator who thinks that NCLB is a good plan. While certain parts are fine, others are blatantly silly. The biggest one: the requirement that all schools must improve every year or lose funding. (note: you can dip for one year, but after that...) The crazy thing about that is that shools that are doing spectacularly well will get penalized. Say that your school is doing all that can be reasonably expected. All the students are performing well and getting great test scores. If they do not show improvement sometime in the next two years, they'll lose their funding. But a school that has no problems and is already doing great isn't going to be able to show improvement--there's nowhere for them to go. As a result, schools that are doing well are deliberately doing badly their first year of testing so that they have room for improvement. They need to do this in order to preserve their funding.

The way that NCLB is run, the standardized test become the most important thing to the schools (because their budget depends on it). As a result, schools are "teaching to the test", which is not to the overall benefit of the students.

Oh, and the Bush Administration calling the NEA a "terrorist organization" because they wouldn't get behind NCLB? Yeah, that didn't really endear me to the program.

Moving on to a related topic: the education program as a jobs program.

When Bush said that during the 3rd debate, I almost screamed at my TV. How disrespectful of the unemployed can you be??!!? Bush was essentially saying that the reason that the unemployed are unemployed is because they are too dumb to get a job. Has Bush not realized that much of our unemployment is due to outsourcing and layoffs? While some of the unemployed are unemployed because they lack education, and while education is a good plan for reducing unemployment over the long term, there is a huge population of unemployed people who are not undereducated. Here in Portland, there are thousands (10,000?) unemployed computer programmers. There are thousands more former computer programmers who are currently underemployed. All of these programmers have bachelors if not masters. They don't need an education program. They need people who are willing to hire them.

(Note: I am not here advocating protectionism. I think that that is bad in the long run. What I am pointing out is Bush's fundamental disrespect and complete lack of understanding of the unemployed.)

2 Comments

Many people are unemployed because they can't find a job they're qualified for. Going back to school will help such people become more easily qualified for jobs that are available because fewer people are qualified enough for them. Not having a degree doesn't equate with being dumb either, but your argument requires such an identity. Your acknowledgement that protectionism isn't going to help is another reason Kerry doesn't reeally seem to be a decent alternative on jobs.

As for terrorism, what the education secretary meant is that the one underlying feature of the various forms of terrorism is present here. I don't agree with him on this, but as he sees it the only thing standing in the way of helping children is a group of Democrats who refuse to help simply because they want a political message sent, one that would make Bush fear trying anything that isn't t heir way of doing it. Since there's a direct victim (the children) in order to get back at Bush, it's got the fundamental characteristic of all terrorism, the double layer of victims.

but your argument requires such an identity

Allow me to correct myself. Exchange "dumb" for "uneducated".

Your acknowledgement that protectionism isn't going to help is another reason Kerry doesn't reeally seem to be a decent alternative on jobs.

Not at all clear that that is the case. Kerry doesn't seem to be a protectionist so much as he wants a level playing field. Thus he wants to get rid of the tax incentives which encourage businesses to outsource. Without these tax incentives, presumably more jobs will be kept at home. This is not protectionism (which is levying a penalty on outsourcing or levying a tax on imports).

Regarding the terrorism remark. I can maybe, just maybe see the SecEd's point. But to characterize the very teachers who teach the children as "a group of Democrats who refuse to help simply because they want a political message sent" and them being "the only thing standing in the way of helping children"...Wow! That's a pretty fundamental disrespect towards a group of people who have devoted their lives to helping children. They aren't a bunch of politicians on the Hill. They're the ones in the trenches and the reason they opposed NCLB is not because they wanted to send a politcal message, consequences to children be damned, but becuase they honestly thought that NCLB would be bad for the children. That hardly makes them terrorists.

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