President Obama on education today: Do something.

Here is President Obama with the marshmallow canon he referenced in his speech today, along with the student creator Joey Hudy. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Here is President Obama with the marshmallow cannon he referenced in his speech today, along with student inventor Joey Hudy. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

I thought you might enjoy President Obama’s comments today to the nation’s governors.

Most of his lengthy speech focused on education. This is an excerpt of the speech:

Today, the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about half the national average.  Their incomes are about twice as high as those who only have a high school diploma.  So this is what we should be focused on as a nation.  This is what we should be talking about and debating.  The countries who out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow.  That’s a simple fact.  And if we want America to continue to be number one and stay number one, we’ve got some work to do.

Now, there are two areas in education that demand our immediate focus.  First, we’ve just got to get more teachers into our classrooms.  Over the past four years, school districts across America have lost over 250,000 educators — 250,000 teachers, educators have been lost.  Think about that.  A quarter-million educators, responsible for millions of our students, all laid off when America has never needed them more.

Other countries are doubling down on education and their investment in teachers — and we should, too.  And each of us is here only because at some point in our lives a teacher changed our life trajectory.  The impact is often much bigger than even we realize.  One study found that a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000.  One teacher, one classroom.

The second area where we have to bring greater focus is higher education.  The jobs of the future are increasingly going to those with more than a high school degree.  And I have to make a point here.  When I speak about higher education we’re not just talking about a four-year degree.  We’re talking about somebody going to a community college and getting trained for that manufacturing job that now is requiring somebody walking through the door, handling a million-dollar piece of equipment.  And they can’t go in there unless they’ve got some basic training beyond what they received in high school.

We all want Americans getting those jobs of the future.  So we’re going to have to make sure that they’re getting the education that they need.  It starts, by the way, with just what kinds of expectation and ground rules we’re setting for kids in high school.  Right now, 21 states require students to stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18 — 21 states.  That means 29 don’t.   I believe that’s the right thing to do, for us to make sure to send a message to our young people — you graduate from high school, at a minimum.  And I urge others to follow suit of those 21 states.

Now, for students that are ready for college, we’ve got to make sure that college is affordable.

So this is a major problem that must be fixed. I addressed it at the State of the Union. We have a role to play here.  My grandfather got a chance to go to college because Americans and Congress decided that every returning veteran from World War II should be able to afford it. My mother was able to raise two kids by herself while still going to college and getting an advanced degree because she was able to get grants and work-study while she was in school. Michelle and I are only here today because of scholarships and student loans that gave us a good shot at a great education. And it wasn’t easy to pay off these loans, but it sure wasn’t as hard as it is for a lot of kids today.

But it’s not enough to just focus on student aid.  We can’t just keep on, at the federal level, subsidizing skyrocketing tuition. That means colleges and universities are going to have to help to make their tuition more affordable.  And I’ve put them on notice — if they are not taking some concrete steps to prevent tuition from going up, then federal funding from taxpayers is going to go down.  We’ve got to incentivize better practices in terms of keeping costs under control.And all of you have a role to play by making higher education a higher priority in your budgets.

But more than 40 states have cut funding for higher education over the past year.  And this is just the peak of what has been a long-term trend in reduced state support for higher education.  And state budget cuts have been among the largest factor in tuition hikes at public colleges over the past decade.

So let me wrap up by saying a few weeks ago I held, right here in this room and in the adjoining room, one of my favorite events and that is the White House Science Fair. We invited students from a lot of your states and they showcased projects that covered the full range of scientific discovery.

We had a group of kids from Texas, young Latino women, who came from the poorest section of Texas and yet were winning rocket competitions. And they were so good because they could only afford one rocket, so they couldn’t test them and they had to get it just right.  And their parents ran bake sales just so they could travel to these events.

You had a young woman who was from Long Island, had been studying mussels and wanted to be an oceanographer, and won the Intel Science Award while she was homeless. There was a kid — the kid who actually got the most attention was a young man named Joey Hudy of Arizona. That’s because Joey let me fire off a extreme marshmallow cannon. We did it right here in this room. We shot it from here. We pumped it up — it almost hit that light. I thought it was a lot of fun. And while the cannon was impressive, Joey left a bigger impression because he had already printed out his own business cards — he was 14-years-old. And he was handing them out to everybody, including me.  He’s on our short list for a Cabinet post.

Under his name on each card was a simple motto: “Don’t be bored, do something.”

Don’t be bored, do something. Don’t be bored, make something.

All across this country there are kids like Joey who are dreaming big, and are doing things and making things. And we want them to reach those heights. They’re willing to work hard. They are willing to dig deep to achieve. And we’ve got a responsibility to give them a fair shot. If we do, then I’m absolutely convinced that our future is going to be as bright as all of us want.

So this is going to be something that I want to collaborate with all of you on. If you’ve got ideas about how we can make our education system work better, I want to hear them today, and Arne Duncan is going to want to hear them for the rest of the time that he’s Education Secretary and the rest of the time I’m President.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

31 comments Add your comment

What a speech! Love it. / GM

February 27th, 2012
3:48 pm

I loved every word of this speech bu this in particular made me emotional:

“We had a group of kids from Texas, young Latino women, who came from the poorest section of Texas and yet were winning rocket competitions. And they were so good because they could only afford one rocket, so they couldn’t test them and they had to get it just right. And their parents ran bake sales just so they could travel to these events.”

Girls with rockets. Poor mothers baking cakes so their daughters can make rockets. It’s enough to make my heart sing.

Good Mother

Jerry Eads

February 27th, 2012
3:49 pm

Thanks, Maureen. Most appreciated.
J

Just A Teacher

February 27th, 2012
3:53 pm

While I applaud the president’s message, I’m a realist who knows that his personal income has been cut while Barrack Obama has held the office of president. I also know that our county is continuing to lay off (excuse me, I meant furlough) teachers, is increasing class size for the fall term, has put a freeze on hiring new teachers, and has frozen all accounts for classroom instructional materials. I hope this is more than empty rhetoric.

Joy in Teaching

February 27th, 2012
3:55 pm

Mr. President,

1. Demolish the Federal Department of Education. Allow for more local control in education.

2. Allow teachers to teach students. Give them the materials they need (paper, etc) so that this can happen.

3. Give teachers adequate planning time to collarate with collegues on methods and ways to properly teach specific students. Follow Japan’s example on math education.

4. Allow for Vocational education and fund it. Not everyone is college material. The world will always have a need for those with mechanical and technical skills and aptitudes.

5. All teachers to get back control in their classrooms and make a law that requires administrators to back them up. Parents too.

Brandy

February 27th, 2012
4:02 pm

More of the same.

Let’s think critically here, folks. What would really happen if a miracle occurred and every single American suddenly became able to read on grade level, do advanced mathematics, graduate from high school, and go to college? Who would clean toilets, dig ditches and graves, bus tables, or any number of other necessary jobs that college graduates would be loathe lower themselves to take? We would collapse or we would have to import workers from abroad. Does anyone think that is a realistic proposition?

It sounds honky-dory until you really think it through.

3schoolkids

February 27th, 2012
4:25 pm

So we shouldn’t worry about educating everyone because we will need “lower educated” people to perform the jobs no one really wants? Really. Maybe that person that would have cleaned toilets will invent a self-cleaning one. My Grandfather did not have the benefit of higher education and was a bread truck driver, but managed to install central heat in his home by himself and then later build his own home. Not to say he did not have a good life, but I’m sure it would have been a whole lot better if he had been able to go to college. To say we don’t need to make secondary education more financially accessible because the world needs more toilet cleaners is irresponsible.

Ron Burgundy

February 27th, 2012
4:29 pm

He is too scared to say what is really the issue with education…inattentive parents. We spend enough per student as is. How about attacking the issue by calling out poor parents. We a sa society banish people for being racist but we dont do didly for people who fail to take action on their kids futures.

Beverly Fraud

February 27th, 2012
4:39 pm

He sent Arne Duncan down to Atlanta TWICE in a pathetic attempt to politically prop up Beverly Hall.

This AFTER it was plainly obvious to ANYONE of integrity she was the heart and soul of THE biggest cheating scandal in United States educational history.

THEN tried to name her to a major presidential advisory panel, though the Senate thought better of it.

How is Obama + Beverly “Atlanta Miracle” Hall any different than Dubya + Rod “Houston Miracle” Paige?

Don't Tread

February 27th, 2012
4:43 pm

This is another “let’s throw more money at it” speech marketed as a “let’s improve education” speech.

Basically “you should spend more” (and by extension, you should tax more) is the only idea offered – if you have any other ideas, send them to him, because he’s out.

TW

February 27th, 2012
4:51 pm

As long as Georgia gleefully allows the likes of Deal, Rogers, and Hill to lift their legs on our public school students, the war on education in GA will continue to dumb it down.

Take a good look at the bills in the GA Senate and House Education Committees – unless you’re a charter students you are once again getting a big middle finger jammed in your face.

Eric

February 27th, 2012
4:53 pm

I’m glad Mr. Obama addresses the skyrocketing costs of higher education. It’s time to cap these excessive tuition and fee increases. And with fees, so much of it has become unnecessary for academics: fee increases to subsidize athletics/sports/stadiums, new technology (when last year’s version already worked fine), lavish student centers with food courts, lavish housing and other campus facilities, and so forth. There’s no end to it!

Beverly Fraud

February 27th, 2012
4:53 pm

Here’s how it works in the “value added” world.

Student: (aka “the victim) “Hey teach, sorry I missed the last 4 assignments. Between the crystal meth, and the binge drinking, doing these assignments was SUCH a b!tch. By the way, what’s my grade on those assignments?”

Teacher (aka “the scapegoat”) Well, according to board policy, your grade is a 50. Ironically, 5 points HIGHER than mine because your drug induced “mosaic” on your bubble in sheet-while “paying homage” to Jackson Pollack, lowered “my” test scores.

Feel “valued” yet?

Lori

February 27th, 2012
4:54 pm

So, if colleges don’t make their tuition more affordable, they are going to lose federal funding. Then they will have to raise tuition to make up for what the government isn’t giving them. How exactly is this going to make colleges more affordable??

TW

February 27th, 2012
4:55 pm

GOP has become nothing but an attempt at rationalizing the deadbeats.

Send other peoples kids to wars the wealthy don’t have to pay for, and take it out on the working class and the public schools.

Ungrateful deadbeats :(

TW

February 27th, 2012
4:56 pm

Lori – or the state can do it’s job instead of hiding behind the fed

But that would call for leadership. What we have down here is pandership – no different from buying votes.

bu2

February 27th, 2012
5:23 pm

I agree with everything he said.

But there’s nothing here on how to accomplish it.

TW

February 27th, 2012
5:26 pm

bu@ – all starts with the state growing some balls and funding it.

So it’ll never happen in GA.

3schoolkids

February 27th, 2012
5:28 pm

“Pandership”, I love it! That is what we have. Georgia Southern is getting $3.3 million from the State to build an indoor shooting and archery range adjacent to campus. You would think education money grows on trees.

Mary Elizabeth

February 27th, 2012
5:33 pm

Thank you, Ms. Downey, for publishing this excerpt from President Obama’s speech, today. I did not hear his speech earlier, and so I especially appreciate being able to read part of it here.

A few comments, regarding some of the President’s points:

Without saying so, directly, I believe that President Obama is informing the general public, as well as state lawmakers, that the “starve the beast” ideological agenda of the past decades is failing education. Notice these quotes from the above excerpt of his speech:

(1) “Over the past four years, school districts across America have lost over 250,000 educators — 250,000 teachers, educators have been lost. Think about that. A quarter-million educators, responsible for millions of our students, all laid off when America has never needed them more.”

(2) “But more than 40 states have cut funding for higher education over the past year. And this is just the peak of what has been a long-term trend in reduced state support for higher education. And state budget cuts have been among the largest factor in tuition hikes at public colleges over the past decade. . . .

That means colleges and universities are going to have to help to make their tuition more affordable. And I’ve put them on notice — if they are not taking some concrete steps to prevent tuition from going up, then federal funding from taxpayers is going to go down.”

I have written, in the past, that President Obama has an egalitarian vision for America and for our world, just as our founding fathers’ had. This vision would manifest itself in a spirit of collaboration and cooperation, more than a spirit of competition. As a pragmatist, President Obama certainly understands the need for competition, but his overriding vision is one of collaboration, which is based not on a hierarchial pecking order of interpersonal relationships, but of a lateral, egalitarian spirit of human encounters. Thus, his following statement:

(3) “So this is going to be something that I want to collaborate with all of you on. If you’ve got ideas about how we can make our education system work better, I want to hear them today, and Arne Duncan is going to want to hear them for the rest of the time that he’s Education Secretary and the rest of the time I’m President.”

The President can be assured that I will share many of my thoughts of how to improve education, which have been expressed on this blog, with U. S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. The President is attempting to move America in the direction in which the world has already been
evolving in this 21st century. To have a President who not only understands this evolving egalitarian consciousness, but who also knows how to foster its further development fills one with pride and humility, simultaneously.

Brandy

February 27th, 2012
8:16 pm

@3 School Kid…I’m sorry if you took my response that way. I simply was trying (in-artfully, obviously) to inject a small dose of realism to this “egalitarian” vision. Every child should have access to a quality education, every child should be allowed to pursue his or her dreams–but, for many children a college degree is unrealistic or unwanted either due to IQ, severe disability, interest, or circumstance. Vocational training returning to public schools, increased funding opportunities for those seeking vocational and/or apprenticeship training, and moving away from one-size fits all education is necessary if we wish to help every child achieve his or her dreams and reach the full extent of his or her potential.

Mother in Gwinnett

February 27th, 2012
10:09 pm

To Joy in Teaching……You would like to abolish the Federal Department of Education so these teachers and educators in Georgia can run amok with their petty prejudices and perpetuate institutionalized racism, further undereducate the unsuspecting children of low and moderate income parents, engage in persistent grade inflation for their friends’ children and if you are white, stifle the intellect and drive of really smart kids of color, continue to undereducate the vast majority of our children because the teachers themselves are not properly trained or subject matter experts in the subjects they are teaching, All this talk about abolishing the US Department of Education is jsut a cheap ploy for the old guard to reinstitute segregated schools here in Georgia and lock low income and children of color out of getting an education. With the achievement gap closing, shutting out all but the very affulent, is also another way to promote the flawed premise that somehow one’s economic status is indicative of inherent above high intellect. With the achievement gap cosing, it is debunking the myth that white people are inherently intellectually superior to people of color.

The President of the United States, Mr.Obama, is very correct about the future workforce of the US being able to compete with the rest of the world in the ensuing future! Olny people who are stuck in this bubble called teaching where they are the only ones who know what’s best for the future work force. ,The talk on this blog somehow seems to be blinded of this fact….the rest of the World, even third world countries are gaining in academics, technology and having a ready work force. I guess based on you teachers all our children here in Georgia will spend their productive years in their parents’ basements because the educational system (and the teachers who are the only ones to have all the answers) did not give them the tools to compete,

Entitlement Society

February 28th, 2012
8:11 am

More blah, blah, blah… when there are results I’ll pay attention.

Frankie

February 28th, 2012
9:07 am

if colleges receive endowments, fundraise, get funding from football programs, andalso collect tuition, what is the need to raise tuition every year….
If you go over your budget that should not be taken out on the student, and increase his tuition.
it is just like the health care industry, how many time do we have to pay for the same MRI machine and its upkeep…

@ron red…yeah its just the POOR parents who pull the educational system down, not the rich kid who thinks he is entitled because daddy’s name is over the library, no its JUST the POOR Parents.
Its not the piss poor teachers and administrators who run the school, its JUST THE POOR PARENTS,
Its not the drugged up kids (white and black and hispanic) who disrupt the class rooms
Being Poor does not mean you do not have intelligence or class, But hey I see the Wealthy have this country in the right place ……

flipper

February 28th, 2012
9:13 am

Mother in Gwinnett needs to go back to 6th grade Language Arts. Joy is Teaching is 100% correct.

Joy in Teaching

February 28th, 2012
9:50 am

@ Mother in Gwinnett

The Federal Department of Education was established in 1980. Georgia schools were de-segregated long before that.

Playing the race card is foolish as well as stupid. I suggest you learn how to read before spewing your venom.

The Federal Department of Education had a discretionary budget of $69 billion in 2011. Some of that is for DEES students, but where does the rest go? Bogus initiatives such as NCLB or Race to the Top where the goal is for ALL students to be on the same level. It’s only being accomplished because the standards are being lowered.

Read “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. It’s a great metaphor for what is happening in education these days.

Old timer

February 28th, 2012
10:14 am

Abolish the department of Education. Counties can keep the money sent to the federal government to pay teachers.

Old timer

February 28th, 2012
10:14 am

Amen Joy in Teaching…….

tompro97

February 28th, 2012
10:21 am

Education in this country has been a disaster for the like 50 years. We keep throwing BILLIONS of dollars at it and it just gets worse by the day. Liberals have devastated education with all their namby-pamby, touchy-feely programs that have dumbed down our children to the point they can’t read, write or do simple math. Abolish the Department of Education, give the money back to the states, and let LOCAL people run education like they used to. Osama has had four years to do something about education, did nothing, and now, because he needs votes, he’s a education guy once again. Give me a break!!!

Entitlement Society

February 28th, 2012
11:32 am

@tompro97 – yep, time for vote pandering. How many years has this guy been in office and now he starts to talk about education?? Sure, folks, keep sitting around waiting for that government education to help you get ahead…

GET IT RIGHT, AMERICA

February 28th, 2012
2:36 pm

That is why American teachers are leaving to teach overseas in droves.

Ole Guy

February 29th, 2012
2:44 pm

You want something should be done? Put teachers in charge of the task for which they bear responsibility…in full, complete and sole charge…get rid of these moronic pc-driven social promotions. If, by the age of 16, the kid has failed to demonstrate some sort of willingness to exert some sort of effort, throw em out of the PUBLICALLY-FUNDED EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM. This just may free up public resources and, ultimately, restore public education to some level of decency.

All the pontification and photo ops in the world won’t accomplish a damn thing until real action takes place, and THIS is the ONLY real action of any meaningful consequence. NO MORE POLITICALLY CORRECT FEEL GOOD NONESENCE.