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Election 2012: Charting a Path for the Future of Education

by Justin Marquis Ph.D.

At 11:13PM ET on November 6, 2012, NBC News called the State of Ohio for President Barack Obama, and this contentious election finally ended without major change in leadership of the country. That does not mean that there are not serious consequences for the future of education in America as a result of Tuesday’s election.

There was a lot at stake during the election of 2012. By the end of the campaign, one of the most important concerns, education, had taken a back seat to more immediate issues like the economy, Benghazi, and the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. While these latter events are all important and meaningful in both the short and long term, education is by far the most important, even though it has been largely overlooked as an issue despite efforts such as Don’t Forget Ed!

The next four years of an Obama Presidency should be a time for strengthening our education system if we are going to make real, lasting progress as a country. Here is a look at what a second term for President Obama could ideally mean for our educational system.

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Major Changes are Needed
The magnitude of the Obama victory in this election would seem to speak to a mandate for the country to pull together to support ALL of its citizens, not just 1% or 53%. This election indicates that a majority of Americans want to work together as equals to make a better future in which everyone has equal opportunity to be successful without waiting for good fortune to dribble down to them. Changing the education system is the ideal place to start with this major societal change. Here are several issues that need to be addressed:

 

  • Funding, Funding, Funding: The most common argument against increased funding for education is that it is naïve to simply throw money at this problem. No one ever suggested wanton flinging of currency, but rather a systematic investment in one of our greatest resources. In order to be competitive in a hyper-connected global economy, we must provide all of our students with every opportunity and advantage possible to ensure that they can compete with the "glut of genius" available in China, India, and Brazil.
  • Make Every School Great: In Getting a "3rd World" Education Right Here at Home?(May 31, 2012) I wrote that educational inequality was the great Civil Rights issue of our time. We currently have a system in which some schools are great, and others are allowed to fall apart and fail. There is no excuse for that situation. Allowing students to voucher their way to better schools is not the answer, there simply is not enough room to accommodate all who would need to relocate. Rather, ensuring that every school is an excellent school alleviates the need for vouchers, curbs urban flight, and provides every student with an opportunity to succeed. The President has the authority, and now the mandate to increase funding for education to a level that will ensure that all of our schools are great.
  • Elevate Teachers to True Professional Status: Other countries that are experiencing academic success treat their educators like professionals on par with doctors, lawyers, and business-persons, yet we still treat our teachers with disdain. The attitude exists that teachers do not know their trade as well as politicians or other non-educators. We need to realize that they are the experts in their field, and President Obama needs to take the lead in deferring to them on all issues related to the education system and student achievement.
  • Dump Standardization: We increasingly live in a non-standardized world. Technology makes individualized education a real possibility and one of the last opportunities for American economic advancement is in our ability to innovate. While it is convenient for schools to operate on a standard core curriculum, it is not necessary and inhibits both teachers’ individual creativity and our societal ability to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Standardization, by its very nature, restricts the progress we desperately need. The President should take steps to reduce the reliance on standardized measures of student success and lead a movement to release teachers from artificial measure of accountability. Opening up education to embrace a wider array of possibilities ensures that the future will be one in which we lead the way in innovative and entrepreneurial thinking.
  • Live on the Cutting Edge: Finally, President Obama needs to push a technology and science focus for education that will help to ensure that our students not only have the skills and knowledge needed to participate in the 21st Century, but that they have the ability to define the 21st Century. A deep and meaningful integration of the latest technologies for learning, collaboration, and creation as the core of education should be one of the first steps to updating and strengthening the American education system.

Now is the time to take serious action towards securing the future of America and moving the country forward in ways that will embrace the diverse nature of our citizens. One of the themes of the President’s victory speech was our responsibility to one another as a unified country. He now needs to back up his words and start the process of rebuilding this country by making our societal responsibility to educate all of our citizens a top national priority.