Last week, I assumed the role of speechwriter and offered suggested remarks for either or both of the presidential nominees to use for their nomination acceptance speech. I also suggested that the parties not politicize or debate about the education challenges we face, but rather, they agree to sit down together for a one-on-one meeting and construct the beginnings of a joint education policy approach that both would support irrespective of the November election results. This collaborative approach would reinforce the sense of urgency associated with the K-12 education crisis in our country, but also make the education of our young the national imperative it should be, just as President Kennedy's call for us to put a man on the moon reignited national pride and placed a priority on our space program.
I received a variety of responses to the blog, including one from a reader from Tennessee who suggested that I move my proposal to the sit down between the candidates and provide a glimpse as to the key concepts they would discuss and explain how we can build a constructive bipartisan discussion on education in America. Here is how I believe such a meeting should proceed.
First, it is important that President Obama and Governor Romney agree that the education of American schoolchildren is vital to our nation's future and as such should be considered the primary national imperative for the next decade.
Second, the candidates need to develop a framework for discussing the role of the federal government as we promote this new national imperative. And this discussion needs to extend beyond whether we have a Department of Education. These candidates should talk about ways to use the office of the presidency to instill a renewed national pride around learning. And set a goal that the United States will be on par with countries leading in education around the world.
Finally, the candidates should discuss a mechanism to drill down in the major K-12 education issues such as common core standards, teacher effectiveness and accountability, parental choice, early childhood education, innovation in the classroom and how to best motivate states, who ultimately will have to drive the reform efforts. Here, they can decide on how to create the appropriate bipartisan working groups to address some of these issues along with the scope and a timeline for follow up.
The overriding theme of this summit, however, must center on a greater sense of urgency and focus than we have seen thus far in education reform, buttressed by the candidate's commitment to take the politics out of the discussion. After all, both nominees share the sentiment that our public education system is broken and positive reforms must be implemented if we are to adequately prepare our kids for future success. I would urge President Obama and Governor Romney to determine collaborative ways to advocate for and enact policies and approaches that truly put kids first; approaches inclusive of placing an effective teacher in front of each and every child, providing innovation in the classroom so that our kids will be globally competitive, and ensuring that all children, despite his or her race, background or income level, receive a top notch education.
And for inspiration, our nominees need only refer back to their predecessor JFK's powerful words so long ago: "We choose to go to the moon in and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." Just as our first moonwalk astronaut Neil Armstrong had the courage to venture into the unknown for the sake of future generations, so must our presidential candidates commit to take bold steps to turn the dream of a world class school system into a reality.
After all, President Obama and Governor Romney must be mindful that, at the end of the day, their constituents don't care about partisan politics, adult interests or personal agendas. They want their kids prepared to shoot for the moon even if they land upon the stars.
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