In his first major address on education since taking office, President Obama spoke of his vision for public schooling in America to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Two quotes struck me:
"Economic progress and educational achievement have always gone hand-in-hand in America. The future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens."
"The relative decline of American education is untenable for our economy, it's unsustainable for our democracy, it's unacceptable for our children. What's at stake is nothing less than the American Dream."
I agree that American education has taken a nosedive. I happen to think very differently from the president about how to solve that problem.
What is the purpose of education anyway? If it's only to create state-sanctioned robots to fulfill state-ordered jobs in order to pay back state-incurred debt, then I suppose the way to do it is as the president has proposed.
And here's what he has proposed: A longer school day, school week, and school year, modeled after South Korea. "The challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom," the president declared. "If they can do that in South Korea, we can do it right here in the United States of America."
I happen to think the purpose of education is for the betterment of people and not necessarily the nation. This isn't to say the two can't go hand-in-hand, but I'm far more concerned about helping my children develop character and the ability to think and carry on intelligent conversation than I am about readying them for some job. The key to my vision is more time at home, not away from it.
The American Dream is not my pursuit. It may be President Obama's, and I suppose he as president is supposed to lead others in pursuing it. But if and when he makes some of this policy, he crosses the line in my mind as one far more interested in the American state than in America's children.