Romney’s view on education

Mitt Romney’s attitude toward student issues seems to be “you’re on your own.”

Trent M. Kays

Mitt Romney is the presumptive GOP nominee for president. It’s safe to assume that the race for the White House between the former Massachusetts governor and President Barack Obama will be an exciting and nasty one. This will be nowhere more apparent than in the discussion of education in the U.S.

Education in this country is in a tenuous state. Funding cuts to all sorts of educational initiatives and budgets have become the new norm. At a time when education can be the most helpful to people, budgets and funds are being slashed or redirected to temporary debts. Long-term planning in the realm of education is now nonexistent in political dealings, and those who will suffer the most are future generations of students who only wish to better themselves.

Romney’s positions on education are typical of a Republican, and unfortunately, many are similar to Obama’s. While Romney isn’t as foolish as Ron Paul in wanting to eliminate the Department of Education, he does support many issues in education that can be considered troublesome. Romney supports standardized testing, like many politicians, as if a test can solve all of our learning problems and accurately represent the mind of a student. The placing of tests on students or the belief that tests are the correct way to evaluate general learning is a terrible fallacy, yet politicians like Romney continue to propagate this fallacy in order to show they’re at least doing something. Standardized testing is not the answer.

Romney doesn’t believe in helping college students achieve their goals. While many countries subsidized student costs for attending college, Romney believes the federal government has no place in the higher education of citizens. Despite having the privilege of attending an Ivy League institution (Harvard University), Romney doesn’t think others should have the opportunity to attend college. College may not be right for everyone, but it should at least be available to everyone. It’s crucial to the U.S. economy that we have an educated workforce.

Perhaps most damning seems to be Romney’s support of No Child Left Behind, which most consider an utter failure. Indeed, even Obama supports NCLB, though he has harsh language for its current incarnation. Romney will also stand up to the teachers’ unions and stop them from taking over education. Yet, teachers’ unions never wanted to take over education. They do want better pay for teachers, who may have one of the most difficult and demanding jobs in this country, but working for better pay is apparently somehow contrary to better education. This would seem to be Romney’s position because at the same time he supports better pay for teachers, he doesn’t like being told that teachers need better pay by those who represent them.

Romney’s views on education are confusing. He claims to be a supporter of education, yet he cut millions of dollars from higher education budgets when he was governor of Massachusetts.

Even more irritating is that Romney told a group of students they could ask their parents for money to attend college. However, many students who attend college come from families that are unable to financially support them. What about those students? I suppose Romney’s response would be, “Tough luck.” While Romney has never said it, this seems to be his attitude about the entire issue.

Notwithstanding Romney’s confusing education positions, there is one glimmer of thought in one of his positions: student loan interest rates. Romney, like Obama, supports keeping student loan rates from rising. Most likely an appeal to independent voters and college students, it is nonetheless a welcomed endorsement for an issue affecting all current students taking out student loans. Still, is it enough? Certainly Romney cannot expect to carry the college vote by just supporting student loan interest rate stasis.

While Romney and Obama both fall on the same side of the student loan interest rate issue, Romney’s political positions and statements of the past do not. His past positions seem to contradict his new ones, and while it is understandable for one’s opinions to evolve, they usually don’t change dramatically at the point where Romney is in his career.

Aristotle once wrote: “Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.” In the ever-changing 21st century and during our steady uphill climb out of the economic crisis the previous U.S. administration put us in, education must be our refuge. We must define education broadly, and we must provide refuge to those who need it. It’s the only way our country will survive as a political and economic power in this century.

Will Romney provide that refuge? I think he will not. He apparently doesn’t believe the government should be involved in education, and he seems to believe that if students take until their middle ages to pay off their student loans, then that’s a worthwhile risk and tough luck for those students.

Do we really want a tough-luck president? I hope not. I’d prefer a president that cares about the students in his or her country.