Scientific American recently came out with an article giving the two major presidential candidates’ views on issue relating to science. As a homeschooler, the section on education was particularly interesting to me. The question asked of each was:
“In your view, why have American students fallen behind over the last three decades, and what role should the federal government play to better prepare students of all ages for the science and technology-driven global economy?”
Obama’s response seems to find all the answers in the teachers. It focuses entirely on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Now admittedly the question was about how Americans are falling behind in just these areas. However, I believe that we must not focus on just one area of education. We will develop more creative thinkers by expanding our subject areas. A scientist who can also appreciate music and literature will be more creative and well-rounded. Obama also seems to think all the answers lie in just getting enough teachers who are trained in the right ways whereas I would say that the burden of learning falls on the student, not the teacher. In short, when I read Obama’s response I hear “we need more experts in these few areas” which I can’t agree with.
Romney’s answer pleases me a little more. He opposes increased spending and teachers’ unions. He talks of considering the students first and of allowing choice in education (which as a homeschooler I thoroughly support). But he also speaks of recruiting great teachers and having standardized measures of achievement neither of which appeals to me. The overall sense is still that more experts will improve education.
I guess a large part of the reason we homeschool is that I have a fundamentally different view of how education works. I do not think the teacher is the most important component. Rather it is the student who must take an active role in their education. You just can’t force learning. I also don’ think that standardized testing benefits students (see this post and this one) or that focusing primarily on the STEM subjects is the right way to go.
So personally, I prefer Romney’s position on education because it does not focus exclusively on the STEM subjects and because it emphasizes the need for choice, but neither in my opinion understands education as I do.