Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice struck an inspirational, bi-partisan tone in a far-ranging keynote speech at the National Summit on Education Reform being held in Denver this week.
This is Dr. Rice’s first summit as board chair of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a position she assumed earlier this year when former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush stepped down.
She focused on education as a tool to unleash the potential of individuals, which in turn drives American prosperity.
“There is no more important issue before us as a country than the education of each child to his or her potential,’’ Dr. Rice said. “We share a view that every life is worthy. And if every life is worthy, every life is capable of greatness.’’
Whereas success in the world once depended on raw materials and industrial efficiency, success in the 21st century global economy is based on the “mobilization of human resources.’’
Preparing our students for this new dynamic requires providing them a well-rounded education, one based as much on creativity in the arts as proficiency in the STEM fields.
She described education as “our best intervention” to deal with issues of poverty and joblessness.
“The very social fabric of our country depends on that promise that it doesn’t matter where you came from but where you’re going is true,’’ she said.
While praising public education as the “great foundation of American democracy,’’ Dr. Rice nonetheless noted issues of inequality. More affluent families can afford private school tuition or to move to neighborhoods with high-performing public schools. Low-income families, on the other hand, can find themselves trapped in failing schools.
That should outrage everybody, she said, pointing to the necessity of charter schools, vouchers and Education Savings Accounts as alternatives for families.
In discussing academic standards, Dr. Rice said it was important for children in all states to possess the same skills and knowledge. While saying the federal government can advocate for that, she pointed out that education was not a federal issue.
Dr. Rice also decried those “who used children for partisan fodder to divide us.’’ She said education was not for “adults, not for teachers, not for unions…It’s actually for the children.’’
This followed remarks by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who opened the education summit by welcoming participants to his state. He cited the need to “get past partisan gridlock around education’’ and encouraged finding compromises and solutions.
A Democrat, Hickenlooper has led bi-partisan compromises on a number of education reforms dealing with high standards, teacher effectiveness, early-grade literacy and school choice.
“I’m not aware of any enterprise where we have spent so much money and had such lackluster results,’’ he said of public education.
About the author
Mike Thomas @MikeThomasTweet
Mike Thomas serves in the communications department, writing editorials and speeches. Prior to joining the Foundation, Mike worked for more than 30 years as a journalist with Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel. He has written investigative projects, magazine feature stories, humor pieces, editorials and local columns. He won several state and national awards, and was named a finalist in the American Society of New Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award for Commentary/Column Writing in 2010. As a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, he wrote extensively about education reform, becoming one of its chief advocates in the Florida media. Mike graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in political science and journalism. His wife is a teacher and he has two children in public schools. Contact Mike at Mike@excelined.org