I nearly forgot that CNN hosted the Youtube debates; I was a bit caught up in Barry Bonds's chase for 755. I missed the first half hour of the intriguing format.
As an educator, I approached the debate in hopes of hearing what the Democratic candidates think and propose about public education. If my calculations are correct, only three official education related questions were asked while over twice that many were dedicated to things like the war and health care.
The first question was, who was your favorite teacher and why? To be honest, I don't really care, but the why part of the question could be interesting. But, alas, they are politicians and don't actually say much of anything while saying a lot. What it came down to was that each of the teachers discussed were described as advocates for the child. I noted that nothing about their qualifications or ability to interpret test data had much of an in impact.
The second question asked whether NCLB should be scrapped or remodeled. Only two candidates were given much of an opportunity to answer this vital question--in my opinion, more imporant than asking whether we should pull out of Iraq by March 31, 2008 or January 2009.
Governor Richardson wants to scrap it because one size doesn't fit all and it doesn't fund teacher training. His best point, in my opinion, pointed out that NCLB punishes struggling schools by taking money away--that has always confounded me. Finally, he proposed a minimum teaching salary of $40,000.
Senator Biden wants to scrap it as well. He believes we need better teachers and smaller classes. I just wish these politicians could get something different than "better teachers and smaller classes." Sure, there are bad teachers--just like there are bad senators. But to be honest, why couldn't a politician be honest and say, "What we need in public education are better parents. Parents who, from the time the child is young, raise their children to value education, respect individuals, and work diligently." That would be a better answer.
Then, each of the candidates as asked whether they send their children to public or private school. What a dumb question. It isn't even worth analyzing.
But, I did like that Senator Dodd, in his response to the last dumb question, added the importance of accountability that NCLB has mandated.
And that was it. Nothing else officially related to education. Hmmm. I thought the Democrats were our party. I thought they would pander a lot more to us. What is wrong with this world?
On an overall note, here are some of my observations of the debate.
1. Best Line: Senator Obama answering the question, What do you say to those who don't believe you are really Black? (paraphrased) "Well, I think I gave my qualifications when I tried to hail a cab in Manhattan.
2. Second Best Line: Senator Gravel answering the why part of the best teacher question: (paraphrased) "I was dyslexic and he taught me to speak, which I haven't got much of a chance to do tonight." *CNN did a terrible job at giving each candidate an opportunity. Clearly CNN has anointed Senator Clinton and Senator Obama as tier one candidates. John Edwards was a tier two candidate. Senator Biden and Governor Richardson were tier three candidates. Dennis Kucinich and Senator Dodd are tier four material and Senator Gravel was there as nothing more than an afterthough.
3. Third Best Line: Senator OBama answering the question of whether he would work for the current minimum wage as president (again, paraphrased) "Yes, but let's be honest, everyone up here is rich enough to do that for a while."
4. Most Poised: Senator Obama and Governor Richardson. At times, I really like Hillary Clinton, something I haven't ever found myself doing. But at times she got quite shrill. Gravel was angry and Biden just a little too caustic. Kucinich reminds me of Ross Perot. Dodd just doesn't have the presence. Edwards just bugs me.
My final thoughts:
I am tired of political debates. Mostly, they are pointless. It always amazes me how a very simple, direct question can receive a confusingly convulted answer.