So let's dispense with the notion that these politicians only bring up schools when discussing education - they don't. Public school "reform" has become their first response to a wide variety of social issues.
Via digby (who else?), here is what the two major party candidates in the last presidential election said we should do about gun violence (all emphases mine):
CROWLEY: Governor Romney, the question is about assault weapons, AK-47s.
ROMNEY: Yeah, I'm not in favor of new pieces of legislation on — on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. We, of course, don't want to have automatic weapons, and that's already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons. What I believe is we have to do, as the president mentioned towards the end of his remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have, and to change the culture of violence that we have.
And you ask how — how are we going to do that? And there are a number of things. He mentioned good schools. I totally agree. We were able to drive our schools to be number one in the nation in my state. And I believe if we do a better job in education, we'll — we'll give people the — the hope and opportunity they deserve and perhaps less violence from that. But let me mention another thing. And that is parents. We need moms and dads, helping to raise kids. Wherever possible the — the benefit of having two parents in the home, and that's not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone, that's a great idea.
This is, in a word, absurd. Both of these men were seriously suggesting that incidents like Newtown and Aurora and Columbine and Virginia Tech should be mitigated by having "better" schools.[...]OBAMA: The — first of all, I think Governor Romney was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it. And he said that the reason he changed his mind was, in part, because he was seeking the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. So that's on the record.
But I think that one area we agree on is the important of parents and the importance of schools, because I do believe that if our young people have opportunity, then they are less likely to engage in these kinds of violent acts. We're not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally disturbed and we have got to make sure they don't get weapons. because I do believe that if our young people have opportunity, then they're less likely to engage in these kind of violent acts.
We're not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally disturbed, and we've got to make sure they don't get weapons. But we can make a difference in terms ensuring that every young person in America, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, have a chance to succeed.
And, Candy, we haven't had a chance to talk about education much, but I think it is very important to understand that the reforms we've put in place, working with 46 governors around the country, are seeing schools that are some of the ones that are the toughest for kids starting to succeed. We're starting to see gains in math and science...
Virginia Tech is ranked by US News as the #72 college in the country; Seung-Hui Cho must have had decent grades to be admitted. His problem wasn't that he had a lack of opportunity; his problem was that he was clearly mentally ill (a problem the high school he attended addressed), yet was able purchase extremely powerful weapons. Even if Cho had attended a "better" high school, not one victim of the Virginia Tech massacre would have been saved.
I can make the same case about Columbine and Aurora and all the other mass shootings that have occurred in the US over the last 30 years. None of them, near as I can tell, can be placed at the feet of an education system that didn't provide "opportunity" for the killers. Not one of the victims would have been saved by charter school expansion or merit pay or value-added modeling in teacher evaluations or vouchers. It is ridiculous and offensive to imply otherwise.
Of course hopelessness leads to violence. Of course schools can help provide opportunity to people who are at the bottom of our society. Of course our schools can get better.
But this is yet another example of how problems are being laid at the feet of our public schools that have nothing to do with education. Economic inequality is not the fault of our public schools. A corrupt political system is not the fault of our public schools. Rampant gun violence is not the fault of our public schools. The melting planet and war in the Mid-East and our insipid media and skyrocketing health care costs and a hundred other problems are not the fault of our public schools.
And yet, over and over, politicians on both sides of the aisle point to our teachers and our schools and say: "Fix this!" The entire conversation is ludicrous.
President Obama and Governor Romney: we teachers are doing our jobs. Don't blame us if you aren't doing yours.
So, guys, what should we blame on teachers today?