Did anyone watch the presidential debate on Wednesday? I did because, even though I’m pretty sure I know who I’m going to vote for, I feel a lot like Alex, lost amidst America’s complicated and confusing politics. As I was watching, I noticed how often President Obama mentioned education.
Now, we discussed in class how very little Obama has actually done for education during his term. These Washington Post blogs (here and here) argue that the Race to the Top program, one of the few things he did do for education, directly opposes his own belief that teachers shouldn’t “teach to the test” and standardized tests shouldn’t decide whether a teacher keeps or loses their job.
That’s just one blog and one person’s opinion, although I myself find the argument compelling. Back to the debate, though, and all his talk of education. Obama mentioned several times that he is going to create 100,000 math and science teaching jobs (presumably adhering to STEM) if he’s reelected. That would be about 2,000 teaching jobs per state.
First, 100,000 is a much less impressive number than Romney’s promise to create millions of jobs if he’s elected (because this came up under “jobs”).
Second, where did 100,000 come from? Feels pretty arbitrary to me.
Third, where would states even put 2,000 more teachers? Colorado, for example, is strapped enough as it is in the educational budget department without worrying about where they’re going to place 2,000 more teachers.
Fourth, where does that leave us? And by “us,” I mean English education majors—our class’s collective major. We all know how we as a whole feel about math, and science probably doesn’t rank much higher. So, Obama promises to mystically conjure up 100,000 more teaching jobs, none of which we will be qualified to apply for. Well, that sucks. I’m thinking of getting a math minor just to increase my chances of getting hired. This is how my tests will look:
Fifth (and back on topic), where does that leave reading and writing in the American education system? I’ve written about this before; it was like my second blog (all the way back in August) where I talked about how schools are trying to implement STEM more and more (remember?). I understand the increased emphasis on math and science because our constantly, and rapidly, evolving technology, demands knowledge of such subjects in order to keep it evolving. I also understand that it’s more difficult, in this day and age, to secure a job that doesn’t require some knowledge of STEM subjects. And I know President Obama is all for STEM in schools. Basic facts of living in 2012. But I want to know what this will mean for language arts in schools. By placing more and more emphasis on math and science, are we then sacrificing the time previously devoted to reading and writing? Math and science may be vital to surviving in the job market, but reading and writing are vital to surviving in life. Americans are surrounded by words, phrases, and block text everywhere we go and in everything we do. You need to be able to read and write in order to be a competent, functioning member of society, and life’s really, really hard if you can’t. You can skate by not knowing fractions or what DNA stands for; you can’t survive if you can’t read.
Other than that, Obama didn’t say much about education. He kept saying the word “education,” and other than emphasizing education is important, this was the most he talked about it (or at least that I remember). It both frustrated and depressed me. Nice to know you’re looking out for us English teachers, Mr. President.
And if you missed the debate, it’s here on youtube.