Somebody's Mother on Obama Watch

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 12:59 p.m.
I went a little crazy with Obama Watch this week. President signs an executive order to close Guantanamo Bay in a year. I cheer. News reports that a released prisoner is now second in command for Al Qaida in Yemen. I say it figures that something like that would be reported immediately. Perhaps this is a Fox News plot but no, Al Jeezera confirms the report. Ellen shrugs – human rights first and all that. She fishes around seriously for excuses.

Day Two – President signs an executive order reversing Bush’s order that bans funding to any international group providing abortions or information on obtaining an abortion. I cheer again. Stem cell research? Yup, Obama is on that too. Bombing in Pakistan? Oy vey.

It’s been a long time since an American president has done things that have made me cheer. I’m frightened. Maybe I’m going soft. I’m making excuses to my skeptical husband for anything that the President does that seems out of my realm of good and evil. This is definitely worrisome – it’s two steps from there to my homeland, right or wrong. I have to get a grip on reality again.

Take Obama’s appointment of Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Here’s a man whose answer to problems in a school is to fire the principal, all the teachers and close the school. He’s a good buddy of the president’s; they’ve enjoyed quite a few games of pick-up basketball. Considering the social problems in the United States, it seems a bit iffy to use teacher-firing as a means for improving education when you have issues of poverty and family break-down in the United States that make it increasingly difficult for children to receive a decent education in the public system. Now add on the fact that classrooms are overcrowded and the fact that many take place in buildings that need serious renovation and you have a problem whose many facets are far beyond an individual teacher’s ability to solve. The Goldfinch jury is definitely out on this pick.

If Obama is seriously interested in educational reform (are you listening Stephen Harper?), here’s my recipe. Bring down class sizes and you’ll see a big change. This takes more than finding a few twenty-one year old college graduates, giving them a summer course and plopping them in some urban district in the hopes that they can teach kids with severe social and learning problems a thing or two before these grads with big ideals move on to their real careers. Teach For America is a program that seems to be designed to discourage people to be teachers. More teachers, more experienced teachers are needed in problem schools and some kind of financial bonus should make it worth their while to get into such schools and give it a try. You pay people what a job is really worth and there will be enough people to choose from to get the job done. It’s been a long time since teachers have been truly valued for their years of education and the stress factor in the jobs that they do and the complexity of what they try to achieve that often cannot be measured with test scores.

In the weeks to come and the year to come, I’m hoping to see the mess that Bush AND Clinton left us show a semblance of clean-up. Let’s not forget that the de-regulation of the banks started with the Clinton administration. Just as we’ve seen salmonella scares in the food industry for lack of food inspectors, the near-collapse of the credit system is a result of trusting the big guys too much to keep the wheels turning. It’s just crazy – as long as their wheels are greased, what the heck do they care about the rest of us? All eyes are on the President to figure this out. I wish him a lot of luck; he’ll need it. After all, it’s nice to have something to cheer about for a change. I hope he can keep it coming.



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