Obama shifts higher ed policy

President Obama’s new higher education plan shifts priority from low-income students to the middle class.

Community colleges risk becoming separate and unequal.

About Joanne


  1. Joanne Jacobs,

    I sense your own priority is with low-income students and community colleges. God bless you for that generosity.

    My own thinking requires a solution that cannot be described as shifting priority from one favored group to another. America is a nation as a whole, but every American citizen is an individual — just one person alone against the world. It is unfair and wrong to ever settle on a national education policy of any sort that focuses on the needs of groups and not on the needs of the individual student. I know workable solutions must translate to classrooms and schools and school districts and statewide systems of higher education, but all of that is too often used to justify a shrugging shoulder that tolerates making some students expendable; successes for groups can never excuse a public school system that fails to meet the needs of the individual student.

    My proposals are many and varied, but they are also narrowly focused on the individual student at both ends of the academic spectrum and throughout. I have figured out how to do it and how to pay for it. My solutions call for a sea change transformation, but I think they are doable, mostly because they must be doable. America is in serious trouble, and tinkering around with the same old models will not solve the problems we have.

    First, the core problem that is driving rising education costs must be laid bare:
    Any solution that maintains the presence of private health insurance companies in the American economy is not a solution that will solve the problem. Therefore, Obamacare is NOT a solution that will work. Health insurance must be entirely removed as an obligation of the employer, meaning in this case that teachers and professors should not receive health insurance as a job benefit. The only possible solution is something like this:

    If you are defeated by such a bold move as Universal Health Care, you can still revolutionize the funding of public education in America by doing this:
    Read both of the proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution at that link, but also read the whole commentary that follows, especially the commentary for the second amendment. You will be surprised. You will be shocked. You might just weep for joy. And what I propose is fair and just and doable.

    But all of that paying for it is not nearly enough. America’s public education system needs a vision that is now lacking. I propose the following amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is “Proposal #6: Public Education” at:

    Re: Article. I. Section. 8.

    Section. 1.
    The Congress shall fund, oversee the administration of, and nominate students to the six tuition-free United States military academies located at: West Point, New York, for the Army; Annapolis, Maryland, for the Navy and the Marine Corps; Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the Air Force; New London, Connecticut, for the Coast Guard; Kings Point, New York, for the Merchant Marine; and Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska, for the Cyber/Biologic Defense.

    Section. 2.
    The Congress shall require the States to provide thirteen years of tuition-free public education for all United States citizens and all otherwise legal residents from age five through age eighteen. Public education shall be according to three national standards:
    1) Every student shall be literate at no less than age-appropriate-grade-level (plus or minus one year) while being actively challenged and fully facilitated to achieve personal potentials in all core academic subjects, including those of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (“literate” being defined as educated, cultured, and lucid within an American social, philosophical, and historical context as taught in a thirteen-year standard curriculum that explores America from 1492 to the current time, with an ability to read, write, and effectively communicate in the English language using current computer technologies);
    2) Exceptional students shall be individually advanced to the academic level at which they can succeed while being challenged; and
    3) Students whose academic skills competency and knowledge proficiency are measured in the aggregate minimally either two years below or two years above age-appropriate-grade-level shall be designated as Special Education students and shall receive educational funding at twice the normal rate (competency and proficiency testing shall be done when requested by a teacher, parent, or student).

    Thirteen years of tuition-free public education shall not be defined by the completion of a thirteen-year standard curriculum that ends in high school graduation in every case. Some lower-tier Special Education students will remain functionally illiterate despite all teaching efforts while some upper-tier Special Education students will graduate from a community college or a public university before their nineteenth birthday and shall thereby receive their college and/or university education on a tuition-free basis.

    The term “tuition-free” applies only in the case of public education institutions, including any school designations that encompass any part of the spectrum from kindergarten enrollee through master degree recipient, that is: inclusive from primary school through public university. It does not include graduate studies at the doctoral degree level.

    Students who enroll in private schools of any sort shall receive government vouchers that are the equivalent of their local public school tuition if the private schools they enroll in are accredited by the government. Government accreditation of private schools shall only regard standard subjects that are common to local public schools and shall not regard religious subjects of any sort. A homeschool student shall receive government vouchers to rent textbooks and an educational computer hardware and software package if those items have been approved and accredited by the government for homeschool use, if the student is fully registered according to the laws governing homeschool status and is government-approved in that status, and if the total worth of the vouchers for the student does not exceed the local public school tuition cost.

    The government vouchers shall pay the vendor or the private school directly in all cases, and in no case shall government vouchers be redeemable for cash by either a student or a student’s parent or legal guardian.

    Section. 3.
    The Congress shall require the States to identify all exceptional students who are intellectually either moderately-to-highly gifted or exceptionally-to-profoundly gifted by standard academic measures (“moderately-to-highly gifted” being in the top two percent or 98th percentile and “exceptionally-to-profoundly gifted” being in the top one percent or 99th percentile). The United States shall recognize its most gifted citizens — its geniuses — as a natural resource and a national treasure, and shall maximize the potential of that resource and treasure through its public education system in every individual case beginning at the earliest possible opportunity. However, no interventions shall ever be made against the will of the student, regardless of the student’s potential to excel; the Pursuit of Happiness shall stand as an unalienable Right of every individual citizen, even the citizen who is a minor child.

    The Congress shall forbid any notion that the purpose of public education is to socialize the citizenry. The purpose of public education shall be to make citizens literate in useful knowledge, confident in factoring new information into old thinking, and competent in self-directed analysis, so that public education might inspire joy and courage in its graduates through the benefits that derive from life-long learning habits, a purposeful informed participation in America’s future, and an enduring appreciation for political dissent and for the American free enterprise system. Public education in the United States shall work to cultivate this flower: that, in every citizen’s life, the gift to America shall be the citizen and the gift to the citizen shall be America.

    Section. 4.
    The Congress shall establish a national three-year merit-based public high school for the nation’s most intellectually gifted science-minded high school students. The national public high school shall be simultaneously located at no less than 150 public research university campuses nationwide, shall be tuition-free without exception, shall have highly selective enrollment with requirements and standards that cannot be challenged, and shall use the same intensive accelerated-learning curriculum at every site without exception. The defined curriculum shall offer courses in mathematics, computer science, and the physical sciences of chemistry and physics according to standard prerequisite streams, with the high school students enrolling in university classes with university students at times during all three years.
    The offered majors shall be limited to:
    1) Mathematics through at least Elementary Linear Algebra,
    2) Computer Science through at least the standard university sophomore-year computer science sequence course for computer and information science majors that is taken concurrently with the Elements of Discrete Mathematics sequence,
    3) Chemistry through the Organic Chemistry sequence and Organic Analysis, and
    4) Physics through the standard university sophomore-year physics sequence course for physics majors that covers physics of waves and statistical thermodynamics.

    All students shall take the same six Advanced Placement courses: English Language, United States History, United States Government & Politics, and Chemistry during the sophomore year and English Literature and Economics during the junior year. United States History and United States Government & Politics shall be combined as one course. All students shall concurrently take the university calculus sequence and the university calculus-based physics sequence before graduating. There shall be no electives other than choosing a major.

    The national public high school capstone shall be a non-graded senior-year-long Colloquy on the topic: Morality, Ethics & Society: Science & Technology in the 21st Century. The Colloquy shall be student-directed according to established rules; shall result in United States Constitution Amendment Proposals, World Treaty Proposals, and Philosophy of Science and Technology Definition Statements; and shall conclude each term with deserving students receiving a Linus Pauling Achievement Award honoring the American scientist and peace activist who is one of only two people to have won more than one Nobel Prize in different fields, and the only person to win two undivided Nobel Prizes: the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex substances and the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in peace and disarmament campaigns establishing The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

    Though the defined curriculum does not offer life sciences courses, such courses can be taken optionally during summer term if offered by a host university. National public high school students shall be limited to attending only at their home host university during the fall-through-spring school year, but can attend at any national public high school host university on a tuition-free basis during summer term. The student shall pay any costs for summer term other than tuition costs, except the United States shall pay all costs if the student is requested to enroll in a particular course or program by the government.

    The national public high school shall operate under the aegis of the National Aeronautic and Space Administration with cooperation from the non-military intelligence agencies and from the United States Cyber/Biologic Defense Academy, and with oversight from the Congress. The national public high school shall not answer to local school boards or to the States in any way. The national public high school graduation requirements shall supersede State high school graduation requirements without exception.

    Section. 5.
    The United States Cyber/Biologic Defense Academy shall have no physical fitness requirements whatsoever. It shall at all times maintain a Stephen Hawking Rule which declares that the mind alone shall determine eligibility and no physical defect of any sort shall be disqualifying. The Cyber/Biologic Defense shall be disciplined and uniformed, but shall not undergo any traditional basic training that includes strenuous whole-body strength-related activities of any sort, including marching. A brilliant wheelchair-bound person is eligible to enroll in the United States Cyber/Biologic Defense Academy and to serve in the Cyber/Biologic Defense at any rank of command, including Chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    The term “cyber/biologic” refers to all things related either to transmissions of any sort in cyberspace known and unknown, including any hostile activity on the Internet, any manifestation of computer hacking, and any potentially harmful computer data manipulation, or to hostile biological actions that could be property-damaging, disease-causing, and/or life-threatening in any way, or to both simultaneously in any evil pairing. The term “defense” must naturally have an offensive component to be whole.

    The United States Cyber/Biologic Defense Academy shall have access to all national public high school student transcripts and shall be welcome to freely recruit national public high school students.

    * * *

    How all of that might take shape in a public high school is described at two of my dedicated blogs:
    and at:
    The Edison High School model would work in any community where a public research university is located. In Eugene, Oregon, Edison Elementary School is located a short walk away from the University of Oregon campus.

    I have explained and defended some of my thinking in a public forum at:
    That public forum thread has had 77,508 Views at last count:

    My thinking is Big Thinking, but not too big — just big enough. Please join me in making it happen.

    Steven A. Sylwester