Playing the softball

David Brooks is softening. He's looking for "creative" presidential candidates willing to "talk about improving the lives of students" instead of just talking "about improving the schools." The creative ones "will emphasize that education is a cumulative process that begins at the dawn of life." Sen. Barack Obama might qualify; in his Selma speech on Sunday he preached that parents must take more responsibility for their children's educations. Bill Cosby has been saying similar things for years. And of course they're right: family support and culture and early childhood experiences matter enormously. But these arguments too often get refracted back by educators as "Parents are the problem; schools are doing the best they can with the kids they get." And of course that's wrong. Six years ago another presidential candidate put a name to that point of view-the "soft bigotry of low expectations." Which is why we're looking for a presidential candidate who will also talk about how schools can develop the emotional and cultural dispositions their students need if their families and communities fall down on the job.

"A Critique of Pure Reason," by David Brooks, New York Times, March 1, 2007