Assorted conservative publications, blogs and talking heads went into varying levels of apoplexy this week over the endorsement of John Kerry by the National Education Association at their annual meeting. I’m really not sure what the fuss is about. The NEA is just one of many unions that will throw their support behind a candidate. And unions usually endorse the politicians and positions that have been approved by the leadership, not by a vote of the full membership. For some reason the NEA receives this special attention. I doubt we’ll see these commentators expend the same level of outrage over the official choices of the auto workers, the Teamsters or The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (icky combination! :-).
As to the NEA’s official blessing of Kerry, it can’t be because of the strong stands on education issues he’s taken because it’s hard to find any. So far he really hasn’t said much beyond the usual political standard statements calling for "a better education for all kids". Most candidates say nice things, often declaring they will be the "education President" (governor, mayor, dog catcher). No matter what he does as President, however, Kerry, would have to work awfully hard to sink below the large pile of educational crap that W and friends have managed to pile up in the past three and a half years.
The problems with the educational policies of the current administration do not lie only in No Child Left Behind. They rest with the attitude that, when it comes to teaching and learning, one size fits all. NCLB and the other directives of the federal education system assume that all schools and all children are the same. If you drive west from the White House 50 miles, you’ll pass through six or seven different school districts, each of which have some excellent public schools (yes, even DC!). And others that hit every level below that. But W expects all of them to treat their students in the exactly the same way. Maybe the best educational pronouncement Kerry can make is that his administration will recognize that there are many successful approaches to teaching and learning – and testing the hell out of kids is not one of them.