Okay, I suppose its about time I weigh in on the big election race, since that is one of the biggest stories around the nation and around the world. I am sure there is considerable buzz and excitement within the disability/special education community concerning Sarah Palin’s candidacy for Vice President. One of the very first things she noted in her acceptance speech was that she will be an advocate for families of children with special needs. And this is a very positive thing in her favor, indeed.
But I want to talk for a few seconds about how the candidates have been handling education issues, in general. That is to say, they have absolutely NOT been handling it at all. Obama was the first to bring it up at the tail end of his debate with John McCain last Tuesday, and basically it was about funding NCLB. The primary position of his party has been one of saying that the main problem of NCLB is funding. I certainly do agree that this business of passing unfunded mandates is an extremely nasty habit in Washington, and education is the most frequent recipient of this shabby treatment. In fact, if you fail to pony up and comply, they’ll take away what little funding you already get from the feds. Neither party has everseriously considered fully funding IDEA, and this is something that has been on the books for 35 years. Why would NCLB get any better treatment? However, the problems with NCLB go much deeper than just money. It lacks fundamental fairness and undermines IDEA by forcing a one-size-fits-all approach to education. It buttresses a factory-style education system developed to produce factory workers. What is the future of factory workers in America in the 21st century?
Anyway, neither presidential candidate has bothered much with education as an issue. Edin08 has been a dismal failure as far as raising awareness of education issues in this campaign. An opportunity to lay out new ground and “build a bridge to the future” has been squandered. If you’re concerned about education, you’re going to have to hold your nose in this election. I will say for my part, the senate election is actually a bigger one for me, because I’m going to see to it that Saxby Chambliss will not be voting to reauthorize NCLB.
So back to Ms. Palin…
When I first heard about John McCain’s pick for VP, I was as shocked as everyone else. I figured Romney or even Huckabee would be more natural choices. Who was this woman? so like everyone else, I went and searched for whatever I could find out about her. The fact that her youngest son had Down syndrome was one of the earliest bits of interesting information to come out about her. Not long after that, there was all the stuff about the state trooper scandal, her oldest daughter’s pregnancy and all that.
I watched her announcement speech and she seemed pretty…well awfully pretty! She also seemed very confident and well-poised. As a former Huckabeesupporter, I was actually happy with the choice on a lot of levels. Her speech at the convention was truly electrifying in a lot of ways. But after that speech, a couple of things bothered me. First off, John McCain was with her every single time she was out on the campaign trail. It was like he was some sort of guardian angel for her or something. She never did or said anything without him being right there, and I saw that as him having to hold her hand. It was just an embarrassing display of paternalism or condescension or maybe even sexism. Heck if I know. I actually suspected that while she might be cute and poised, she might also be kind of dumb, like many other beauty pageant contestants. The stereotype is there for a reason. Heaven knows, I would rather look at her than Joe Biden the next 4 years, but not if she’s going to be incompetent.
The interviews she had with Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson were partially journalistic hack jobs. Bush Doctrine? I’m not sure I even agree with how that is being pinned on GW. And it is perfectly reasonable that intelligent people can say that it is possible for the earth to cool and warm regardless of what people do i.e global warming. The passport question was dumb at the outset. While the questions about foreign policy were sort of on target, no questions like that were everasked by the media about Obama’s experienced. And then when Palin couldn’t give exact answers on McCain’s record of asking for more regulations, Couric just kept dogging her on it over and over.
Having said all that, Palin’s repertoire of answers have been narrow, at best. She talks about energy, she talks about giving power back to the people, she talks about being a hockey mom. She talks about being a maverick and she talks about reforming Washington. Those are her talking points. In light of that, her mention of education in the debate was a breath of fresh air from the usual agenda and script. She did bring up some hostility toward NCLB, which you’ll notice Biden simply said was underfunded. I give Palin high marks for not calling it “George Bush’s No child Left Behind.” She’s the only one on the ticket of either party who didn’t vote for it. That alone gets some support from me. But at the same time, she was too vague about what she might do and Trig isn’t old enough yet for her to know much about how IDEA has been gutted and disemboweled by NCLB. I thought she held her own in the debate okay, but I would really like to see her more on her own before the election. Sure she might be an advocate for the special needs community, but she’s not going to be much of an advocate if she’s seen as being dumb and incompetent. She really hasn’t proven much to me and I’m not sure if she’s proven enough to get my vote. I’ve swung to third party candidates more than once before in order to escape having to make such a stinky choice.
If Obama could make a spirited effort to address education beyond just spending more money, he could still get my vote. But I think it was the federalization of our schools that has gotten us in this mess in the first place. Obama is not going to lessen federal involvement and regulation because he has consistently chosen MORE regulation and federal management.
I think I’m going to hear someone say something about bank regulation and the need for more and how our current financial crisis was caused by the lack of oversight. Let’s nip that right now. There was actually TOO MUCH oversight in the form of of the Community Reinvestment Act, that actually rewarded banks for making these bad loans. Mainly, it was more regulation and interference by Washington that caused this crisis in the first place. Regulation by the feds in order to combat one form of abuse resulted in an abuse of a far more serious nature.