How Obama's Second Term Might Impact Higher Education

Article excerpt

When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, lie was regarded as the great Black hope by some Democrats and great Muslim terrorist by some Republicans. However, during bis first term, many Democrats came to feel that Obama 's hope was sputtering out due to his lack of political will - while a small vocal faction of Republicans escalated their assertions that Obama was not even a U.S. citizen. The correct spelling of his name was now Osama and because lie did not engage in the '"civil dialogue" die top 1 percent desired, he represented the second coming of Adolph Hitler.

Yet, as his recent election has showed, while the Republicans divided themselves, Democrats came together to give Obama an overwhelming victory.

The question now is what will Obama's reelection mean, an igniting of or further waning of hope, specifically in lentis oí higher education? Since the Hispanic vote was instrumental in returning Obama to the presidency, following are the perspectives of three Hispanics in higher education. It happens that these three opinions range from mostly skeptical, to a more or less balance between being skeptical and positive, to being mosdy positive.

"Overall, I don't see a whole lot of changes being made by the new Obama administration," says Nolan L. Cabrera, Ph.D. , assistant professor in the College of Education at the Tucson -based University of Arizona with an overall enrollment of 40,223, about iy.5 percent of which is Hispanic. "I definitely think his first term was better than Bush's, but that's a very low standard to hold someone to."

What Cabrera addresses is not higher education per se, but the educational processes leading up to it, which can't help but having an adverse effect upon the latter. "One of the most troubling aspects of Obama's first term is his attitude toward the K-12 pipeline, with its belief in charter schools, school choices, vouchers and especially, testing," says Cabrera, who works in the Department of Educational Studies and Practice. "Integrili to his approach is trying to use business as a model for education. It can't lie done. \"one of these have been shown to markedly improve educational opportunities for Hispanics.

"In fact, many of these measures have a reductive effect. For instance, if you are a Hispanic living in a poor neighborhood, you're going to be less likely to put your child on a bus to drive across town to a better school, especially when they are apt to be shown up to be educationally behind the White middle class and affluent students who have had more educational opportunities from the start. Either way, educational segregation increases.

"Educational testing is a part of it. At the end of die day, it's impossible to get around the cultural biases built into these tests. And die incredible rebanee on these tests greatly narrows the curriculum. Students and staff at White middleclass schools can take diese tests in stride, but there has to be a great emphasis on them in poorer schools. So what has been boring now, with the emphasis upon rote learning, becomes unbearable. Students drop out of school."

"There is a more insidious aspect to this,': Cabrera continues. "For if the poorer-performing students drop out, test scores go up. So that means schools in more impoverished neighborhoods have a vested interest in having their low-performance students drop out. Such measures may please the press, but teachers and administrators at these schools feel threatened that unless they get test scores up, they may lose their jobs. So education becomes more about rote memorization and test strategies rather than critical thinking and a joy in learning, I was very disappointed at this direction Obama took in his first term, and I don't see him making a lot of changes."

On a somewhat more positive note, Cabrera says that the deferred action on undocumented students, which will allow them access to education, financial aid and citizenship, "is going to have a very positive impact, no question about it. …