Education, History and the State of the Union

Article excerpt

Here we go again. George Bush described himself as the

"education president" a few years back, and now

President Bill Clinton seeks to top him at his game.

During the 1997 State of the Union address,

Clinton forwarded a number of education proposals, all which

have special implications for those who could be described as

"educationally disadvantaged." At the same time, the

light-touch federal approach that Mr. Clinton has suggested

may mean that some states will embrace his educational

reforms with more fervor than others.

Higher education benefits most from the tax credit of

$1500 that President Clinton has pledged to provide, along

with the tax deduction of $10,000 for college tuition. To

address concerns that these credits and deductions do little for

the low income, the President has also proposed expanded Pell

grants for lower-income students. Further, the president's

exhortation that every student who wants to should have a

college education, especially through the community college

system, is a good one. But the HOPE scholarships he

proposes may not offer sufficient resources to move every

student to higher education.

The higher education pipeline benefits from efforts to

improve K-12 education, with proposals that range from the

certification of 100,000 more ``master teachers to the

enlistment of a million volunteer tutors. Given the physical

organization of inner city schools, school construction is a

laudable goal for an administration that has targeted so many

dollars toward prison constructions. Less laudable is the

expansion of charter schools in the name of "choice." How will

these chatter schools be funded? What will they teach? Are

there tax implications for this form of educational


The State of the Union Address, though, was vintage

Clinton. There was fluff and rhetoric, but also a set of solid

proposals in his speech. His goals--that every child be able to

read by the third grade, that every home and classroom be

connected to the Internet by the year 2000, and that the

communications potential of the Internet include hospitals and

other sites--are important.

Education is important, but it is a necessary--not a

sufficient - condition to erasing the gaps between African

Americans and whites, and to leveling playing fields in

employment and access. As animated as the president was

about education reform, he was somber

about issues of our nation's racial divide. His rather

pensive tribute to diversity was marred by his own

misreading of history and that, perhaps, accounts for

my look askance at the entire State of the Union


Said President Clinton: "America has always been

a nation of immigrants. From the start, a steady

stream of people in search of freedom and

opportunity have left their own lands to make this

land their home. We started as an experiment in

democracy fueled by Europeans. …