This year, we have broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. The idea here is simple: instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform -- reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to inner-cities. In the 21st century, one of the best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education. In this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than their potential.The notion of competition, very present in the SOTU, is so very American and Capitalist. Look where it has gotten us, though--financial meltdown due to greed and competition, political gridlock due to greed and competition, RTTT based on greed and competition, and on and on. Some things need not be a competition, like who gets to eat and who gets a roof and who gets medicine and who gets a fully funded school.
In the SOTU last night President Obama made it clear that in order to get an education in America, your school/district/state has to compete. That seems, on its face, to be a negative; it's like competing for food or water--stuff we all need and deserve. Governments exist to provide that stuff for all, not for the "winners."
Then there is the notion that "one of the best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education." I suppose that's pretty hard to argue with unless you realize that it is not necessarily true in our case. Students today, in America at least, are pretty connected and savvy. They don't lack an education, nor do they lack the promise of one; they lack the means and motivation, in large part due to poverty, to get a "proper" one. Obama has it backwards, IMHO.
Poverty keeps many kids from performing well in the public schools America funds so abysmally. Lack of a world-class education is not keeping these kids impoverished or from graduating--racism and poverty are the culprits. And now we have charters sucking all the energy and money, leaving even less for the impoverished.
Impoverished families are focused on their day-to-day survival. Imagine if they did not have to worry about health care. I think a world-class health care system would do more for the kids Obama and Duncan are targeting than a competition to see who can write a better proposal to win desperately needed money for severely underfunded public schools.
We need to fund schools and pay teachers more. About teacher salaries, I have said it before: double the pay and see who shows up. It's not rocket science.