Education, the Kid with Lice That No Politician Wants to Play With

I was born in 1978, so throughout my life, I witnessed Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama run on a political platform that placed democratizing education at the forefront. Other politicians seemed to follow suit, and at the end of the day, it looked like our nations K-12 system was headed in the right direction.

Fast forward to 2019, and it looks like support for our K-12 schools has reached an all-time low. Why is this happening? Why have politicians abandoned their go to campaign trope?

This is quite a quandary, as the U.S. K-12 school system has made tremendous gains over the last decade, and we have gotten remarkedly better at helping “at risk” students “beat the odds” so to speak.  The education reform movements of the past are to thank for that, with each iteration helping to improve the next one.

However, in spite of it all, in 2019 politicians are staying as far away from education as they can. It is as if education was a kid with lice. When they remotely show interest in education, they concentrate their efforts on early childhood education or higher education. It’s as though the K-12 system is no longer a political “cash cow” that just keeps giving.

Politicians in 2019 are more interested in immigration, terrorism or the latest scandal emanating from the White House. This started back in 2016, during the presidential election. Political commentators were genuinely surprised to see political platforms and agendas that conveniently left out the field of education.

Education experts that were usually called upon by NBC, CNN, etc., to discuss K-12 education policy during the election cycle, where silenced. This continued during the 2018 midterm elections, but no one in K-12 made a big fuss about it. There were teachers across the U.S. that ran for office and won, but still, the core issues of education policy did not make it to the forefront.

So why were politicians silent on education issues? Because there was nothing to gain from it politically. The hot button issues of immigration, terrorism, etc., dominated the news and political cycle. To retain their seats, or win their seats, politicians led with the issues that their advisors, campaign directors, and political analysts felt would give them the greatest probability of being victorious.

I have a major problem with this. Our kids are not political pawns that can be used as a photo opportunity to gain political currency. We need to start “calling politicians on the carpet” for this type of behavior. It starts at the top.

We must start with the POTUS (President of the United States), and then move on to governors, U.S. congressmen, and senators, etc. Then and only then will politicians understand that we mean business, and those that ignore the needs of the U.S. K-12 system will find themselves voted out of office and replaced by someone who cares about our children’s futures.

If we don’t, we will cultivate a generation of future politicians who follow in their immediate predecessors’ footprints. We need to reach back into our political past and remember how essential education was to political campaigns. It was the Soviet launch of Sputnik 1 that ushered us out our first “golden age” of intellectual slumber and forced our politicians to get about serious education.

In 2019, maybe the fact that China plans to be the world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030 will be enough to make politicians rise to the occasion. I predict that this will usher in a new age of education reform, as U.S. politicians will scramble to make sense of it all. We have a long way to go when it comes to artificial intelligence in K-12. China is already introducing AI to kindergarten students, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

How are politicians responding to this? They aren’t; as very few of them are aware of this new threat to our democracy. This is what happens when politicians treat K-12 education like the kid with lice, that no one wants to play with.

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