by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
Commentary of the Day - August 21, 2000: Comparing the Republican and Democratic Party Education Platforms - Similarities.
Big Al closed out the Democrats' 2000 convention by passionately embracing Tipper right up there on the platform. No doubt about it. The Democrats sure have more fun than those stodgy old Republicans. If only "Arkansas" Bill had confined his ardor to Hillary, big Al might not have faced such an uphill struggle for the presidency. Well, what's done is done, and no one ever said that the Democrats do things the easy way.
Nevertheless, now that both the Republicans and Democrats have finished with their quadrennial nonsense, we can get down to analyzing how they stand on education issues. That's not to say that the conventions don't provide us with an education of sorts. Namely, that what you see isn't always what you get!
In this commentary the IP focuses on the what the party platforms say about education, knowing full well that what the candidates think and even say about the subject may be far different. However, the party platforms probably provide a more accurate view of how the left and right wings of the body politic feel about these issues.
This year both candidates have been running hard towards the center, perhaps realizing that party identity is fading and that the many voters consider themselves independents. It is not surprising then that there are many similarities in the two party platforms. This is particularly true when it comes to the education planks.
The platforms of both parties now recognize that the nation has an important stake in the quality of education that it provides to its citizens. Now that we live in a truly global economy, our failures in education put at risk not only the individual but the nation as a whole.
Both parties are in remarkable agreement about many of the characteristics of quality education. Each platform calls for strong parental involvement, high quality teachers, classroom discipline, high academic standards, and a commitment to teaching both the basics and the new skills needed for a technological age. "Accountability" is a word that is prominent in both platforms. In other words, both Republicans and Democrats are more willing to demand schools that work.
School choice, remarkably, also is an area of agreement between Republicans and Democrats. The platforms of both parties support an increase in the number of charter schools. In fact, the Democratic Party platform language is stronger on this issue than that of the Republicans.
Both parties agree that basic literacy must be an essential goal of our educational system; and, both parties agree that the federal government should live up to its commitment to cover 40% of the cost of educating students with disabilities. Republicans and Democrats even agree on the need for expanded opportunities for higher education. This surely is an acknowledgment that we have shifted from a production-based economy to a knowledge-based one.
While the degree of overlap in the education planks of both major parties is significant, there - nevertheless - are important differences between both the parties and the candidates when it comes to education - particularly the role of the federal government in education. After all the election is about who will lead the federal government, not the local school board. We need to know what each candidate will do at the federal level to improve education. Our next commentary will take a look at the platform differences in detail to see how the Democrats and the Republicans propose to improve education. We will follow that with a close look at what the candidates actually are saying; and, whether or not what they have to say about education (1) makes sense and (2) can be believed.
© 2000 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro - All rights reserved.