— Bud Norman
The most compelling argument for Mitt Romney’s candidacy is still Barack Obama, but we’re also liking the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s recent comments on education.
Speaking Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to an Hispanic small-business group called the Latino Coalition, Romney said that as president he would expand the capital’s voucher program and use federal funding to bring more school choice everywhere, but otherwise “reduce federal micromanagement” of local schools. He also named the teachers’ unions as the main impediment to education reform, and argued that Obama “has been unable to stand up to union bosses and unwilling to stand up for our kids.”
One paper speculated that the speech was intended to bolster Romney’s standing with Hispanics, while another characterized it as an appeal to women, but we expect the proposals will have a more universal appeal. We’re neither Hispanic nor female, but we’re nonetheless eager to see radical changes occur in the schools.
There are plenty of test scores and statistics proving the sorry state of American education, but just a brief chat with a randomly selected young person will likely provide more vivid proof. We’re frequently astonished to discover what our young acquaintances don’t know, and often even more alarmed to hear what they seem to truly believe they do know. Old folks have always grumbled similar complaints about the youngsters, of course, but they’ve been quite right about it for at least the past several decades, and we currently have no reason to believe that the dumbing-down of America won’t continue.
Fixing the problem will require cultural changes that are largely beyond the power of any president to affect, but allowing good teachers and good schools to succeed while forcing bad teachers and bad schools to go away would bring about a significant improvement. Romney is correct in saying that the teachers’ unions will mightily resist any reforms along those lines, because they’re reliably supportive of even their most incompetent members, and he’s also right about Obama and pretty much any other Democratic candidate assisting them in the effort.
We’d love to credit Romney with political courage for daring to take on the mighty teachers’ unions, but honesty compels us to concede that they were going to fight him furiously in any case. He’s probably also noticed that several governors, including such stalwarts as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and New Jersey’s Chris Christie, have lately taken on the once-invincible lobby and fared rather well. Teachers still enjoy a rather saintly reputation, which we attribute to many years of propaganda by Hollywood and popular fiction, but their unions don’t enjoy the same public affection.
— Bud Norman