While most politicians point to education as a prerequisite for economic success, most Americans aren’t sure schools are up to that task.
On February 1, at the American Enterprise Institute David Winston, principal of the Winston Group, a polling and consulting company, noted that a recent poll showed that just 27 percent of respondents said they believed the country was headed in the right direction in stark contrast to the 65 percent who thought the country was headed in the wrong direction. “In polls, education has moved up on a par with health care and the national debt,” Winston said.
Winston said that many young people have growing concerns about whether or not their education will translate into a career. “The public is beginning to look at the overall cost of higher education because that job is not guaranteed,” Winston said.
Before, it seemed as though years spent in the classroom would somehow pay off – now, that “certainty” isn’t such a sure thing. “Perhaps they aren’t delivering,” Winston said of public schools. “For the first time their fundamental role on what they’re doing in society is under question and they better respond to it in an effective way.”
Winston argued that in the 2012 elections, the state of the economy is the issue that will resonate most with voters. “A real outcome,” he explained, is what the public wants. “People want a real outcome you can identify with. Nobody turns standards into an outcome and as a result, the people get very frustrated.”
In attempting to fix the problem, though, the solution very possibly does not lie at the federal level. Presidential administrations Republican and Democratic have tried to and largely failed.
The No Child Left Behind Act proposed by the Bush Administration and passed by a Democratic Congress was the most recent such example. The Obama Administration’s proposals are of relatively recent vintage, and still largely in the proposal stage.
At the event on February 1, 2012, AEI’s Frederick E. Hess noted, “A lot of what we talk about in federal education policy is what we’d like to see… What we hardly talk about is whether the federal government is actually suited to do well or not to do well when it comes to school improvement.”
“Should the federal government encourage high standards? I think so,” Peter Cunningham of the U.S. Department of Education said at AEI. “Should it mandate them? A lot of people think not.”
“There is a problem with compelling states to adopt certain standards,” added Katherine Haley of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s office.
Jocelyn Grecko is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia. Jocelyn has spent the past four years in the nation’s capital as a Media Studies undergraduate student at The Catholic University of America. She will graduate in May 2012.
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