Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole spoke Wednesday at De La Salle High School in Minneapolis about the need to improve education standards.
Dole said overhaulling U.S. education programs is a top priority. He said parents are the consumers of public education, and they deserve a say in what is taught.
“If you are a consumer, you ought to have some say on how schools are run,” Dole said.
Dole outlined an education reform plan titled the Education Consumers Warranty. The plan calls for allowing teachers to discipline students, letting families choose the schools their children will attend and improving competency testing of teachers. It also calls for schools to focus on subjects like math and science and devote less time to politically correct multiculturalism.
“While Japanese and European students are taught math and science, our students are taught to get in touch with their feelings,” Dole said.
Former Secretaries of Education William Bennett and Lamar Alexander attended the speech. Alexander made cutting the Department of Education one of the cornerstones in the platform of his failed presidential campaign.
President Clinton’s four years in office have produced the lowest levels of education and SAT scores, and the highest dropout rates in U.S. history, Dole said. He added that high school is no longer preparing students for college.
“High school kids arrive on college campuses and can’t write a remedial essay or do simple math,” Dole said.
Clinton cannot reform education while being supported by the National Education Association, a teachers’ union, Dole said.
“You cannot reform our schools and take generous campaign contributions from the group that has run our schools into the ground,” Dole said.
The speech was closed to the public. Only the media and invited guests from the Republican Party were allowed to attend.
Several University College Republicans attended the event.
“It was a very positive, very energetic speech,” said College Republican Chairman Marc Richards. “I liked his vision. It was very clear.”
Gov. Arne Carlson introduced Dole at the event. Carlson spoke about the poor performance of Minnesota’s eighth-graders on recent exams and said education in Minnesota and across the United States needs to be reformed.
“Education defines American success,” Carlson said. “And a society that allows more than half of its kids to fail is not a success.”
During the last legislative session, Carlson tried to win approval for a program in which students from some public schools would get vouchers to pay for private school tuition. College of Liberal Arts senior Harry Frankman said Carlson’s plans for student vouchers will gain public popularity.
“School choice is the wave of the future, and Dole supports Carlson’s plan,” Frankman said. “Dole is cracking a message that hits home, and affects everybody.”
Dole is trailing Clinton in current presidential polls by as many as 24 percentage points. A poll conducted by MSNBC, an Internet news service created by NBC and Microsoft, showed Clinton’s support at 54 percent and Dole’s support at 30 percent. The poll, conducted between Friday and Sunday, has a plus or minus range of 3.5 percent.
Dole’s support is even lower among college-age students. A Star Tribune/WCCO-TV Minnesota Poll released Tuesday shows that Clinton leads Dole among Minnesota’s 18- to 24-year-olds by a margin of 56 percent to 24 percent.