Candidates on Education

March 3, 2008

by Tammy Drennan

There’s nothing too surprising about what the top three presidential candidates promise on the education front, but I suppose we should pay a little attention.

They all think they can do what they can’t. They all think the government can do what it can’t – and shouldn’t. But here’s a breakdown, starting with Barak Obama, because his web site came up fastest on my dial-up connection.

Please excuse the slightly sarcastic edge in my voice, but it all gets a little wearisome sometimes.

Barak Obama

Senator Obama’s plan is possibly the most aggressive. He’d like to see the state take over children from birth. Here’s what his site says:

Zero to Five Plan: Obama’s comprehensive “Zero to Five” plan will provide critical support to young children and their parents. Unlike other early childhood education plans, Obama’s plan places key emphasis at early care and education for infants, which is essential for children to be ready to enter kindergarten. Obama will create Early Learning Challenge Grants to promote state “zero to five” efforts and help states move toward voluntary, universal pre-school.

Apparently, since the state has done such a good job of educating and rearing children to this point, Mr. Obama feels it’s time to get the little ones running around (and wiggling in their cradles) outside its grasping clutch. I’d wax even more sarcastic, but the thought of tiny babies lined up in state cribs just about breaks my heart – aren’t there enough of them already? If you’re a parent and reading this, please don’t ever give your baby to the state.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton has ideas similar to Mr. Obama’s, but she wants the state to come into our homes. We already know from Sen. Clinton’s Village book that the village that should be helping rear children is the government.

Here’s a bit from Mrs. Clinton’s web site:

Hillary knows that parents are our children’s first teachers, and the early years have a tremendous impact on their lives. That is why she will invest heavily in proven strategies to get all children ready for school, including:

  • Nurse home visitation programs to help new parents develop parenting skills.
  • Quality child care and Head Start.
  • Pre-kindergarten for all four-year olds.

Parents, if you need help, turn to people who can be trusted and who love your babies. That wouldn’t be the state.

John McCain

John McCain’s “improve education” bit is smooth – really, one of the best-worded arguments for vouchers/choice that I’ve seen, rhetorically, anyway.

Here’s a little excerpt:

John McCain will fight for the ability of all students to have access to all schools of demonstrated excellence, including their own homes.

All schools of demonstrated excellence. Hmm. 

I can tell you what a school of excellence is, because almost all the schools in my area have won that distinction. I know, because there are signs all over the streets letting citizens know. It’s true that the graduates of these schools are only semi-literate. Can you imagine their condition if they went to a school of non-excellence? The federal government’s definition of excellence would surely be no better than any state’s.

But there’s one more problem. Even home schools would, apparently, qualify for funds under Sen. McCain – assuming they met those high government standards, those standards that money would make the norm.

Mr. McCain’s program would, in many ways, be worse than Obama’s or Hillary’s. At least under their programs no one is bribing private and home schools to fashion themselves after state schools.

All rhetoric aside, all promises aside, it should be apparent by now that the answer to excellence in education is the motivation and innovation that comes from totally free people exercising their liberty and their responsibilities.

The sad levels of family dysfunction in our society have been instigated and exacerbated by the state long enough. Public schooling is, of course, just one of the problems; the state works hard to undermine families in other ways, too.

Since the state has no intention of getting out of schooling and family life, it is up to families and the people who believe in family to extricate society from the state. There is plenty of work for everyone who cares, but the work must be done without coercion.

It’s a big job – much too big and too important to leave to the state and its entanglements with political and special interests and its deceitful and empty promises.

It’s our job, not Uncle Sam’s. They’re our children, not Uncle Sam’s. It’s our society, not Uncle Sam’s. The only way we’re going to get the job back, though, is to wrestle Uncle Sam and all his handlers for it. But remember – Freedom is a Big Muscle.