Republican National Convention

MINNEAPOLIS — As one might expect, the contrast between an education panel hosted by the conservative American Solutions and one hosted by the National Education Association (NEA) is stark. At the downtown Minneapolis Club this afternoon, the Republican Main Street Partnership co-hosted “An Education Forum on 21st Century Skills” with the NEA. Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), co-founder of RMSP, headlined the event, but NEA executive director John Wilson did most of the talking.

Like this morning’s American Solutions session, Wilson opened by talking about how the future of the United States depends on preparing our children to compete in a global marketplace against India and China. Also like the American Solutions panel, there was strong agreement that the U.S. had a 20th century education system that badly needed to be updated for a 21st century world. That is where the similarities ended. Where the conservatives in the morning wanted more accountability through increased educational choices, the NEA wanted … a rainbow:
Or to be more precise, a “Rainbow of 21st Century Skills.” Instead of an increased focus on math and science, the NEA wants time spent on “Learning and Innovation,” “Information, Media and Technology,” and “Life and Career” skills. Never mind that one in three fourth-graders scores “below basic” in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Or that 29 % of eighth graders scored “below basic” in mathematics on the same test. Instead of letting schools focus on the basics, the NEA believes “schools must move beyond a focus on basic competency in core subjects to promoting understanding of academic content at much higher levels by weaving 21st century interdisciplinary themes into core subjects.” Got that? In what those themes the NEA wants to eat up class time: Global Awareness; Financial, Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy; Civic Literacy; and Health Literacy.

The most revealing part of Wilson’s presentation was when he talked about the surefire success The Partnership for 21st Century Skills will experience. Wilson explained: “Our coalition includes education, business, and government. When these three groups get together to change public schools there is nothing we can’t do.” We know who ‘business’ and ‘government’ are. But who exactly is ‘education’ made up of? Not students. And definitely not the parents who are in such desperate need of control of their children’s education.