President Obama speaks about education

President Obama spoke to the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce this morning on the topic of education, vowing to “finally make No Child Left Behind live up to its name.”

In a wide-ranging speech, he called for more time in the classroom, “whether during the summer or through expanded-day programs for children who need it.”

“…we will end what has become a race to the bottom in our schools and instead, spur a race to the top by encouraging better standards and assessments,” he said. “This is an area where we are being outpaced by other nations. It’s not that their kids are any smarter than ours – it’s that they are being smarter about how to educate their kids.”

“They are spending less time teaching things that don’t matter, and more time teaching things that do,” the president continued. “They are preparing their students not only for high school or college, but for a career. We are not. Our curriculum for eighth graders is two full years behind top performing countries. That is a prescription for economic decline. I refuse to accept that America’s children cannot rise to this challenge. They can, they must, and they will meet higher standards in our time.”

President Obama’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery, are linked here.

Little concerns me as much as education. I grew up in a New England factory town, downhill from a pair of coal-burning behemoths that were 2 of the 3 largest employers in town.

The elementary school I attended was what you would expect in the 1940’s: an brick industrial-looking building staffed by underpaid teachers. In 8 years of schooling, passing through almost 600 students, we had 3 dropouts. They also were our only juvenile delinquents.

My parents loved education and what it could bring to us. Not unusual among 1st-generation Americans who lived through the Great Depression and FDR’s New Deal. My mom taught me to read when I was 4 years old.

Why can’t we accomplish this in a society hundreds of times wealthier?

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