Teachers unions need to stop fighting change. More math and science teachers are needed to improve public schools. More money alone won't fix education problems. Public schools need to set and achieve higher standards.
Let's face it: Most conservatives would agree with, if not applaud, those sentiments. But tell 'em President Obama said it? Forget it.
Personally, I can't stand the guy. I think Obama is a fraud who is in way over his head, and electing members of Congress who can derail him is the single most important political issue of this year's elections.
But in a live, half-hour television interview Monday, Obama said things about public education that largely are in line with what many conservatives would say.
Follow-up stories about the interview focused on his call for a longer school year. The anti-public-education crowd likely will sneer at that idea as nothing more than an effort to stick children in "government schools" longer.
But it is inescapable that the United States sends its children to school for fewer days than other developed countries, which have higher achievement to show for it.
It's odd how we demand a schedule that closes schools for two months at a time, yet parents nearly lost their minds a few years ago when Columbia County school officials proposed cutting elementary classes to half-days one day a week to give teachers more time to collaborate.
That opposition was based on parental convenience; the school system's effort was based on educational objectives, without regard to its role as a babysitting service.
The opposition won. What that says is that parents demand a solid block of no-kid time every day, but that it's OK to have the kids home all day for months at a time. Basically, it's all or nothing.
So: Would there really be much opposition to increasing the number of days children attend school? Educationally, we know it's a good idea not to just let children's minds lie fallow for a couple of months, and most parents don't offer much at-home stimulation.
Yet we've gone backward from that idea. The state requires only 180 days of instruction; to be generous, schools deliver maybe 170. (First day of school? Day before a break? Forget it.)
And now Georgia's school board is saying it's OK to configure those 180 days any way local systems want. Make the days longer and it's OK to cut the year to 178 days, or 175, or whatever parents will tolerate.
That's purely for budget reasons; fewer instructional days means fewer days the buses roll and fewer days the lights are on.
But when was the last time this sort of thing was looked at to see if it's better for education?
If we waved a magic wand and put me in charge - which I admit would be a bad idea - I would change the school year to run in blocks, perhaps four to six weeks long, with a week or two off in between available for rest or remediation.
Those long, lazy summers? Gone. Plan your vacation during any of the weeks or two available during the year.
Then I'd eliminate Head Start and pre-k. They're nothing more than taxpayer funded day-care. Kindergarten would be optional half-days; send 'em home for naptime.
More? OK. In middle school, start entrance exams for high schools. Show an aptitude for college, head to college prep. Show an aptitude for auto repair or plumbing, go to vocational high school. Quit wasting tax dollars sending perfectly good carpenters to advanced lit classes.
Yeah, there's more. But none of it is going to happen anyway - mostly because there are too many people tied just as tightly to the status quo as those teachers unions, and too few willing to hear new ideas as long as their children are comfortably squirrelled away for eight hours a day, 180 days a year.
No change for the better is going to come as long as any of us reflexively kill the messenger - whether that messenger is Obama, or me, or the teacher telling you your kid should be a plumber.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)
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