Home > Uncategorized > David Leonardt Looks at the Political Landscape and Offers Democrats a Winning Strategy: Support Public Education!

David Leonardt Looks at the Political Landscape and Offers Democrats a Winning Strategy: Support Public Education!

March 21, 2018

NYTimes writer David Leonardt offered Democrats a winning political issue that is, in his words, “hiding in plain sight“: public education! His op ed article opened with these paragraphs:

In Alabama’s recent special Senate election, the progressive group Priorities USA was looking for ways to lift African-American voter turnout. So Priorities tested several different advertisements, to see which ones made people want to vote.

There was no shortage of potential ad material in Alabama. Roy Moore, the Republican nominee, had a trail of bigoted statements and alleged sexual molestation. Doug Jones, the Democrat, had prosecuted Ku Klux Klansmen for murder. Priorities tested each of these themes and others, too: Moore’s ties to white supremacists; Moore’s closeness to President Trump; Jones’s endorsements from civil-rights leaders.

Yet none of these tested as well as a 15-second ad that never mentioned Moore.

“My kids are going to do more than just survive the bigotry and hatred,” a female narrator says, as the video shows a Klan march and then a student at a desk. “They’re going to get an education, start a business, earn a good living, make me proud. Education is my priority. That’s why I’m voting for Doug Jones.”

Mr. Leonardt noted that this result was astonishing to Priorities USA because our schools are supposedly “failing” and education is no longer seen as the solution to economic inequality.

The media regularly run stories suggesting education is overrated. K-12 schools are said to be in a never-ending crisis, and college debt has become a new crisis. A much-discussed Pew Research Center poll recently found a jump in the number of people saying colleges had a negative effect on the country.

But is seems that most Americans who retain hope for the future still see education as a means to improving their well being, a conclusion that is still supported by facts. As for the Pew poll, Mr. Leonardt implies that politicians seeking to unseat Mr. Trump might want to look closer at the results:

And that Pew poll? It was legitimate but misunderstood. The rise in negative feelings toward colleges came largely among Republicans, many of whom see campuses as bastions of liberalism. Yet those Republicans still want their children to attend college. They understand that the benefits of education outweigh any risks of lefty brainwashing.

And Mr. Leonardt, a writer who has often been taken with the “reform” movement that both parties have embraced, seems to understand that the voters want something bigger and better:

Given the passions of the Trump era, this isn’t the moment to settle for the modest, technocratic education proposals that Democrats often favor. It’s a time for big, ambitious ideas.

In education, that means universal preschool, which would address both inequality and child-care needs, and universal tuition-free community college. A century ago, the United States led the world toward universal high school, and today’s economy demands more than a high-school diploma. Community colleges are part of the answer, and are also a common pathway to four-year degrees. Importantly, free tuition there isn’t a huge subsidy for the upper middle class and the affluent, who typically start at four-year colleges.

Mr. Leonardt isn’t calling for more tests and more charters, then. He’s calling for a truly progressive overhaul of schooling where children receive schooling from ages three through 21…. the kind of education most upper middle class parents offer their children. He concludes his essay with this hopeful paragraph:

Sometimes, good policy and good politics align quite nicely. The single best bet that a society or an individual can make — education — also turns out to be the rare idea that transcends today’s partisan divide.

I hope that 2018 State legislators and candidates for the House and Senate read this message and act accordingly… and hope even more that 2020 Democratic Presidential aspirants adopt Mr. Leonardt’s position that “…this isn’t the moment to settle for the modest, technocratic education proposals that Democrats often favor. It’s a time for big, ambitious ideas.”

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