Thursday, July 26, 2007

Watching Edwards

I am one of the EWA members who have agreed to post regularly on particular presidential candidates and their views on education. I asked to be assigned John Edwards, and was happy the EWA blog junta agreed to my request, because in past elections he has been among the more daring in his recommendations for reform. There is nothing wrong, of course, with the standard NEA-driven mantra for Democratic candidates, but I like some raisins and bananas in my oatmeal, so always applaud the officer seeker who occasionally free styles.
What distinguished Edwards in the past were his detailed recommendations for raising the level of high school instruction, including more Advanced Placement courses. His Web site says that strengthening high schools is still a priority, which is good.
But this year he has been getting most of the attention, when he speaks about education, for his suggestion that we work harder to bring his two Americas, rich and poor, together in our public schools. He has been talking about integrating schools by social class, something the law and the courts still allow us to do, even though it is likely to be very difficult. He is quoting the work of Century Foundation senior fellow Rick Kahlenberg, the most interesting and energetic advocate of this approach. Edwards knows the data---low income kids do better academically in high-income schools. He has so far NOT given into the annoying despair of some people who take this line to the extreme, saying low-income children are doomed to low achievement until we have a social revolution and open up public housing for them and their families in Scarsdale, Winnetka, Bethesda, Hillsborough and other neighborhoods they can't afford.
So I think he is the man to watch on education issues, the most likely to say something interesting, although Obama and Clinton are also hinting at some risk-taking. I watched all of the CNN debate, and it did not appear that Edwards was given a chance to say much about schools. Maybe it was just as well. Richardson and Biden, both of whom I admire for many reasons, did not seem to have a firm grasp of No Child Left Behind. Richardson, maybe the brightest man in the group, uttered one factual inaccuracy after another. They have to play for votes from otherwise inattentive people at those TV forums, and I always find they are much more savvy and connected to reality when you read their Web sites.
If there are other Edwards watchers out there, let me know what you think of his education stands, and stick it to me if you think I have missed something, or said something even more idiotic than usual. I am always reachable at

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