Step away from the baby

Why are the presidential candidates generally ignoring education, even when the issue consistently ranks atop voter concerns (in a recent Pew survey, ed came out above jobs, social security, and even terrorism)? Might the 17 aspirants eschew the subject because middle-class voters, while they certainly care about education, are generally content with their children's schools? Perhaps, but if candidates only appealed to the immediate concerns of the middle class, John Edwards, for example, wouldn't have constructed his entire campaign around poverty. Maybe the federal role in education is simply too limited to warrant presidential concern? Surely not. No--the reason education isn't getting more substantive airtime is because the public isn't demanding the substance. They may care about education. But lots of Democratic voters are satisfied when candidates say that schools are important and deserve more money, and many Republicans are pacified when candidates advocate local control. "Education, for many presidential candidates, is a great applause line," reports NPR's Larry Abramson. "They love to show up to schools and read to kids." And people love it, too. Don't blame Clinton, Romney, Obama, et al.: the real educational idea dearth starts with voters themselves.

"Education a Good-Guy Issue That Finishes Last," by Larry Abramson, All Things Considered, November 2, 2007

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