Mitt Romney: Honor Students Do It All Themselves

In his town hall appearance in New Hampshire this morning, Mitt Romney celebrated the individual, who clearly needs no support system to succeed in RepublicanLand. Speaking to a crowd of FreedomWorks devotees and other New Hampshire residents,
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In his town hall appearance in New Hampshire this morning, Mitt Romney celebrated the individual, who clearly needs no support system to succeed in RepublicanLand.

Speaking to a crowd of FreedomWorks devotees and other New Hampshire residents, he said this:

"We celebrate and recognize the success of each individual and acknowledge their success. We don't denigrate it, we don't divide Americans based on their level of success. We come together.

The other day, you know, I thought about a kid that works hard to get the honor roll. And she works real hard. I know that to get the honor roll she had to go on a school bus to get to school. But when she makes the honor roll, I credit the kid, not the bus driver!"

This statement right here underlines the differences I have with conservatives. Because that bus driver did make a difference. So did the teacher that child had, and the parents who made sure she did her homework. If she was an underprivileged child, part of her success came from the lunches that filled her tummy enough to actually be able to concentrate.

Is making the honor roll the student's success? Of course it is, but that student had a lot of hands bridged together to help her meet that goal. And having met it, she can understand the joy of success and the joy of learning, but she did not hatch ready to learn or make the honor roll.

Although Romney intended for this to be a metaphor relating to the economy, I think it speaks volumes about his approach to education. Teachers and bus drivers are expendable; they're luxuries. Feeding kids lunch so they can learn? An 'extra' thing. No, education is solely the result of the child's effort. No teacher can make a difference, no bus driver can make a difference, no parent can make a difference. It's an individual thing.

Studies prove this false over and over again. Children learn in small classrooms with well-trained teachers. They are given the tools to be able to achieve. Children living in poverty are less likely to have an opportunity to learn in such an environment, but even if they are, their poverty will still drag them down if not addressed.

Anthony Cody wrote this about poverty and education in dialogue with the Gates Foundation:

Our education reformers want teachers to come into the schools like knights on white horses, plaster the walls with college logos, and push students to new heights with our high expectations. I have seen this in dozens of classrooms of novice teachers, often associated with programs like Teach For America. We are pretending that there is some sort of level playing field here, but we are failing to create such a field. Instead, we just pretend these students are going to be able to compete with their well-heeled counterparts in the suburbs for shrinking higher educational opportunity. For most of them it is an empty promise.

At the end of the day, whatever advances teachers can make with their students are swamped by the statistical mix of unsupportable life circumstances, and progress is not "adequate". There will be a few individuals who emerge from this system as success stories, by luck, by extraordinary resilience, and through the dedication of their teachers. Education reformers elevate these exemplars to prove that "anyone" can make it, and condemn the teachers for failing to accomplish similar results for all their students. The whole system is built around the idea that anyone can make it and therefore we will ensure the highest level of success if we attempt to hold everyone to the same high standards, while largely ignoring the conditions in which they live.

The Gates Foundation's response to him concluded with this:

What we can't do, however, is address all of the problems that put or keep families in poverty. We just don't have the resources to do that. But we are part of a community of donors who are committed to eliminating the causes of poverty. We believe the most effective philanthropic efforts are ones that remain focused on addressing particular problems and are creative about their approach to supporting solutions. That philosophy is based on the data and research of successful philanthropy.

We agree with Anthony Cody that poverty is a central problem; we just don't think we can ever effectively turn the tide by creating false choices for the daunting series of challenges students in our schools face.

If the Gates Foundation can't effectively address the issue of poverty, there's only one avenue left: government. Really, think on that. Warren Buffett has given much of his fortune to the Gates Foundation. Gates has done a lot of work trying to eradicate malaria in Africa and spread of the HIV/AIDS virus. Really important work. Yet they admit they cannot, even within a philanthropic community, make a dent in the issue of poverty.

So if the bus driver and the Gates Foundation aren't part of the solution, how does Mitt Romney think students actually succeed? And why on earth would he opt out of a solution that, in the long run, invests in our educational system and our economy to produce 21st century productive workers?

Mitt Romney is simply wrong about that child's success. And if you thought he was wrong, wait until you see how wrong Paul Ryan is. Jeff Bryant :

With Ryan teaming up with Romney, what we have is a devastating duo when it comes to supporting children. A page at the website for Care2.org lists even more travesties:

  • Cutting as much as $1.1 billion from early childhood education, denying "more than 2 million poor children the opportunity for high-quality early education."
  • "Blocking support intended to help avoid educator layoffs and prevent ballooning class sizes.
  • Increasing support for school vouchers, "which give public money to families to attend private and religious schools."

Romney-Ryan don't spare higher education from the assault either, as they've voiced opposition to federal funds and lending that help disadvantaged students attend college and promoted privatization of the public university system.

And that's okay with them, because Mitt and Paul "credit the student, not the bus driver."

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