Monday, June 20, 2011

Young Voters Look at Issues and Not at Politician or Party

In my role of CEO of Last Stand for Children First, I've found myself at the center of several political firestorms recently.   People don't understand how we can support 18 separate bills in various state legislatures outlawing collective bargaining while being for protecting collective bargaining rights.  With battle lines clearly drawn, I'm reminded of the old Bob Seger song, "Which Side Are You On?"

The answer is I'm not on either side.  I'm part of a new generation of young philanthropists whose beliefs cannot be limited to the political platform of one party or one governor. On some issues, we're "conservative." On others, we're "liberal." Personally, I disagree with New York's Governor Cuomo on several important issues, but I salute him for ending the dreaded "millionaires tax" once and for all.  Likewise, I'm disturbed to see Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker target my beloved craft beers, but I applaud him on standing up to lazy teachers.

If I told you that there was a politician that would turn a backwards agrarian society into an industrial country and a superpower.  He would allow peasants to get an education and he would help defeat the greatest evil the world has ever known, you'd probably be thinking this is a great man.   What if I told you his name was Joseph Stalin?  You did not have to be a member of the Black Shirts to applaud Mussolini for getting the trains to run on time.   This reminds me of a poem:

First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak because they cut taxes.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak because they gave me free broadband.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because they gave me a flat screen TV.
Then they came for me, and I didn't mind so much because I had low taxes, free broadband, and a flat screen TV.
Let's be honest: politicians are unlikely to ever represent our opinion on every issue. But let's not let political divisions keep us from supporting politicians on the issues in which we do agree, like reforming public education in Ohio. For young Democrats today, supporting a Republican lawmaker (or vice versa) on education reform does not make him or her a sellout. There is absolutely no corporate agenda at work and no attempt to crush unions.  Standing up against these kind of policies doesn't make you a liberal, it makes you paranoid.  At times like these, corporations can be our greatest allies in the push for reform.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chinese Schools Let Down Education Reform Movement

It is with great disappointment that I read Chinese leaders wish to change the way that the country does education.   For years, the thought of Chinese students exploiting our inferior American students has been a great image for those of us in the education reform movement.   Thoughts of Chinese scholars with briefcases and laptops taking American jobs has been even more effective than images of Chinese tanks rolling down main street for education reformers.

Now China has embarked on a "ten year plan including greater experimentation. China Central Television's main evening news program recently reported on Peking University High School's curricular reforms to promote individuality and diversity." 

Individuality and diversity?  Good grief.   Where is the army of tiger mothers when we need them most.  Shanghai is actually studying the American school system in order to import Western curriculum to their country.   If this continues, what hope is there for their students? 

There was a report on NPR's marketplace last week that talked about Chinese schools.   The sterm taskmaster Jiang Xueqin was quoted as saying, "They just started the rock band. To be perfectly honest with you, I've heard them. They're not very good, but it's something they love doing and it's fun for them"   Where is the drive for excellence?  The endless hours of practicing Louie Louie over and over?  That is what a Chinese high school rock band should be like.

Chinese officials say they are developing a nation of uncreative accountants and middle managers through rote memorization and lack of creative thinking, but they need to think of the big picture.  What about those of us in America who look to China to set an example for us of endless rigor, tiger moms, and the pursuit of excellence?  China has a responsibility not only to itself, but to us to continue rote memorization and teaching to the test.  Otherwise, we in America look pretty stupid pushing those same policies.