When President Obama once again addresses public school students this week, he will likely hit all the poll-tested phrases (“The future of America depends on you”) and other warmed-over pablum (“There is no excuse for not trying”) which will leave the kids reaching for their contraband ear buds.
At the risk of being too cynical, the speech will only waste class time and provide unionized teachers with an opportunity to tell students why the National Education Association endorsed this great, transformative man.
That’s what I expect will happen when the president speaks to the nation’s youth on Wednesday. That being said, here's the speech Obama should give to students.
“Good morning and thank you. America is being tested as it has rarely been tested before. We're witnessing countries on the brink of default. America's debt has never been higher. Washington is in gridlock - and denial - over the national security threat we face because of our insatiable thirst for spending.
“On top of that, our competitiveness is slipping globally. We rank behind such countries as Iceland and Hungary when it comes to student achievement and that is unacceptable. America shouldn't be second in anything, let alone 24th or 25th. We should demand better of ourselves and not accept anything less.
“Children are being left behind and spending more money won't fix the problem. We've been spending billions each year attempting to alleviate poverty, but recent statistics show poverty rates have never been higher. Nearly one in four children is below the poverty line.
“Education - that is, preparing students for life - is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Government can't do it. Only personal responsibility, hard work and the generosity of our fellow Americans will.
“We also know government schools are not meeting the needs of every student. Kids are falling through the cracks. That is why we as politicians must put the interests of children and parents first. To that end, I am calling on leaders at every level and of every political stripe to embrace parental choice.
“We've had our chance and I have come to the conclusion that it is unfair - and Unamerican - to keep kids trapped in failing schools while the bureaucrats and special interests battle for supremacy. This isn't about us. It isn't about administrators. This isn't about teachers. This is about our students. And we aren't living up to our duty by keeping students trapped in learning environments that are uninspiring, dangerous, dilapidated and worst of all, focused on meeting the needs of the adults.
“So today, I announce an initiative for parents of children trapped in school deemed failing: We will provide the resources for you by way of a voucher to attend the school of your choosing so your child can succeed. It may not cover all costs, but it is a commitment to you so you can meet the needs of your child.
“Additionally, I encourage governors and legislatures to enact policies that allow wealthy Americans to obtain tax deductions for contributing to tuition-providing organizations. Americans are a generous people and we all want to see our fellow Americans succeed. Let's make that a priority by rewarding that generosity.
“The power and success of government is limited. While parents and students must do their part, we must also set forth the goal of having an exceptional teacher at the front of every classroom in America. Studies show ineffective teaching sets students behind for several years, not to mention making that student's future teachers' jobs that much more difficult.
“We need to man up and determine that some people aren't up to the very difficult job of teaching. But we have policies set forth in collective bargaining agreements and state law that shackle the hands of school leaders – not only in their ability to hire and retain exceptional teachers, but to empower and reward those teachers, based on merit. In many parts of America, we pay teachers based on how long they've been there, not based on their positive impact on children. It's demeaning. That's why we should have compensation systems based on performance. Not to punish teachers, but to reward them.
“Public charter schools and private schools overcome obstacles everyday to empower students to achieve. ‘No Excuses’ – that needs to be the motto and attitude of every single public school in America.
“We have charter school students today outperforming their peers in traditional public schools, and the schools can literally be right next to each other. The family and economic conditions are the same. It’s the attitudes and expectations that are different.
“America is slipping because we as adults are not doing our job. I say end the excuses - quit nibbling at the edges. End the patience with bureaucrats who request to keep children trapped in failing schools while they come up with the latest turnaround plan.
“Either we're serious about student achievement or we're not. While I appreciate the fact the federal government is relatively powerless in this situation, we will keep the heat on until every child in America is learning in a school – including home schools – that best meets their needs. Our children deserve nothing less.
“America is the great nation on Earth, but we've let it go to our head. We've adopted the posture of invincibility. It won't last if we allow a bureaucratic underperforming system do us in. Thank you and God Bless America.”