The “Today Show” is belatedly celebrating our children’s return to school this month with a series on the state of the nation’s education system. So what better way to kick off a superficial look at the subject than with a superficial and fawning interview of President Barack Obama to solicit platitudes and plugs for his pet projects?
Obama was allowed to pontificate about the heroism of teachers so as to avoid antagonizing his allies in the teachers’ unions while still posing as a reformer. But in addition to calling for a longer school year, the president was still induced by Matt Lauer to say that, despite the appetite of the teachers’ unions and much of the educational establishment for more money to be poured into the public schools, many of the system’s worst problems have little to do with money and a great deal to do with the failures of parents and a culture that does not value discipline and learning. In a line that could actually be seen as a challenge to the unions, he pointed out that “You can’t defend a status quo in which a third of our kids are dropping out.” The answer was, instead, “radical change.”
But the president’s failure to draw the right conclusions about the need for such “radical change” was also highlighted by this interview for the “Today Show.” When asked on the show by Kelly Burnett of Florida whether his own children could get as good an education in the Washington, D.C. public schools as they are receiving in the elite private Sidwell Friends Academy they attend, the president bluntly said no. And though he tried to fudge this by saying that it is possible that some public schools in the district could be as good as a private school, most were not. Then, curiously, he pointed out that a person with influence such as himself could “maneuver” to get his children into such good public schools while most parents could not. He did not explain, why he, an ardent advocate of public schools, would not attempt to place his children in such a school, assuming that one actually exists.
Needless to say, there was no follow-up from Lauer about the difference between Obama and the vast majority of Washington’s parents. Even worse, there was no mention of the fact that the president had actually done his utmost to kill the District’s fledgling school-choice program, which had allowed at least some of those other parents to get their kids out of a system that Obama acknowledges is failing and into a decent private school like that frequented by Sasha and Malia Obama. That program was an example of an attempt at the sort of “radical change” which the president supposedly favors. But instead of nurturing it, Obama and his allies in Congress killed it in the name of liberal ideology and the fiat of the teachers’ unions, effectively sentencing another generation of Washington’s children to failed schools with no hope of escape.
The death of Washington D.C.’s school-choice experiment illustrates that Obama’s fealty to the unions is still the operative factor in the administration’s education policy. That he feels free to engage in this sort of hypocritical posturing about public education while placing his own children in the best possible private schools speaks volumes about the kid-glove treatment the president continues to get in the mainstream media.