(Guest post by Greg Forster)
I didn’t bother watching the debate, but from the comments around the web it looks like my prediction that there would be nothing really worth watching was accurate.
Cruising through the commentary, though, I came across this from Mickey Kaus:
Palin sounded like she was campaigning in Iowa for the teachers’ union vote when she talked about education. We need to spend more money. Pay teachers more. States need more “flexibility” in No Child Left Behind (“flexibility” to ignore it). I didn’t hear an actual single conservative principle, or even neoliberal principle. Pathetic.
So much for all that talk about how the McCain staff was overcoaching her. It’s remarkable – yet few seem to be remarking upon it, which is also remarkable – that Barack Obama is more of an education reformer than Palin. (At least, on paper he is. In practice they’re probably both about the same, which you can take as a compliment to Obama or as a criticism of Palin according to preference.) At any rate, her approach to education is pretty hard to square with McCain’s.
The lack of attention to this rather glaring contradiction, even by Palin detractors (and McCain/Palin detractors) who presumably have a motive to pay attention to it, shows just how irrelevant education has become as a national issue, at least for this cycle. Remember how big education was in 2000?
Good thing real reforms like school choice are winning big at the state level. The movement was wise not to bother showing up in DC for the big NCLB hulaballoo eight years ago. Now they’re not tied to NCLB or in general to the fortunes of education as a federal issue. I’ve heard some conservatives bash NCLB because it lacks serious choice components. But NCLB was never about choice. It seems clear that the choice components in Bush’s original proposal were only there to be given away as bargaining chips. The important question is, where would the school choice movement be now if it had tied itself to NCLB?