Tuesday, July 01, 2008

US Presidential Candidates - Impact on Education

We are approaching a very exciting time in American history and education. We are in the process of electing a new President, and the two candidates' views differ significantly in relation to how we should move forward in education.

Presidential candidate John McCain is prepared to perpetuate the existing school structure but proposes an assessment be done as to what is working in regard to President Bush's No Child Left Behind. He proposes to fund what has worked and to eliminate funding on what has not worked. He also believes that teachers should be rewarded for student performance. I intepret this to mean that he would retain the current structure of pay-for-time-served together with a merit system. Due to shrinking operating budgets and teacher shortages, he recognises that we may need to use technology to supplement the educator's daily lessons.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama is much more open to the utilization of technology. He believes that computers can help students to develop skills for problem solving, and that the Internet can be used to connect and enable students across the globe to communicate, thus helping them to better understand foreign cultures. He believes that we should be promoting more technology-based education, but that this has to be done through grassroots efforts.

Unfortunately, neither presidential hopeful is speaking about changing the structure of education to accommodate the diversity of learners, e.g., students who arrive in public schools with learning deficiencies which are related to economic conditions, students who require shorter or lengthier periods of time to master concepts and meet standards, etc. At this time, approximately 30% of 9th graders in the United States are not graduating from high school. The White House can encourage this much needed educational change, including the use of technology to connect our homes and our schools, and as a learning, research and communication tool. Using technology and a new vision for education, our next President has the opportunity to make a real difference.

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