Monday, March 28, 2011

They’ve got to hear a message that they don’t have any choice

Today Obama had a “town hall” for Univision at the Bell Multicultural High School in D.C.

A BUNCH OF LANGUAGES: “I want everybody here to be working hard to make sure that you don’t just speak one language, you speak a bunch of languages. That’s a priority.”

He got a little over-emphatic about how future jobs will require education and lots of it: “all of which means nobody -- nobody -- can drop out. We can’t afford to have anybody here at Bell drop out. We can’t have anybody drop out anywhere in the country.” Dude, it’s high school, not East Berlin. “Everybody -- businesses, philanthropies, churches, whoever these young people are interacting with, they’ve got to hear a message that they don’t have any choice, they’ve got to graduate”. So it’s all about making sure that young people don’t have any choice. Or something.

WE CAN NAME THEM: “there are about 2,000 schools in the country where the majority of dropouts take place. I mean, we can name them.” May I suggest you name them... George W. Bush High School.

On the controversy over how to teach non-English speakers, Obama, naturally, came down on both sides: “we’ve got to make sure that we continue to fund strong programs, both bilingual education programs but also immersion programs that ensure that young people are learning English but they’re not falling behind in their subjects even as they are learning English.”

He said that the educational system in California has fallen from its pre-eminent levels because of all the money spent on prisons.

The host read a letter from the mother of some kid who was bullied and committed suicide. She asked if he’d make bullying a federal crime. Obama failed to answer that one, but did say that people used to make fun of him for his big ears and how it’s harder now with Facebook and “Twitters.” “You can’t escape it,” he said. Later he said there should be lots of computers in schools. But “technology is not a magic bullet.” Although, to be fair, magic is not a technological bullet either.

He suggested that the students end bullying by “call[ing] them out on it. And that peer pressure could actually end up making as much of a difference as just about anything.” Great, peer pressure, that’s always such a force for good.

On standardized tests: “Too often what we’ve been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools.” He didn’t say how often is the right amount.

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