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The Candidates on the Issues

October 27, 2008

only nine more days!

 In handy list form!

My votes: 

  • NCLB: Obama. I like that he’s actually noticed the giant, screaming design flaws that render the law practically useless. I wonder how McCain plans to use NCLB to measure individual achievement, considering that breaking results down into large groups already takes way too long. 
  • Teacher Pay and Recruitment: Obama. I love, love, love the fact that he wants the teachers to buy into his merit-pay standards. They can’t be judged simply on standardized tests, he says. I wonder how McCain plans to define “high performing” teachers who “improved achievement”? 
  • Early Education: …kind of a toss-up, actually. I like that Obama recognizes the huge achievement differences already present in kindergartners, and the long-term benefits of starting early. I’m also really into McCain’s plan to get kids health-care screenings. However, Head Start doesn’t work, and they both seem to think it does. McCain’s plan to reward the Head Start branches that do work is a nice plan, but what good does that do the rest of the students in the rest of the Head Start branches? What I’d like to see is some study of those branches which work, and a funding stream made available to take those qualities to scale. Guys?
  • After-School Tutoring and Outreach Programs: Obama. Once again, he seems to be the candidate with an understanding of the underlying issue–that minority and poor youth need these programs because, on average, they are less likely than well-off majority youth to be exposed to the kinds of environments that improve academic performance. I like that McCain wants the government to certify tutoring companies, presumably to protect students from ineffective groups–but since when can the government to be trusted to do something like that without rampant corruption? He also keeps voting against program funding and teacher loan forgiveness
  • Vouchers, Charter Schools, and Online Learning: Obama. Someone needs to tell McCain that vouchers don’t work. Choice only improves things when the choosers are informed enough to choose well, among a less-limited pool of options than schools. How are parents going to be informed about the schools in their areas? And what will happen when the “good” ones inevitably fill up?
  • Financial Aid: Obama. Both of these plans are nice, but Obama seems to actually have the, you know, plan. Rather than, “let’s make it easier to get dollars”, he says “here’s exactly what we should do”. Makes it easier to get things done. 
  • Evolution: Obama. School districts should not have the ability to mandate science curricula that is inherently unscientific. The existence of God is unprovable. You can’t do experiments to answer questions about an unknowable, incorporeal deity. Therefore, questions about God are not questions for science: they are questions for church. 
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