Obama’s Union-Friendly, Feel-Good Approach to Education

Kyle Olson
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Posted: Mar 30, 2011 12:01 AM

The Obama administration, principally the president and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, are now routinely making public statements which are leading to one conclusion: instead of fixing American education, we should dumb down the standards.

According to the Associated Press, President Obama “is pushing a rewrite of the nation’s education law that would ease some of its rigid measurement tools” and wants “a test that ‘everybody agrees makes sense’ and administer it in less pressure-packed atmospheres, potentially every few years instead of annually.”

The article goes on to say that Obama wants to move away from proficiency goals in math, science and reading, in favor of the ambiguous and amorphous goals of student readiness for college and career.

Obama’s new focus comes on the heels of a New York Times report that 80% of American public schools could be labeled as failing under the standards of No Child Left Behind.

Put another way: the standards under NCLB have revealed that the American public education system is full of cancer. Instead of treating the cancer, Obama wants to change the test, as if ignoring the MRI somehow makes the cancer go away.

So instead of implementing sweeping policies to correct the illness, Obama is suggesting that we just stop testing to pretend it doesn’t exist.

If Obama were serious about curing the disease, one of the best things he could do is to ensure that there is a quality teacher in every classroom in America. Of course, that would mean getting rid teacher tenure and scrapping seniority rules that favor burned-out teachers over ambitious and innovative young teachers.

That means standing up to the teacher unions. For a while, it looked like Obama would get tough with the unions, but not anymore. With a shaky economy and three wars, it looks like Obama’s re-election is in serious jeopardy. He needs all hands on deck – thus the new union-friendly education message.

Obama’s new direction will certainly make the unionized adults happy. They’ve hated NCLB from the get-go.

And the unions will love Obama’s talk about using criteria other than standardized testing in evaluating schools.

He doesn’t get specific, of course, but I bet I can fill in the gaps. If testing is too harsh, perhaps we can judge students and schools based on how hard they try or who can come up with the most heart-wrenching excuse for failure or how big the dog was that ate their homework.

This makes sense in America’s continual slouch toward mediocrity. But hand-holding and effort awards didn’t produce the light bulb or the automobile or the MRI.

Hard work, accountability and the real possibility of failure – those are the things that made America great. Some kids and parents need to receive the cold hard reality that they’re not up to snuff. The Obama administration should not dumb things down so fewer people feel bad.

Because then those same people will complain when the cancer is incurable.