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With your feet in the air, and your head on the ground . . .


{Friday, November 21, 2003}

I've had a bit of email back 'n forth with Pauly, Jess' friend working on the Edwards campaign.

This is somewhat over-the-top, but . . . you know, whatever, it's the political arena we're talking about here.


Yes, lots of nitty gritty, and that's fine . . . I've read through what presented in the education of the edwards2004 website, as well. I just don't think the details are especially important, because I don't think the big picture is substantively different from the standard democratic party line, which I think I can state in six words:

More Teachers
Smaller Classrooms
Greater Equality

There is, aside from this, the issue of "standards" . . . which I think is essentially an unimportant distraction, though it's tied in with the Republican Party Line, which I'll get to in a sec.

I'll grant that Edwards departs from this in what I would call small ways: linking colleges with underperforming high-schools, for instance (a nice idea), & promoting more after-school programs (great, but not directly relevant to education, really). But I'm unimpressed.

Democratic & Republican big-picture stances on education policy are boringly reflective of general ideology; Democrats appeal to voters' faith that big-hearted teachers & parents, given just a little more money, can work together to make a better world; Republicans appeal to voters' faith in markets' ability to promote innovation. Dems think equality in funding is a Big Deal, Republicans think freedom is (see vouchers.) The standards issue (to come back to it) I see simply as a way for Republicans to put some steam into the free market engine.

I think this is a clear case where everyone sees a problem, but no one has any good or innovative ideas on how to fix it, so they dig into the ideology box and put something together.

It is as if ignorance were a disease, like cancer, but instead of putting any money into researching treatments, the democrats were saying "let's put more money into hospice care for the dying, and make sure even poor people have access to clean beds & pain killers", while the republicans were saying "let's leave this to the markets; people who provide lousy hospice care will go out of business, and the people who care the most will prosper, bringing better hospice care and more comfortable final days to everyone."

Now, this seems ridiculous on the surface of things, because we all know there are things you can do to treat & cure diseases LIKE cancer, so even if we don't know how to cure a given kind of cancer, we believe it to be possible, and we believe the way to go about doing it is to invest in research into different therapies; education, on the other hand, is a simple thing (they're just kids! it's stuff we all know, that they're being taught!), we know how it's done, we're just not doing it right, for some reason - probably due to lack of money.

I don't believe the second half of that paragraph. I think it's dead wrong. Education is not a simple thing, and even small, wealthy, private schools do a fundamentally lousy job with it.

Now, I could launch into the details of what I believe are structural and methodological changes that might have a real effect on "educational productivity", but I think that would be beside the point. In a big picture political sense, what's important is innovation; Democrats have let Republicans grab this as an issue and attach it to vouchers, but the two are not necessarily related. If I'm anywhere in the political spectrum on education, I'm crossed over to the Republican side, because at least with a free-market ideology, vouchers, & charter schools, there's the random chance someone will actually come up with something innovative in the right direction, that works - even if by and large the push is towards "better hospice care". In general, though, investment in technology & innovation isn't a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, and it doesn't have to be in this domain. I'm NOT talking about investing in putting computers in classrooms (possibly not a bad idea, but tangential.) I'm not talking about improving federal support for teacher education (though this is a step in the right direction.) I'm talking about support for both basic & applied research, in cognitive development and on the effectiveness of different educational approaches, both methodological and structural.

I'm serious! :-)

I've never heard a politician say anything like this, though, and I don't suppose I have any great expectation that I'll hear it soon. But is it a fundamentally untenable platform, politically? I don't think so, but politics isn't my field.

Thanks for your attentive ear; sorry if I'm not giving you useable feedback on policy specifics. But if your man wants something truly fresh and original, a distinctive platform that will signal "leader!", then hook 'im up with my plan. :-p

- Miles

On Wednesday, November 19, 2003, at 02:12 PM, Pauly Rodney wrote:

Miles, FYI here are the broad stroke outlines for the education policy. Lot of nitty gritty of course, but let me know what you think makes sense and doesn't. Part of the question and answer process is refining our goals, refining our statements, and (we hope this never happens), admitting that something may need to be approached in a different way.


-----Original Message-----
From: Jeremy Van Ess
Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2003 12:55 PM
To: Jeremy Van Ess
Subject: Edwards Brings High School Renewal Plan to Detroit

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Jennifer Palmieri
(919) 788-7477


DETROIT, MI: John Edwards Wednesday met with students and teachers at Western International High School in Detroit.

Edwards outlined his agenda to renew America's high schools, including steps to provide an excellent teacher for every child, break up large schools, ensure that every student begins high school with a challenging curriculum, and partner colleges with struggling high schools.

"This is American Education Week, a time to remember all the hard work our country's
educators do and a time to remember how much work we still have left to do so that all children can make the most of their God-given talents," Edwards said.

Edwards said that President Bush's implementation of the federal No Child Left Behind law has done very little to improve education for the 1.7 million children in Michigan's public schools. Last year over a third of Michigan's schools were considered failing under the Act , the most schools of any state in the nation.

"President Bush talks about leaving no child left behind, but his education policies have left millions of children behind," Edwards said. And no state has been hit harder by his failure to live up to his promises than Michigan."

Edwards Wednesday focused on high schools because, compared to students in other nations, American students often excel when they are in lower grades and then fall behind in high school.

" We need to makes sure all American teenagers go to high schools where the adults know their names, where expectations are high and classes are challenging, and where teachers have the resources and support they need to succeed," he said.

Edwards Wednesday outlined a series of measures to improve Michigan's high schools:

· Excellent Teachers for Every Child. Edwards will double funding for teacher development and create college scholarships to attract teachers into the weakest schools.

· Smaller High Schools. Research shows that small schools can help raise achievement and graduation rates and, in fact, most successful high-poverty schools have fewer than 600 students. Along lines recently proposed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Edwards will support smaller schools by supporting new efforts to build new schools, break up existing schools, and reopen old ones.

· Challenging Academics. For high school graduates who go on to college, the rigor of their high school coursework is the number-one factor in determining whether they succeed. Edwards will ask states participating in his College for Everyone program (which will pay tuition for students willing to work part-time) to instill in every child the expectation that they will master the core subjects of the college preparatory curriculum.

· Expand College Outreach and Ask Every University to Adopt a School. Edwards believes that every college and university should adopt at least one high-poverty school and help it improve. He will expand funding for college outreach programs that offer extra tutoring, guidance, and scholarships to low-income students. These policies will give more than a million students in high-poverty schools a real shot at a brighter future.

"Where I come from, education has meant everything," said Edwards. "This plan will make sure our students get the quality education they deserve."

A product of public schools and the first in his family to go to college, Edwards has laid out the most comprehensive plan to improve education in the country.

Last month, the South Carolina Education Association recommended Edwards for president. "Public education clearly has a friend in Sen. John Edwards," SCEA President Jan McCarthy said at the time. "Our members saw his passion and commitment to education."

Wednesday's trip was Edwards' sixth to Michigan this year.


Paid for by Edwards for President, Inc. Contributions to Edwards for President are not tax-deductible for federal income tax purposes.

posted by Miles 8:32 AM

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