Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Barack Obama

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Barack Obama

Article excerpt

I don't want to send another generation of American children to failing schools. I don't want that future for my daughters. I don't want that future for your sons. I do not want that future for America.

--Barack Obama, Nov. 10, 2007

IN A WORLD where good jobs can be located anywhere there's an Internet connection; where a child in Denver is competing with children in Beijing and Bangalore, the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge. Education is the currency of the Information Age--no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success, but a prerequisite. There simply aren't as many jobs today that can support a family where only a high school degree is required. And if you don't have that degree, there are even fewer jobs available that can keep you out of poverty. In this kind of economy, countries who out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow. Already, China is graduating eight times as many engineers as we are. By 12th grade, our children score lower on math and science tests than most other kids in the world. And we now have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation in the world. In fact, if the more than 16,000 Colorado students who dropped out of high school last year had only finished, the economy in this state would have seen an additional $4.1 billion in wages over these students' lifetimes.

There is still much progress to be made here in Thornton, but the work you've done shows us that we do not accept this future for America.

We don't have to accept an America where we do nothing about 6 million students who are reading below their grade level.

We don't have to accept an America where only 20% of our students are prepared to take college-level classes in English, math, and science--where barely one in 10 low-income students will ever graduate from college.

We don't have to accept an America where we do nothing about the fact that half of all teenagers are unable to understand basic fractions--where nearly nine in 10 African-American and Latino 8th graders are not proficient in math. We don't have to accept an America where elementary school kids are only getting an average of 25 minutes of science each day when we know that over 80% of the fastest-growing jobs require a knowledge base in math and science.

This kind of America is morally unacceptable for our children. It's economically untenable for our future. And it's not who we are as a nation.

We are the nation that has always understood that our future is inextricably linked to the education of our children--all of them. We are the country that has always believed in Thomas Jefferson's declaration that "... talent and virtue, needed in a free society, should be educated regardless of wealth or birth."

That's who we are. And that's why I believe it's time to lead a new era of mutual responsibility in education--one where we all come together for the sake of our children's success; an era where each of us does our part to make that success a reality--parents and teachers; leaders in Washington and citizens all across America.


This starts with fixing the broken promises of No Child Left Behind. Now, I believe that the goals of this law were the right ones. Making a promise to educate every child with an excellent teacher is right. Closing the achievement gap that exists in too many cities and rural areas is right. More accountability is right. Higher standards are right.

But I'll tell you what's wrong with No Child Left Behind. Forcing our teachers, our principals, and our schools to accomplish all of this without the resources they need is wrong. Promising high-quality teachers in every classroom and then leaving the support and the pay for those teachers behind is wrong. Labeling a school and its students as failures one day and then throwing your hands up and walking away from them the next is wrong. …

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