Today! GOP Candidates Talk Education

What does it mean to be conservative about education? What ed policy will get voters excited? Today at 8:50 (Eastern Time, USA), you can watch live as a handful of Republican presidential candidates talk education.

The discussion will be hosted by The Seventy-Four. It will include Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, and Scott Walker.

Who is the conservative choice?

Who is the conservative choice?

As Carolyn Phenicie points out, these six candidates have very different interpretations of good ed policy. Jeb Bush supports the Common Core standards; Bobby Jindal has sued the federal government over them. There are some common themes that unite them. All of the candidates, for example, support greater privatization of public schooling. All of them would like to water down the power of teachers’ unions.

As I argued in my recent book, it has never been simple to define what it has meant to be “conservative” about education. It has never been easy for conservative politicians to figure out how to mobilize voters about schools. (If you don’t have time for the whole book, you can get a taste of the argument in this Time op-ed.)

In the early twentieth century, for example, most self-styled conservatives had absolutely no problem with an increased federal role in education. Back then, conservatives hoped the federal government could use its influence to make public schools more traditional, more Protestant.

What points will this year’s candidates make? They will likely emphasize their loathing for federal dictation of local school policy. They will likely point to their credentials as education leaders. Yet none of them will be likely to argue that as president they will not implement any education policy. None of them will make the point that federal officials should not have education policies.

As it has been for the last fifty years, conservative politicians these days are in the tricky position of insisting on a leadership position in education, even though they also insist that education should be in the hands of state and local officials.

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3 Comments

  1. Spot on! Leaving education solely to the states creates 50 different standards. You will get a decent education depending on where you live. The Federal Government has a vested interest in making certain that standards are the same across all 50 states. We are way behind the world in education, which impacts our future ability to have a robust economy in a global environment. How far we have dropped from the days when people with protractors put men on the moon. We are in danger of losing valuable intelligence, and I am all for the Common Core.

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  2. “Conservative education” seems very easy to define: union busting and local control with content designed to deny there has ever been a substantially uneven field of opportunity for people in the US (at least in recent times). Also a general refusal to teach science, history, literature, and critical approaches to each that seem to undermine pre-modern, religious and political baggage from the 18th century. We are a country of Adamses and Madisons with a small minority of Jeffersons and Franklins.

    Standards can help but they’re overrated. Certainly not a savior for American education. The gutting of English literacy and foreign language education (plus failure to learn from successful immersion and bilingual models) will soon explode as a major competitive disadvantage for the US. Common core doesn’t touch any of this. It’s locked in the 3 R’s–readin’, ritin’ an’ ‘rithmetic–while other countries have long taught secondary education at a level that shames a lot of our colleges. Given the bigotry and myopia of our know-nothing culture, this is unlikely to change. A catastrophic educational failure is as overdetermined as the sewage we call popular culture.

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  1. Why Didn’t They Talk about Schools? | I Love You but You're Going to Hell

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