Sorry I lost my cool you guys. Poverty is a hot button issue with me. I think about it every day and my work involves trying to alleviate its effects on learning. I could go on an on about how the poor start out in school at least three years behind their middle and upper class counterparts (at age five, they are already more than half their lifetime behind!) how hunger and toothaches prevent children from learning, how cultural differences can cause some children to be labeled "learning disabled" because the way they act and learn is different from their middle class teacher's way of doing things, how their parents are afraid to into the school because of negative experiences they had as students so these kids have no one to advocate for them. You tell me how will they ever escape poverty without academic success. They won't in a knowledge/information based economy, that's for sure and they won't get the education they need without an even playing field.
In W's defense, I am totally behind his sweeping legislation called the No Child Left Behind Act. I believe it is a civil rights act even more so than an educational one. It forces schools to be accountable for "subgroups" they were never held accountable for before, i.e. special ed kids, minorities, free and reduced lunch kids. NCLB is imperfect, it is shamefully underfunded, and its implemementation has been problematic. However, it is up for renewal and many educators and education organizations have made very specific recommendations for its improvement.
If not for the war in Iraq, Katrina, and all the closed-door dealing that has gone on, his legacy could have been one of a president who shined a light on inequity in education and made steps to correct it. So, perhaps I was a bit unfair in my attack the other day. However, I do believe that sometimes his left hand doesn't know what his right hand is doing, and not in a good way. With one hand, he is trying to level the playing field for everyone to have success in America. With the other, he is spending every penny he can find to fund the war in Iraq and it breaks my heart. Just think of what the US Education system could do with $24 BILLION.
But we do what we can with what we've got. NCLB is a grand, if problematic, idea. When a democrat takes office in January 2009 and NCLB is renewed with improvements recommended by education professionals, and we withdraw our troops from Iraq, we may see things start to change for the better. Until then we must continue to move forward the best we can.