President Biden has accomplished much in his first 100 days. He’s a caring President when this is especially needed. There’s much to like about the President’s ideas and, here, for education, but his speech did not highlight some major concerns. He talked strongly about democracy, but he missed the chance to make important points about democratic public schools and teachers.
Here is the transcript of the President’s speech.
Why are clarity and consistency about schools so important?
The President once told educators and parents that he would end high-stakes testing, teaching to the test. However, earlier this year, the Biden administration said states must still test even after a year of disruption due to the pandemic.
Also, preschool is important, but in his speech, President Biden emphasized competition and the workforce. Most teachers and parents dislike connecting the economy, the workforce to children, especially using preschool.
This is the same old talk of previous Presidents, pandering to business. It doesn’t solve the nitty-gritty problems facing schools and teachers, difficulties that need to be fixed if we really want America’s students to thrive.
School Buildings In America v. Other Countries
The President’s written plan includes $100 billion for fixing schools. Still, aside from mentioning lead pipes, a critical and worthy concern for which he should be commended, he said nothing about the poor condition of school buildings.
Since the President didn’t mention school buildings in his speech, are they really a priority?
If public schools are to compete, Americans should look at school buildings in other countries. Here are two.
In Japan, they have fully equipped schools with art and even home economics. They have sliding glass doors to the outside. They have arts and crafts rooms and good school libraries.
In America, you can find some nice school buildings in the suburbs. But if we want to brag about democracy, shouldn’t all neighborhoods have great school buildings too?
Many schools are in terrible condition. Some have no libraries and no librarians! Who would call that democratic?
Schools in the 21st Century?
President Biden seems fine with using high-stakes testing to determine how public schools progress. But he ignores charter schools and vouchers, a threat to democratic public schools.
Talk about unfair competition. The public seems to have no control over a public school takeover. Charters are not schools run by the public, but they use and often misuse public funds, sometimes involving massive fraud.
Many states are signing on to vouchers. Who’s addressing this? Who’s holding these schools accountable for when they fail?
Changing What Schools Do
The President promoted technology and AI. Technology is important, but if students are ready for the 21st Century, they will still need to understand the subjects they’ve always needed.
Nothing will replace learning about science, mathematics, English, social studies, the arts, civics, history, languages, and more.
Technology provides supplemental help for instruction, but it is not the be-all as we found with the pandemic.
It’s good to make sure children connect to the Internet and schools stay up-to-date with technology, but there are other problems.
What about Teachers?
I wish the President would have come out swinging about the need for quality teachers and great university programs, how they’re the key to a great educational system.
I wish he would have thanked teachers for all they did during the pandemic since many Americans blamed them for school closures due to Covid-19.
The President’s written plan involves teachers. There’s talk about teacher preparation, diversity, even credentialling.
But in his speech, he only mentioned teachers once, noting that they’re being vaccinated.
What will schools look like in the future without quality teachers? This is a serious issue.
In Indiana, they passed a bill that will permit anyone with a bachelor’s degree and online courses to get fast-track certification to teach. Where’s the proof that this will make good teachers or make America competitive with other nations?
Who’s Advising the President on Education?
President Biden said:
I would like to meet with those who have ideas that are different, that they think are better. I welcome those ideas. But the rest of the world is not waiting for us. I just want to be clear, from my perspective, doing nothing is not an option. Look, we can’t be so busy competing with one another that we forget the competition that we have with the rest of the world to win the 21st century.
If he were listening to teachers and parents, he would not have required high-stakes standardized testing this year after Covid-19.
The President’s speech left much out, but if he cares about democracy, he needs to listen to the voices of parents, teachers, and students and be more clear and consistent about his plans for democratic public schools.