Thursday, September 11, 2008

Failing a Test

Well, The Common Man loves The Simpsons, even though good new episodes are few and far between these days, and he's seen the best that the mid- to late-nineties had to offer at least half a dozen times over the years. Even though, as time passes, he gradually turns into Homer, The Common Man particularly loves Bart and the youthful pranks and shenanigans the scamp gets into (who doesn't love Bart and Milhouse finding $20, getting squishy-drunk, and accidentally becoming Boy Scouts?). You see, The Common Man can take a joke.

Which is why The Common Man chuckled yesterday when, while watching The Simpsons and making dinner for The Boy, he saw the following ad for John McCain and Sarah Palin:

That's hilarious, The Common Man thought, that a candidate who has been thoroughly vetted would have somehow advocated sex-ed for kindergardeners and no one had noticed. Good one, John McCain! You, sir, are a man of great humor.

Then, of course, The Common Man realized that McCain wasn't joking. McCain's ad was seriously putting forth the idea that Barak Obama, the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, wanted kids "learning about sex before learning to read." This is elevating the national dialogue about politics, suggesting that Barak Obama is the inappropriate uncle you don't invite to parties anymore?

Obviously, McCain's assertion is not true. According to, the legislation McCain's ad discusses "does not support explicit sex education for kindergarteners. And the bill...would have allowed only "age appropriate" material and a no-questions-asked opt-out policy for parents." The primary purpose of the clause addressing kindergardeners, according to The Washington Post, "was to make them aware of the risk of inappropriate touching and sexual predators." So, if John McCain wants to make a campaign issue out of Barak Obama's attempts to keep kindergardeners safe from child molestors, good luck with that. McCain has no young children, so perhaps that's not a concern for him.

Indeed, education as a whole seems to be less of a concern for John McCain. McCain speaks highly of No Child Left Behind, a disappointing program (at best) that has hamstrung school districts and states by not delivering promised funding, cut off student choices, and encouraged an alarming increase in student drop-out rates. Indeed, according to the New York Sun, McCain has "embraced a national effort, led by the New York City schools chancellor, Joel Klein, to expand No Child Left Behind's philosophy of using test scores to zero in on and eliminate

failing schools, principals, and teachers." Yet, as McCain has not proposed any additional federal education funding, one wonders exactly how he will pay for it.

He is also a proponent of allowing students from failing schools to transfer into other available schools in the area. This sounds good in theory, until you keep in mind that schools have a finite amount of space to hold new students and many areas of the country (particularly rural communities that have extremely limited educational opportunities). Choice is not the panacea it seems when there is no real choice to make, after all.

What is most disappointing about this entire fiasco, however, is that McCain's ad comes from someone The Common Man respects. His moral compass is supposed to be truer than that. And the fact that he resorts to such trickery only underscores the notion that John McCain realizes he has nothing substantive to add to the debate on education. Nothing he'd like to say about his own proposals. Nothing worth talking about. He has become the snide child in the back of the class, making fun of the smart guy trying to deliver his book report. And that's...just... It's sad what John McCain has become.

No comments: