"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dont Fall For the Candidate Debate on Education

Have you ever walked into a Best Buy to get a television but had to go through the computer department to get to the tvs, and while passing through a sales rep comes up to tell you about the latest iMac with all its great features and cross device connectivity, but after a short while another sales rep tugs at your elbow to show you the all the great things HP has added to their line of desktop processors attempting to sway your decision with talk of terabytes of memory and faster than light processing speeds, and then found yourself walking out the door with a brand new computer? Unless you completely lack personal direction, or are someone who is easily swayed by a hard sales pitch, the answer is no. You have a need, a goal and a budget to get a television.  What the sales reps have to say about computers is irrelevant.

The volleying back and forth between the presidential candidates about their vision for education is very much like the two sales reps trying to get your attention for something you didn't want in the first place - federal intervention in education.

The Obama campaign released an ad attacking Romney's position on education as laid out in Ryan's proposed budget. It is quite easy to get sucked into the debate about whether class size is important, or testing, or teacher quality.  Those are all quite useful debates to have, if the goal was to pick one single form of providing a public education. They are both trying to make you think that is what you came in to buy.

While some degree of uniformity is desirable (thank you mattress manufacturers for selecting 4 basic mattress sizes so that bed frame makers and linen manufacturers can reduce the number of different sizes they have to make and focus more on design variety), complete uniformity in education is both undesirable and impossible. Every student is different. Every community is different. A vision for education in America should include as much flexibility as possible, which means local control.

Neither the President, nor his Department of Education, should be deciding American education policy.  Don't get sucked into the debate on the fine points.

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