Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

John McCain

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

John McCain

Article excerpt

McCain's speech to LaRaza convention, July 14

In the global economy, what you learn is what you earn. ... We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition; hold schools accountable for results; strengthen math, science, technology and engineering curriculums; empower parents with choice; remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward superior teachers, and have a fair but sure process to weed out incompetents. I'm a strong believer in charter schools. ... You understand the importance of early childhood development and the active role parents must play in their children's education to make sure they graduate on time and with an excellent opportunity to live happy and prosperous lives. You deserve a greater say in deciding how your children are educated, and I am committed to making sure you do.

McCain's speech to the NAACP, July 16

As our country has changed these past few decades, so have many of your debates within the NAACP, and within other civil rights organizations. In the days of separate lunch counters, bullhorns, and fire hoses, the mission was hard and dangerous, but it was easily defined. The advancement of African Americans meant equal protection under law, in a country where the law had simply codified injustice. That cause required the enormous courage and commitment of generations, and a determination to hold this nation to its own creed.

You know better than I do how different the challenges are today for those who champion the cause of equal opportunity in America. Equal access to public education has been gained. But what is the value of access to a failing school? Equal employment opportunity is set firmly down in law. But with jobs becoming scarcer--and 400,000 Americans thrown out of work just this year--that can amount to an equal share of diminished opportunity. For years, business ownership by African Americans has been growing rapidly. This is all to the good, but that hopeful trend is threatened in a struggling economy--with the cost of energy, health care, and just about everything else rising sharply.

As in other challenges African Americans have met and overcome, these problems require clarity of purpose. They require the solidarity of groups like the NAACP. And, at times, they also require a willingness to break from conventional thinking.

Nowhere are the limitations of conventional thinking any more apparent than in education policy. Education reform has long been a priority of the NAACP, and for good reason. For all the best efforts of teachers and administrators, the worst problems of our public school system are often found in black communities. Black and Latino students are among the most likely to drop out of high school. African Americans are also among the least likely to go on to college.

After decades of hearing the same big promises from the public education establishment, and seeing the same poor results, it is surely time to shake off old ways and to demand new reforms. That isn't just my opinion; it is the conviction of parents in poor neighborhoods across this nation who want better lives for their children. In Washington, D.C., the Opportunity Scholarship Program serves more than 1,900 boys and girls from families with an average income of $23,000 a year. And more than 7,000 more families have applied for that program. What they all have in common is the desire to get their kids into a better school.

Democrats in Congress, including my opponent, oppose the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. In remarks to the American Federation of Teachers last weekend, Senator Obama dismissed public support for private school vouchers for low-income Americans as "tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice." All of that went over well with the teachers union, but where does it leave families and their children who are stuck in failing schools?

Over the years, Americans have heard a lot of 'tired rhetoric' about education. …

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