When I heard about former Massachusetts Governor and presumptive conservative presidential nominee Mitt Romney going to West Philadelphia to visit the Universal Bluford Charter School, I thought it was a good thing. If by chance Mr. Romney is able to unseat President Obama and become our forty fifth President then it would be a good thing for Mr. Romney to become more involved with and introduce himself to the black community.
There’s little doubt that the black community is heavily tilted towards Mr. Obama’s favor. This morning I heard that the estimate is somewhere between ninety five and ninety eight percent of black voters. Former conservative presidential contender and comedy relief Herman Cain would simply write the majority of black people off as brainwashed against the conservative agenda. But all the rhetoric conservative candidates made and make against the black community, sometimes referred to as the blah people, really had and has a way of offending black people.
Nevertheless, here’s Mitt Romney making an attempt, albeit a very tepid one, to reach out to the black community in his latest bid for the White House. The last time Mr. Romney and his staff tried to engineer a photo op with the blah people happened four years ago when he posed for pictures with a few young black people participating in a Martin Luther King Day parade in Jacksonville, Florida and asking no one in particular, who let the dogs out. Tasteless and totally void of any context for any issues pertaining to the blah community, Mr. Romney’s wearisome display did little to inspire anyone to support his presidential aspirations. He lost his bid for the conservative nomination to his good friend Arizona Senator John McCain who went on to lose to Mr. Obama.
Seeming to have learned from that enthusiastic yet meaningless visit, Mr. Romney has taken another stab to undo the brainwashing that drives black people away like hell drives away snowballs. Compared to Mr. Romney barking with his dark skinned homies, the visit to the charter school was a photo op with black teachers, administrators, faculty and students with cameras and reporters recording and watching his every move and word. And then Mr. Romney used the event as an opportunity to pitch his plan to expand student vouchers and cultivate more charter schools.
But even in the charter school friendly environment, Mr. Romney wasn’t able to avoid controversy completely. Mr. Romney referred to a McKinsey & Company study that compared student performance in the United States with the performance of students in countries like Singapore, South Korea and Finland and concluded that class size was not a factor. Mr. Romney dismissed the push for smaller class size as nothing but a ploy by the teachers unions to get more teachers hired in order to increase the size and political influence of their unions.
Mr. Romney should have remembered that unions are people too. Music teacher Steven Morris spoke up telling Mr. Romney that he couldn’t think of a single teacher throughout his thirteen year career as a teacher who ever thought that more students in the classroom would be beneficial. Mr. Morris went on to say that he couldn’t think of a single parent that would want a single teacher to be in a room with lots of kids.
Another teacher whose classes ranges from twenty three to twenty eight students, explained that a teacher with a smaller class size can give more personalized attention and time to individual students. A third teacher emphasized the importance of keeping class size below eighteen students in early primary grades.
The presidential hopeful admitted that it would be wonderful if classes were limited to five students. He said that a class of fifty students would be impossible to manage. But then he reiterated his contention that the previously mentioned study proved that class size doesn’t matter. According to the study the schools that are among the best performing in the world have classroom sizes that are about the same as in the United States and therefore the number of students in the class is not a determining factor in the success of those school systems. Although it wasn’t mentioned in the study it is Mr. Romney’s contention that parental involvement, top teachers, and supportive administrators that makes the difference. It is two parents in a home that makes the difference.
And right there, on the home turf of the teachers and administrators, Mitt Romney throws down the gauntlet and lets the world know that he does not value smaller class sizes. Singapore and others do more with less. They have better grades with fewer or the same number of students in a class as we do. Money is not the answer. The answer is that parents will have to figure it out. We need to get more involved in our students education instead of relying on teachers to do the heavy lifting by their lonesome.
And in that light, I say parents should get more involved. One place that they could be more involved is in the voting booth. Parents need to make sure that they vote for politicians who have a complete understanding of what it takes to make our schools better, and not just follow the recommendation of a single entity who may have a vested interest in helping to push a conservative agenda that promotes the idea that more money for more teachers in school districts with poorly performing students in large class sizes is not the answer.
Parents should definitely get involved. That means more than just making sure students get their work done. It means making sure the school district has the tools to make sure every student has access to quality education in the same environment that somebody like Mitt Romney went to school in. The Cranbrook school that Mr. Romney attended back in the day has a strict limit of eighteen students per class in early primary grades. But when you’re a private school whose clientele includes the children of state Governors, tuition rates probably make it easy to afford such a luxury.
Mr. Romney wants to compare the performance of our public schools to the performance of public schools around the world, but not the private educational institutions in our own backyards. If smaller class sizes are good for the well to do, why not apply that standard to the rest of us? To hell with what the McKinsey & Company said in their little study. It’s a fair bet that the executives at McKinsey & Company send their children to schools that strive to control class size. What’s good for the high dollar goose is just as good for the gander that relies on the public for the education of public students.
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