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Posted by on Aug 2, 2008 in Politics | 19 comments

Media Largely Ignores McCain’s Remarks on Education at Urban League

I was reading the full text of John McCain’s speech to the Urban League today, but when I went to look for the media coverage of it, what I found was, shall we say, disappointing. The primary buzz in both newspapers and television was about the “cool” reception he received for some remarks concerning the policy proposals of his opponent, Senator Barack Obama. (Though the majority of reports were generous enough to note that Senator McCain received a respectful standing ovation from the attendees at both the beginning and end of his remarks.)

I will grant you that the specific audience was not tailored to McCain from a political perspective. The Urban League is largely an African-American organization and nobody – including McCain’s team – is under the impression that one speech is suddenly going to swing 50% of the nation’s black voters to his banner. We could also reasonably expect that Obama would receive a rousing welcome for his remarks. (Which he did, and his speech was both well crafted and skillfully delivered.)

What was most disappointing to me, though, was the lack of coverage of a large portion of McCain’s speech on a very pressing domestic issue – education. The audience was a good fit, given their motivation to assist lower income persons to move into the economic mainstream. And McCain’s remarks were very much on point. He talked about the need for options by parents with students in troubled or failing public school districts. He spoke persuasively about programs in place, both in Washington, DC and New Orleans, which provide such choices and opportunities and the benefits they are providing to parents and children. Current education policies have clearly been failing families, and the proof is in front of you all around the country. (Though never more obvious than in so many of our inner city school districts.)

I would ask you to take a moment and read the full portion of the speech which the media was not covering and judge for yourself.

I will provide the full text below. Read, digest and discuss at your leisure. There are some hard truths here, but they are worth consideration.

Nowhere are the limitations of conventional thinking any more apparent than in education policy. After decades of hearing the same big promises from the public education establishment, and seeing the same poor results, it is surely time to shake off old ways and to demand new reforms. That isn’t just my opinion; it is the conviction of parents in poor neighborhoods across this nation who want better lives for their children.

Just ask the families in New Orleans who will soon have the chance to remove their sons and daughters from failing schools, and enroll them instead in a school-choice scholarship program. That program in Louisiana was proposed by Democratic state legislators and signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal. Just three years after Katrina, they are bringing real hope to poor neighborhoods, and showing how much can be achieved when both parties work together for real reform. Or ask parents in the disadvantaged neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. whether they want more choices in education. The District’s Opportunity Scholarship program serves more than 1,900 boys and girls from families with an average income of 23,000 dollars a year. And more than 7,000 more families have applied for that program. What they all have in common is the desire to get their kids into a better school.

Democrats in Congress, including my opponent, oppose the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. In remarks to the American Federation of Teachers last month, Senator Obama dismissed public support for private school vouchers for low-income Americans as, “tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice.” All of that went over well with the teachers union, but where does it leave families and their children who are stuck in failing schools?

Over the years, Americans have heard a lot of “tired rhetoric” about education. We’ve heard it in the endless excuses of people who seem more concerned about their own position than about our children. We’ve heard it from politicians who accept the status quo rather than stand up for real change in our public schools. Parents ask only for schools that are safe, teachers who are competent, and diplomas that open doors of opportunity. When a public school fails, repeatedly, to meet these minimal objectives, parents ask only for a choice in the education of their children. Some parents may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private school. Many will choose a charter school. No entrenched bureaucracy or union should deny parents that choice and children that opportunity.

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  • That’s the problem Jazz, according to our lovely media, McCain talking to black people is so Atari 2600. Just think. A white guy talking about education with black folks?? That’s positively a yawner. We need Barry-O to do it so we can see if he’s going to be the BLACK CANDIDATE!!

    As Charlie Brown says:

    My stomach hurts…

  • JoyP

    Why would you be surprised that the media didn’t comment on the text of the speech but instead the “cool reception”. It’s the same type of coverage Obama gets. Unless it sparks a controversy, the MSM just aren’t interested.

  • Neocon

    The left fears inequality. The right fears inferiority.

    I say they both have legitimate fears and that we should offer superior schools without inequality.

    I have always proposed super schools in which there could be 50,000 students in a nice prosperous area of a city that has manicured lawns, landscaping and reeks of success and quality. Think Harvard Campus, LSU campus.

    College type schools for our children. Why should we have 1000 schools serving 500 students when we could have 10 schools serving the same amount of students.

    We bus now. Why not bus to the super schools? Problem solved, everyone gets their wants met and the diversity is there by bringing all children from all areas of town together under one giant campus.

    • StockBoySF

      Neocon: “The left fears inequality. The right fears inferiority.”

      I think that’s a very interesting observation…. I’m not sure I agree with it but thanks for giving me something to mull over.

      As far as the super schools… I do think that larger schools would offer a wider variety of classes, and the level of the classes can be geared towards the ability of the student. For instance I went to a Catholic HS which had a comprehensive honors program, a couple levels of “college prep” and then a program geared to students who didn’t aspire to college with some vocational type courses….

  • JSpencer

    Joy is right. The media sells us all short and feeds us too much useless info about ads, the horserace, or any juicy thing they can dig up. If they were doing their “jobs” TM (that’s for you DLS 😉 they’d be talking about meat and substance, and not all the fluff. As for McCains remarks about education, I think he’s right – to a degree. I’d enjoy hearing some down to earth, genuine discussion from both candidates about their SPECIFIC take and suggestions on education, but not sure if we’ll hear that. Maybe in the “debates”???

  • Neocon

    Anyone else having trouble with the comments section?

    Mine are all out of sequence. They are scrambled all up by post times and out of sequential order.

  • DLS

    Maybe in the debates, or as I thought of, in a table-top “job interview” on the Charlie Rose show, say.

  • superdestroyer

    Why should the meida be any different than most of the bloggers. Even when the post could be about an issue such as energy, entitlements, or foreign policy, the discussion quickly focuses on the horserace aspects.

    Of course, since McCain has zero chance of winning, why should anyone care about education.

    The Democratic Party has made it clear for decades that the public schools are a jobs program first, a pork program second, and an institution of learning last. Look at the bluest counties in the U.S. and you will find some of the worst public schools. And one of the reasons why is all of the Democratic Party leaders send their children to private schools just like those in the media do.

    Put those two views together along with the pointlessness of Republicans pandering to blacks and I can see why the media was not interested in reporting on it.

  • pacatrue

    Yeah, kind of par for the course it seems in media coverage. Horserace and emotion, that’s what gets reported. If we can see the effects of emotion on the horserace, we have a front page story. Who’s going to win is far more interesting than what they might do after they get there.

  • JSpencer

    SD: “Of course, since McCain has zero chance of winning, why should anyone care about education.”

    I’d like to think you were right about that, but the democrats have a history of screwing up free lunches, and besides, the polls don’t really echo your belief.

    I have to say, I think the popular demonizing of teachers unions is overblown and counterproductive. It wasn’t terribly long ago when teachers were overworked and underpaid. I think you’d have no trouble at all finding teachers who still think that’s the case. Teachers will never be able to overcome the problems created by poor parenting for example, nor were they ever intended to. We need to be honest about recognizing that problem and stop blaming teachers for not teaching AND being the parent. That said, I’m all for moving older and unproductive teachers out of the system, and the unions can help with that. I’m also not against having more choices in schools.

  • vwcat

    I cannot find hardly anything on Obama’s speech. But, this is the failure of the coverage this year.
    It’s like they keep saying Obama doesn’t have alot of substance and yet, on his site, he has alot more issues and detail then mcCain.
    And he talks detail substance at his town halls. People say it’s McCain who is not giving any substance and only rhetoric and nastiness.
    The media has done a disservice to the people.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    There actually was coverage of McCain’s speech in all the usual places. I saw the text of his speech at the NYT blog about politics. It’s just that way more coverage went to the question of who’s a celebrity.

    Why is that?

    Is our dumb media just more interested in the “celebrity” advertising controversy?

    Maybe the audience is, in fact, more interested in the “celebrity” controversy? And the media is just obeying the invisible hand of the marketplace.

    For that matter, maybe the McCain campaign prefers to get a lot of free media coverage of its “celebrity” advertisements, not its policies for inner city schools?

    Superdestroyer has been complaining about the horserace coverage on a bunch of threads. I agree with him.

    • JoyP

      I agree with the “celebrity” meme that GeorgeSorwell speaks about. It is driven by the MSM and soaked up by the public. The media has a tendency to dumb us down and we let it. If the people actually stood up and demanded a press that was supposed to do its job, do you think they would? Doubtful, athough Andrea Mitchell finally shot down the “Obama didn’t go to see the troops because the press couldn’t go” story and that shocked the crap out of me. And yes, the McCain campaign is getting alot of free airtime with these ads because it creates controversy that the media wants to exploit. I just wish one media outlet would act that they didn’t even know the ads existed and concentrated on the details of the campaign. Wishful thinking on my part.

  • Jim_Satterfield

    Could it be that they didn’t cover the substance of the speech because there was no substance? Really look at what he said. It’s the same old Republican “Public schools are bad because they’re government run so we need to take money from them so we can put it into vouchers.”. He just said it in a slightly different way. Maybe they missed the “substance” because they were too busy yawning and saying “Same old GOP talking points.”.

  • JSpencer

    Speaking of the “media”, this part of a David Sirota piece jumped out at me:

    “In this brave new world, language is sculpted to skew the “center,” intimidating the majority from demanding concrete change for fear of looking like lunatics. It is a slickly packaged process of marginalization and demoralization”

    What better way to maintain the status quo than to discourage people from sticking out by complaining? Obviously, there is something wrong with anyone who crticizes the staus quo more than an appropriate amount. It’s an American twist on the old Japanese saying, ” the nail that sticks up must be pounded down”, except here, it’s voluntary because people are afraid of being though to be too different, i.e. speaking up against wrongs too loudly or in the wrong venues.

  • timr

    meanwhile the elephant in the room-dropout rate-is never mentioned by either party. The DoEd lies about the numbers, as do the figures given by the schools in the NCLB law. The real rate-for which one must dig deep and hard to find as each and every school in the US is lying about how many really drop out-BTW, the biggest reason given is BOREDOM, not that the work is to hard, we teach to the lowest and slowest, so it is not surprising that the brighter kids are bored(but if we taught so the subjects were harder, why then we would not be FAIR to junior-who even tho he is an ignorant little savage, will get an A because his parents demand it) The actual Drop out rate, nation wide is running about 30%. I have been reading about one HS,which was finally closed BTW, whose drop out rate was an astonishing 79%. One of the reasons why the rate was so high was quite a surprise, but all the reasons were covered up by the teachers union and the schools management. Start with bi-lingual education. Most of the drop outs were hispanic, and they were not being taught anything that would let them get a good job. Meanwhile out in Ca, 10 years has passed since the total english immersion law was passed, those kids seem to be doing ok. Personal note. I am a 2nd generation american. My grandparents emigrated to the US in the late 1890’s as children who did not speak a word of english. Did they go to bilingual classes? Nope, only english taught here. So what happened to these 9 poor children who were so deprived? 1 of my great Aunts became one of the very first female graduates of the U of M medical school and became, along with her Dr husband the sole Drs of a small town. 3 other of my great Aunts became nurses-and college grads. 2 of my great Uncles became businessmen, 1 became a local farmer who bought over 1500 acres, my grandmother-who spoke english without any accent(along with her native language) became a realator, the last great Aunt became a college instructor. Total immersion english, not any bilingual crap(oh those poor little kids must be handicapped by not allowing them to learn english so that they can get ahead in the current society) The easiest way to keep a race of people in an underclass is to insure that they don’t get the language skills to cope. You think that I am poed about this, damn right I am.

  • pacatrue

    There’s no connection between properly done bilingual education and lack of English skills. Bilingual education, done well, is used to assist people in learning English and other subjects. The idea is to use what they know, typically Spanish, to help them learn what they don’t know.

  • superdestroyer


    You are probably assuming that they know more Spanish than they really do. Few of the Hispanic children come from families where the parents are literate in Spanish. Bilingual education as you describe it ensure that Hispanic children are iliterate in two languages.

    AS an example, how can you teach biology to someone who only knows vulgar phrase to describe body parts or bodily functions?

    The Republicans have probably lost a huge amount of support by overpushing vouchers. There are not enough seats in private schools to provide an education for everyone who is now if public schools. It also takes a long time for a private school to establish itself.

    However, the Republicans should adopt a model of lets make public schools more like private schools with entrance exams, tracking, ability placement, and magnet schools that focus high level academic learning. It would improve overall education, isolate the trouble making students where they do the least damage and force the Democrats to either agree or act like they care more about social engineering instead of education.

  • Neocon

    We lived in Texas for a number of Years. Down their football is king. High School Football. As a result most towns do not want to divide up their high schools at the risk of being unable to comptete with other schools on the football field or other areas.

    As a result cities might have only 1 high school but have 100,000 citizens. These high schools end up hosting 5000-6000 students and usually rather then building a new High School to ease overcrowding they will add many new modualar homes as classrooms until such time as they can build permanent structures.

    My idea for a super school actually came from Texas High Schools who fight tooth and nail to oppose splitting up their high schools. In essence you end up with every student in the entire town going to ONE high school. This could be used all over the country and make it from K-12 instead of 9-12 in most cities.

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