"It's important to work hard, pay attention in school and complete assignments." - President Barack Obama in his revolutionary and controversial education speech today to US students.
Can we all now please laugh at the birthers, the deathers, the tea baggers, Glenn Beck's 912ers and the doom-sayers once and for all and please move on? Yes, we ducked several bullets on Election Day and elected an unpatriotic, Muslim, Kenyan, terrorist fist-jabbing Socialist Nazi black separatist cigarette smoker as our President but the important thing to remember is that, against all odds, we did duck them. Wingnuts have been dreading the President's message to our nation's students, saying that he's getting too involved in education (despite George H W Bush, the so-called "Education President", making a similar speech back in 1991).
On his motorcade on the way to Arlington, Virginia's Wakefield High School, self-styled conservatives were holding up placards reading, "Mr. President, stay away from our kids" as if he was a pedophile.
We all know that conservatives pride themselves on their ignorance as Obama famously said during his presidential campaign. We all know they think government is the problem and not the answer to our problems and that presidents, especially if they're Democrats, ought to stop meddling in the public school system that they not so secretly loathe. And, far from being controversial, the President's message was noteworthy in what it didn't actually say. It was a parade of commonsense platitudes that any conscientious but unimaginative parent would, could and should give their own kids from time to time.
But the public school system is still where most of our students have to go to get an education. And the choice for Wakefield High School hosting the President's Dutch Uncle speech on the importance of working hard to get a good education wasn't a random one. Nearly 40% of Wakefield seniors who take the Advanced Placement test pass, which is more than twice the national average. As Jay Mathews of the Washington Post put it,
For many years Wakefield was the poor stepchild of the Arlington system. It was located in the southernmost part of the county where low income people lived. Half of the students were poor enough to qualify for federal lunch subsidies and most of them were black or Hispanic. Nobody expected much of a school like that, until two very talented and determined educators, Marie Shiels Djouadi and Doris Jackson, took over.
Then they brought in Advanced Placement courses into the curriculum along with AP teachers who knew how to administer and grade the tests and the result was one of the most astounding turnarounds in education in recent years.
But none of this amounts to anything to anybody who believes that the federal government will foul everything up like Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, OSHA, the Nixon-created EPA, to name but a few examples, programs and organizations that were put in place to make all our lives healthier and safer.
We need to stop listening to these Chicken Little Prognosticators who don't even bother getting the facts straight or to read or to wait, watch and learn as our children have to before Rushing to judgment.