Academic journal article Education Next

The Next President Had Many School Choices; Will He Provide Similar Opportunities for Others?

Academic journal article Education Next

The Next President Had Many School Choices; Will He Provide Similar Opportunities for Others?

Article excerpt

Not since Abraham Lincoln have we had a president with as unusual an early education as the one experienced by the man who will take office on January 20, 2009. John McCain and Barack Obama each had considerably more formal schooling than "Honest Abe," who spent only a few months in a one-room schoolhouse in his childhood. But the oddities of their educational experiences exceed even those of Teddy Roosevelt, the only other contender for this honor. (Though home schoolers may claim TR as their own, he was actually tutored by paid professionals.)

McCain apparently attended some 20 schools, including military base schools, public schools, and the elite Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia. He was bounced among so many schools as a child that McCain claims to have been educated mainly in his "mother's mobile classroom." Obama attended Indonesian Catholic and public schools, took correspondence courses under his mother's watch, and graduated from an elite Hawaiian independent school. His early schooling was so problematic that his mother enrolled Obama in the correspondence course so that he could learn English (see "The Early Education of Our Next President," page 28).

Both candidates had mothers who taught their sons a great deal and made careful choices--when they could--in selecting their sons' schools. In the end, both young men went to top-notch colleges and pursued advanced degrees; needless to say, both have accomplished much. One can hardly make a better case for school choice.

Obama and McCain have hinted at the possibility that they are willing to embrace school choice for the sons and daughters of other Americans. "A truly historic commitment to education," Obama says, "will require a willingness to break free from the same debates that Washington has been engaged in for decades--Democrat versus Republican; vouchers versus the status quo; more money versus more accountability." During the heat of the primary campaign, Obama proclaimed, "We need to support charter schools. I think it is important to experiment, by looking at how we can reward excellence in the classroom. …

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