I have a suggestion for Joe Biden that would unlock an untapped national economic resource, would address in a significant and positive way the national issue of equal opportunity and would make a significant contribution to the goal of making the U.S. a country and not just a divisive collection of different groups and statutory units.
The suggestion is to federalize all public education. That sounds simplistic, but bear with me.
Assuming Biden is elected President of the United States in November, and assuming the present incumbent in the White House doesn’t figure how to stay there despite the election results, the real hard work will begin on January 20, 2021. How to rebuild the United States into a cohesive country that has a defined national purpose, and a plan to achieve that purpose which encompasses all aspects of American life as well as the U.S.’s world responsibility. A tall order admittedly, but that’s why we should elect real leaders and not just politicians. Back to my suggestion.
The current status of public education in the United States means that the quality and standards of education you receive as a young person depend entirely on where you live, and they vary dramatically across the country. Worse, once you enter school, you are trapped in that local system for your entire education. Schools are funded by Property taxes. That may be good if you live in a rich neighbourhood but bad if you live in a poor one. Such a system of funding makes a mockery of equal opportunity from the very start of formal education and gets worse as a student moves from kindergarten to high school.
There are exceptions of course, but I am talking about national policy not exceptions. The idea that a school board in Illinois can decide that the curriculum in the local school should be all about farming in order to try and keep the kids down on the farm (words of the Illinois Chief State School Officer several years ago) and that the top high school in Mississippi provides a ten-times worse education than the worst high school in New York City (recent government report) is a National disgrace and, far worse, is an incredible waste of national human resources. We can’t afford this patchwork of standards and quality when the country needs all the help it can get in an increasingly competitive world. The overall education system has to be federalized if these issues are to be addressed for all young people in the U.S.
I have to admit, however, that anyone who tries to change the status quo of parochial control of U.S education will be vilified, harassed, and maybe even shot, but their legacy will be positively historic. We desperately need leadership on all levels but National leadership in education could have dramatically positive results for the country and its people.
Is anyone up to that challenge in the current political, sound-bite, let’s tear down anyone-and-anything-that-stands-out-in-the-crowd environment? I would dare to hope that there might be someone.
Joe, are you listening? You’ve been in politics most of your life and have had your full share of significant achievements and failures. Reforming U.S. public education in this way would totally set you apart. It is an opportunity to change the future of the country in a way that few, if any, previous leaders have done. For all our sakes, go for it.