Romney said he would work hard to improve schools but did not elaborate. When a woman asked him about how he would support arts and music programs that often are the first to be cut from tight school budgets, he said he was wary of too much federal involvement in education.
Recalling fondly his own high school glee club days, Romney said arts and music education spurs creativity that carries over into adulthood. But he said the federal government shouldn’t mandate such programs.
“While it would be tempting to say all schools should have the following programs, that worries me that someday there’d be somebody up there with very different views telling schools what they should and shouldn’t do,” he said. “I’d like to have local school boards recognize that they need to be concentrating of course on English, math and science, but also some of the cultural elements that make us a society of creative individuals.”
Makes sense. Our students are not competitive on an international level and it’s pretty obvious that our system is not getting it done, even in regards to the basics. Yet it’s very important to keep kids’ minds and bodies active and that means not letting them get bored. That can’t be done from Washington, only local creativity can keep kids engaged and and I’m glad to see that Romney knows that.
Unfortunately, Romney also said this:
“I’m really concerned that schools in inner cities are failing our inner city kids largely minorities and those kids won’t have the kinds of skills to be able to be successful and competitive in the new market economy,” he said. “The failure of inner city schools, in my view, is the great civil rights issue of our time.”
Romney is right, many inner city school districts are not educating or graduating competent students. But who is failing who? The teachers who are afraid to work in these districts for reasons of physical security? Or the students who threaten them? The children who refuse to attend school and disrupt classrooms when they do? Or the parents who condone or are unable to control their bad behavior?
In my opinion, Romney’s characterization of the problem is incorrect. A civil rights issue is one that is caused by systematic and inappropriate application of law or allocation of resources to the detriment of segments of society. The fact that some neighborhoods are poorer than others or even poor in absolute terms is not inherently discriminatory, it simply is.
The graduation rates of American inner-city schools are despicable, make no mistake. In Detroit, only 22% graduate high school. 22%. I can barely fathom that level of failure, let alone put myself in the place of a professional educator working in that environment.
I imagine that Detroit has a hard time getting and keeping teaching talent. Accordingly, salary.com says that the median salary for a teacher in Detroit is around $55,000. That’s quite a bit of money compared to what teachers make in Texas. Funding, apparently, is not a problem. So much for the civil rights issue.
Teachers I know and trust tell me that children are different than they once were, less able to accept instruction, less willing to accept discipline, less willing, it seems, to be students or even children. The education system cannot fix this fundamental problem, caused as it is by the society and homes in which they live.
Ultimately it is up to parents and children – of every race, creed, and color – to take responsibility for their own lives, decide that they value education, and make the most of the opportunities they are given. The current generation’s failure to do so is their own self immolation; nothing is being forced on them except their will and values.
I know there’s no political hay to be made from saying so, but still I’m disappointed in Romney’s position on the issue. He played to the crowd rather than being truthful and a presidential candidate should be above that sort of thing.