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November 02, 2009
Jeb Bush pushed hard for putting the interests of children first.
Photo by Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Getty Images
I don’t know whether his hat is edging into the 2016 presidential election ring, but I do know that Jeb Bush gave a heck of an education keynote on Tuesday morning at the national summit convened in Washington by his Florida-based Foundation for Excellence in Education.
At this annual bipartisan-but-predominantly-Republican soiree aimed at state legislators and other key ed-policy decision makers—this year’s was by far the largest and grandest of the five they’ve held so far—Bush pushed hard for putting the interests of children first and did so in language plainly intended to appeal across party lines. A later session, which I had the pleasure of “moderating,” brought much the same message from John Podesta of the Center for American Progress. Though nobody expects Podesta to vote Bush for president (or anything else), in practice they agree on about 90 percent of the ed-reform policy agenda and maybe 70 percent of the strategy for attaining and sustaining it.
Bush opened by citing Charles Murray’s new book and lamenting the loss of upward social and economic mobility in American society and the damage it is doing to our values as well as our competitiveness. “We have these huge gaps in income,” he said, “with people born into poverty who will stay in poverty….This ideal of who we are as a nation—it’s going away, it’s leaving us,” adding that “There is one path that can change this course…And that is to assure that we move to a child-centered education system where we have no excuses for the fact that we have these big education gaps that will yield income gaps and lives that are constrained because people don't have the power of knowledge.”
Bush’s formulation of a “child-centered” system has five essential elements.
It was the first education speech I can remember where I found myself agreeing with every single word.
Yes, I’d love to see Jeb run for president. But whether he does or not, his clarity, courage, persistence, and adroit, open-handed, open-armed leadership are some of the most valuable assets that today’s education reformers have.