SPEAKING OF EDUCATION: Education, History and the State of the Union

By Malveaux, Julianne | Black Issues in Higher Education, February 2, 1997 | Go to article overview

SPEAKING OF EDUCATION: Education, History and the State of the Union


Malveaux, Julianne, Black Issues in Higher Education


SPEAKING OF EDUCATION: Education, History and the State of the Union.

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 of 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 charter schools be funded? What will they teach? Are there tax implications for this form of educational organization?

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 address.

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. …

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SPEAKING OF EDUCATION: Education, History and the State of the Union
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