Thursday, October 7, 2010

Continued Conversations with Candidates: Rick Staggenborg discusses Education Reform

[This series of conversations with candidates is part of a new feature on Education Matters, and is entitled, "New Blood Needed For Bold Change: Cryn's Conversations With A New Type of Candidate." If you are a candidate running for office (city, state, or at the national level) and would like to be promoted on my site, please contact me at All candidates will have the opportunity to review the material I publish about them, so none of your words will be misconstrued. I'm happy to be of assistance in spreading the word about your candidacy, your values, and what you intend to do once elected. So far, I've interviewed Kevin Bradley (who's running as a Democrat for the House of Representatives, CO-5) and Rick Staggenborg, and he's running for U.S. as a Progressive in the state of Oregon.]

Rick Staggenborg expressed a desire to share his thoughts on education reform in the U.S at Education Matters. If you haven't donated to Rick's campaign, please do so today. He is a great candidate who is running as an independent for U.S. Congress in Oregon, and if you don't live in the state of Oregon, please spread the word about his campaign.

If Rick wins this campaign, I might just have a position in D.C., which would mean that I would be back in the U.S. and helping to promote a progressive agenda. That would include playing a more influential role in public discourse in D.C., and forcing those inside the Beltway to listen to the voice of the indentured educated class. If Rick has an interest in hiring me, as we discussed briefly, this would mean playing a more direct role in helping to design legislation that would help all student loan debtors. 

Let's hear what Rick had to say about education:

Democracy cannot long survive without the active engagement of an informed citizenry. This is the essence of Jefferson’s warning to the People of the United States about the danger of failing to provide an adequate education to our children. In the Information Age, that means that we have a duty to make college accessible to every man or woman who has the potential to succeed in a reformed system of higher education where even vocational track students receive the basic information necessary to fulfill their duties as citizens and voters.

Jefferson believed this to be so important that he had inscribed on his gravestone what he regarded as his major accomplishment and embodiment of his dream for America: 'Here lies the Founder and first President of the University of Virginia.' This was the first public university founded in the United States and one that awarded scholarships to any child who could pass entrance examinations. We can and must see that Jefferson’s dream is realized.

A twenty-first century system of education should include civics classes that include study of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and their relevance to modern Americans. Civics texts would not be chosen by political and religious fundamentalists who want to rewrite American history in a manner similar to the Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution, but exulting fascism rather than communism.

Children of self-identified conservatives can talk with children of self-identified liberals and together seek common meaning in the words of these great documents for themselves. Such promotion of independent thinking and open discussion about the meaning of democracy at such a young age would result in an informed electorate. As they grow and mature, this generation will be unafraid to defend its political positions in fear of being victimized by ignorant elders stuck in the old way of thinking that corporate control of government, the media and education is the natural order of society. They will instead be prepared to assume the responsibilities of the next generation of citizens and citizen-leaders who will mold their own destinies and the destiny of our nation.

It is possible to provide universal education through college if the American People want and demand it. Once the Constitutional amendment abolishing corporate personhood is introduced, it will become a litmus test for candidates seeking the office of Senator. I don’t fancy the chances of success for those willing to demonstrate their loyalty to corporations by refusing to support it. Together, self-styled liberals and their conservative counterparts can take back America for their children’s sake.

Once we have a government working for the People instead of corporations we can have whatever government services we are willing to pay for. The Freedom Fry-supporting corporate media like to paint the French as socialists because they didn’t jump on the fascist bandwagon when Bush sounded the call to war for corporate profit. The truth is that France’s more self-contained economy and effective social safety net allowed them to whether the storms of our recent financial crisis much better than the US, which is based on a system of corporate welfare. In France, unions thrive, middle class workers and small businesses continue to prosper and no one is worrying about whether they can send their kids to college or go bankrupt trying to pay medical bills. These are considered essential services by the French for reasons that should now be apparent to all Americans.

If we want our children and grandchildren to grow up healthy, wealthy and wise we will ensure that they have the right to a college education including in the health care professions, should they choose to do so. To provide services in a universal health care system we will need to expand medical and nursing education and pay nursing educators well enough to entice them from working to teach new generations of the nurses we depend on to keep our loved ones safe in times of medical crisis.

Every child with a normal brain is a potential genius. If we can design an educational system that supports the individual strengths of our children, we can produce what we are supposed to produce as loving parents: Children who will surpass our achievements at creating a more perfect society. Such a society is one in which everyone enjoys equal protection under the law and each has the same opportunity to succeed as the most economically fortunate among them.



warwick555 said...

Well said! I've always been a big fan of Thomas Jefferson. Our ideals are being coopted by Tea Baggers and the Corporate Oligarchy. The seeds our destruction were sown back in the late 70's when college became a luxury again. After my class graduated in 1981 from Clark university in Worcester, MA, the number of scholarship students began declining again. It's a terrible shame. It hurts everybody.

Mike said...

What we need to do is scrap what we have now. We should not be spending money ensuring that everyone who wants to go to college should go to college. Only qualified people should be going. I'm sorry but if you can't get above a 1500 combined SAT score, I really don't think you have the necessary skills to get anything but a BS college degree. Where we need to start is when kids are younger and their brains can absorb information like a sponge. Admitting a person who can't do basic algebra into college is just a waste of taxpayer money. It could be better spent cleaning up the elementary school system (especially in the cities) and trying to ensure that everyone gets a good education at the elementary-high school level. Then if you can't pass a "real" college admissions test by your junior year of high school, then you should NOT be allowed to go. Let's face it. Not everyone is smart enough or dedicated enough to be a doctor. Only the people who want and are able to be should be. I wanted to be Michael Jordan growing up. But unfortunately I'm only 5'9" and can't jump at all. Does that mean I can't do anything else? No. Same with college. Not everyone has to go. Go be a plumber or car repairman or electrician. We need those and those jobs can't be outsourced. And cancel the government Pell Grants or whatever to the For Profit schools. Their degrees are more worthless then the paper it's printed on. I mean seriously...I went to a top flagship university and was amazed how many people did not belong there. During my summer orientation, the Dean of my college said to the room full of students, "Stand up, look to the left, and look to your right. One of you three will graduate in 4 years, one in 6 years, and one will never graduate from ____ university." Thus, they already know people are going to fail and end up owing...the federal government needs to stop wasting so much damn money. Ok...I'll stop for now. But yeah, the federal government really needs to come under control. It's called public service remember? But it seems to be like every politician there is just out for their personal gain even though they're all wealthy. I guess wealth needs power to supplement it eh?

Anonymous said...


A 1500 SAT seems ike a really high score.
I remember someone who was admitted into Yale with a score that was slightly below 1500, but with a 3.9 or 4.0 GPA. That was in the mid 1980's.

But that is assuming the SAT is still scored the same way.

Has the scoring system changed since the 1980's?

My score was less than 1100 back then.

And there is something else I would like to share with Cryn in a different post.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cryn:

I have a question that kind of fits in with this post, and you might find it interesting.

My mother was going through an old box of photos about a year ago, and she found a paper that I now save in my own photo album.

It is my old test result score from the standardized "Iowa" tests.

I am looking at it now. The date is October of 1974. I was in the 4th grade.

My overall score was pretty average. I scored in the 78th percentile rank nationwide.
Locally, in New York I assume, I was in the 68th percentile.

However, my Language usage skills were in the 94th percentile rank nationally (91st locally)

My "reading" skills placed me in the 91st percentile rank nationally, and 89th locally.

That was the good news, the bad news was that my math skills were terrible.
Mostly around the 50th percentile rank and a little below.

The very worst score was in an area called "Maps" where I was in the 36th percentile rank nationally.

Now my point in telling you all this is that that test sheet pretty much sums up my life.

I was only 9 years old, but I have always been an avid reader of Literature, and a pretty good creative writer.

I got through High School with remedial math.
In College I tried to study business and did terribly. Studying Economics was a disaster for me. Forget about Calculus.

Then I went to law school and struggled terribly. I am now in deep financial debt, but the debt is an old story by now for me and a lot of people I think.

And today, I pull out this old test sheet and view it as an eerie kind of harbinger or omen of things to come in my later life, and how I went into all the wrong directions as befitting my intellectual abilities.

If you like, I can scan the sheet and send.

So 1:36AM above is raising some highly relevant and I think important questions.

Answers to them, I think, must come from the creators of, and experts in standardized tests.

Also, my Iowa test is an antique, but how much have things changed since then?

Cryn Johannsen said...

Since Mike is raising some important points, and I disagree quite strongly with a lot of the things he is saying, a comment from me will not suffice (at least in my view). That said, Mike, I am, again, glad you are expressing your views here and disagreeing. Your comments deserve a formal post from me. In fact, I've been meaning to discuss why I think higher education ought to be free and accessible for quite some time, so you have given me all the more reason to write on this subject. Keep your eye out for a response, and soon!

Mike said...

Free and accessible eh? There must be something I'm missing here and I really look forward to you explaining the math (not the logic) on this one. I am an accountant and a pretty avid budgeter and morally I do believe higher education and education in general should be accessible and free to everyone. Unfortunately, I do not see how the numbers add up in terms of dollars and cents to make this the case. It's just like the housing crisis in my view. The US had a policy suggesting that everyone SHOULD own a home. Look where that got us. It's like the old saying, "you can't have your cake and eat it too." I'll save my other comments once I read your post but just keep that in mind. I would like to see where your numbers come from and how they would work. If you can make them work, I'm all for it. But good luck making that happen...

As far as anonymous goes...a 1500 today is the equivalent of about a 1000 or below on the old SAT (prior to 2007 I believe)? Basically my view is that people who can't score a 500 in each section is not adequately prepared for college. I have gone to a flagship state university and encountered people of various backgrounds. The one thing in common was that everyone who scored below a 1000 old SAT score has either failed out or graduated with a "BS" major and is not discontent with their job and wondering why they're not making more money. Obviously there are exceptions but I would say the percentages on these are not very good....but that's what research studies are for. But yeah I'll go into that later too once I read Cryn's post.

I think I'm going to enjoy coming to this blog.

Cryn Johannsen said...

I don't want to discuss why the SAT is horribly problematic. There is an entire history behind it that makes me discount these sorts of arguments you are making. I am fully aware of the housing crisis, Mike. In my view you are really comparing apples to oranges here. It's not like the housing crisis, and using a Marie Antoinette quote is also misplaced.

Anonymous said...

Marie Antoinette quoted where?

But just to tie in with what Mike said at 12:26.

For a short time I did a little part time work in a Graduate School Admissions office for a somewhat prestigious business school.

The applications would come in, and the transcripts reviewed.

Some of the College GPA's were quite high, but the person in that office that was in charge told me to write "Easy Major" in bold red ink at the top of the page if the transcript was of a Liberal Arts major such as History, English etc.

Mike said...

While the SAT may have its flaws, the fact remains that it is a standard that everyone had to abide by until recently. When you talk about comparing apples to oranges, you take away standardized testing and you make everything even harder to compare. How would you decide to admit if every college out there became like the few who said you don't need to submit a standardized test? Would everything be based on AP testing? High school GPA? Personal statement?

I am fully aware that people from better economic backgrounds score higher on the SAT because their parents can afford the tutoring. However, it is an advantage that is also afforded to them in other ways too ie getting a job if their parents have connections. Now, my main point is that standardized testing teaches some very very basic principles that everyone should know. And I feel that if you can't get a 500 in a section of the SAT, then you're probably going to need remedial help in college.

This is a quick article I found when I googled "remedial classes."

America is falling behind the world in education because our system is too easy and we have that assumption that everyone should receive a college degree. I'm sorry but I just simply think that only qualified individuals should go to college and we should really warn the unqualified individuals what they're getting themselves into. On the flip side, all job openings these days require college degrees for one reason or another so it's hard to land a job without one. So we would have to do something about that too. But either way, the solution starts with educating our children at the elementary school level; NOT providing unqualified people with Pell Grants and federal loans to go to college when they have no reason being there.

Mike said...

An article that was just released....