Who Is George W. Bush?

Dear Joe Nick and everyone else–

Thanks to Joe Nick, cranky or not, for reminding us why education is such a great political issue: Everyone has a passionate opinion about it and everyone is an expert for one reason or another. As for myself, I just spent a few months helping my son’s fourth-grade class get ready for the writing TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills). Here’s what people who complain about “teaching to the test” don’t tell you: The test covers stuff that every fourth-grader should know. So, all the time spent preparing for the test, is, in fact, good education. I haven’t seen anything on a TAAS worksheet that I don’t think kids need to know. My son was blessed with a teacher who devised very creative writing-practice sessions …

What does this have to do with how I feel about George Bush? It means I fall in with the people who believe that our state’s “accountability” system has moved public education forward. Instead of passing kids along with no basic skills, we’re finding out who’s teaching and who isn’t. We’re also identifying kids who need extra help, and some schools have done very creative things about it. Witness McCallum High School, here in Austin, where the PTA buys pizza for lunch for kids who participate in lunchtime TAAS study sessions. McCallum’s minority students have demonstrated appreciable improvements in their test scores. I happen to believe they are actually learning more because of these tests. Bush and all the other education reformers in Texas deserve credit.

As for Paul’s idea that Bush should debate: I’m not sure it’s the best political strategy, but it certainly would be a service to voters. We’re not learning anything about Bush and how he thinks from the repetitive script and resulting spin from the national press. Last summer, I wrote about Bush’s inner circle, and those very best and brightest Republicans convinced me that Bush was passionate about public policy in his private discussions with them. None of them felt he was an empty vessel. Everyone thought he had strong intellectual abilities. People need a demonstration of this to feel comfortable voting for him. On the other hand, he could fall flat on his face. But he should be OK with that. Bush, I’m told, likes to think of himself as Trumanesque. Well, as Harry would say, if he can’t stand the heat, he should get out of the kitchen … or at least quit hiding behind cue cards …


Patti Kilday Hart