The twitterverse erupted briefly yesterday when Hillary Clinton, appearing at the Globalization of Higher Education conference in Irving, Texas, dropped a few bricks of praise upon the head of co-host Jeb Bush. Specifically, she lauded him for his dedication to and passion for education and the reform thereof. Upon hearing those words, many Democratic fans of public education dropped their jaws upon the most conveniently located floor.
As HRC jockeys for position re: 2016, the question is arising-- is she good for public education?
I'm nominally a Democrat. I voted for Obama in 2008 (oops) and again in 2012 (would you rather have a pointy stick in the eye or a knee in the groin). I am neither a member of the Cult of Hillary's Awesomeness nor of the Stop That Evil Bitch Club. But I can't say that her supportive words for Jebby don't surprise me.
Look, all politicians love to play with education. If religion is the third rail of politics, education is its plush fluffy stuffed unicorn-- you can always pick it up without any danger of getting hurt.
But Hillary's record is not promising.
The big smoking gun in her education past is the infamous "Dear Hillary" letter from Marc Tucker, sent in 1992 as what appears to be part of a larger policy discussion. In the letter, Tucker proposes a reinvention of American public ed into a european-style job training program that prepares workers to meet the needs of society, even as it tracks their every move into a giant database to be used by government "job counselors" and prospective employers. Any of this sound familiar?
Righty critics point to several moves of the Clinton administration to set this new educational order into motion, including directing fed $$ to governors (not, say, elected school boards) and the building up of national testing initiatives. And Hillary has generally shown herself to be a big fan of big government solutions.
HRC has been pretty quiet about CCSS and has confined most of her edu-activity to relatively harmless fluff like her new "Too Small To Fail" program to encourage parents to engage in their children's education. But her friends, her connections, and her praise for a governor whose record on public education is one of the most destructive in the country-- these are not good signs.
Advocates for the US public education must stop stop stop stop STOP assuming that Democrats have our backs or that Republicans are our enemies. We need to start demanding that our leaders take a stand, and we need to hold them accountable no matter what their affiliation.
The status quo of high stakes test-driven education is a bipartisan monstrosity. It's a trick where liberals are co-opted with "Government will make sure this need is met" and traditional conservatives are co-opted with "The need will be met by private corporations." The driving principle is money. Pay attention to the money.
Do I think Hillary is a friend of pubic ed? I do not. I believe she is part of the sad decades-long history of our descent into the current state of corporate vulturedom and deliberate dismantling of public education. Unless and until she makes a clear and deliberate break with the status quo, I am going to assume she is just one more politician angling to destroy the institution to which so many of us have dedicated our lives.