In the newly released GOP platform, passages endorsing abstinence education are wedged inappropriately between the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and teacher accreditation standards in the education planks. Because sex is fun and interesting (unless done outside the confines of marriage, because values, etc. etc.) most of the coverage has focused on that totally unsurprising yet still controversial stance.
But actual education policy is fun and interesting too! Well, not so much "fun" as a complete freaking mess. First, some (old) bad news about how public schools have been doing so far. (Note that these failures stretch over decades and both parties are responsible):
Since 1965 the federal government has spent $2 trillion on elementary and secondary education with no substantial improvement in academic achievement or high school graduation rates (which currently are 59 percent for African-American students and 63 percent for Hispanics).
In other words, this:
While this won't be news to people who are following education policy (and to be fair, people who are following education policy may be the only people who read the education section of the GOP platform), the numbers are and should remain shocking. More than 40 percent of black students in America do not graduate high school.
One more time: More than 40 percent of black students in America do not graduate high school. We need to do something about that.
The Republican platform generally emphasized choice and accountability as solutions. This list of "consumer choice" option is pleasingly broad, though apprenticeships and vocational schools go unmentioned:
We support options for learning, including home schooling and local innovations like single-sex classes, full-day school hours, and year-round schools. School choice – whether through charter schools, open enrollment requests, college lab schools, virtual schools, career and technical education programs, vouchers, or tax credits – is important for all children, especially for families with children trapped in failing schools.
Direct pokes at union eyeballs are kept to a minimum—unions are mentioned by name only in the context of the congressional fight over the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships—but this passage hits the anti-union high notes:
We support legislation that will correct the current law provision which defines a "Highly Qualified Teacher" merely by his or her credentials, not results in the classroom. We urge school districts to make use of teaching talent in business, STEM fields, and in the military, especially among our returning veterans. Rigid tenure systems based on the "last in, first out" policy should be replaced with a merit-based approach that can attract fresh talent and dedication to the classroom.
But once we're done loosening up, providing more choices, and being "the party of fresh and innovative ideas in education," the GOP lowers the hammer with some English-only and abstinence education planks.
In other news, the bigotry of low expectations has gotten more hardcore since George Bush's day. It is no longer "soft." The 2012 platform decries the "crippling bigotry of low expectations"