It was largely forgotten amongst the sturm and drang of the economy, but President Obama made an important speech about education policy this week.
While every president in recent memory loudly proclaims his desire to be “the education President,” very little usually changes. The Democrats are the tools of the diabolical teachers’ unions, and the Republicans are too busy trying to take away gay rights to actually push for real reforms.
Nonetheless, take a gander of some of the things that Obama had to say:
- Merit pay for good teachers
- Making it easier to get rid of bad teachers
- No state limits on charter schools
- Extending the school day and school year to better match Asian countries
All of these are sensible reforms that pretty much all the experts (who aren’t union members) can agree on, but what’s so shocking is that a Democrat is saying them. All he’d have to do is plump for school vouchers, and he’d be practically indistinguishable from his old buddies at the University of Chicago.
Even more shocking, the teacher’s unions didn’t immediately call for Obama’s impeachment:
“We finally have an education president,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers. “We really embrace the fact that he’s talked about both shared responsibility and making sure there is a voice for teachers, something that was totally lacking in the last eight years.”
Which brings us to the title of this post. Nixon famously said that only he, with his long-standing anti-Communist credentials, could have re-opened relations with the People’s Republic of China.
(Of course, Stephen Ambrose has quipped, “That’s because anyone else who tried to do it would have been accused of being a Communist sympathizer by Dick Nixon.”)
Perhaps the same is true of educational reform. Perhaps only a Democrat could push through merit pay and lengthening the school year, because any Republican who tried would be torn apart by attack ads.
My fervent hope is that Obama is actually serious about these reforms, and that the reaction of union leaders is the result of an actual desire for change, rather than because they’ve already received indications that Obama’s words are a smokescreen, and that things will remain business as usual.
Mr. President, it’s your move.