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Staff Editorial: What it would really mean to “Win the future” in Obama’s new-era America

Screenshot of President Barack Obama from the 2011 State of the Union's live broadcast. (White House/Youtube)

President Obama covered a wide range of topics in his State of the Union address last week—America’s economy and job market, the health care reform bill, tax cuts.  As always, his words were eloquent and moving.  However, members of our staff had mixed feelings about  some remarks the President made—or failed to make—in regards to education (particularly higher education).

Don’t get us wrong, Obama did make some points about education that made us feel like cheering.  For example, during his call to stop the deportation of  undocumented college and university students our hearts thumped in agreement.  Dealing with the pressures of full-time school as well as the fear of being deported is a sad reality for many of our colleagues across the nation, and we wish that Obama’s words could have ensured as much—unfortunately, they are not a guarantee for these students.

Many of us were also relieved by the announcement of the replacement of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) by the new program, Race to the Top.  It remains to be seen if this program will truly deliver the transformative results Obama described—in other words, whether it will be an extreme enough reform—but it is certainly high time for the largely unsuccessful and certainly misnamed NCLB program to come to an end.

We were also all pleased to hear the President ask for a $10,000 tuition  tax credit for those who complete four years of college—but unfortunately, this will not benefit all students—students at two year colleges and vocational schools, as well as those who are unable to complete their degrees but still owe mountains of debt.  Furthermore, that promise does not alleviate the horror of trying to enter the recession-impacted job market armed with only what may be a useless degree.

Obama’s endorsement of higher learning pursuits was certainly present—indeed, he clearly insisted on making those pursuits possible for all Americans  However, some staff members were concerned that he seemed to be mainly calling for the bettering of “innovative” areas of higher education such as maths and sciences, with no attention to humanities departments.  Humanities departments are already losing funding and merit throughout the nation, and will continue to do so if they, too, are not recognized as intellectually valuable.

Finally, some staff members were appalled by Obama’s open invitation for military recruiters to set up at colleges and universities.  Supposedly the invitation was extended to put into practice the “fairness” gained by the passing of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but some of us remain skeptical that participation in the military necessarily means that we are all “equal.”  In fact, some of us believe that schools, colleges and universities may be one of the most important places to start building a counter-recruiting movement and begin to unlearn the need for a military as an undisputable fact.  To end wars—to put an end to war profiteering as a profitable business (the end of Blackwater, the end of Haliburton)—would truly be “winning the future.”

If you have not caught the State of the Union address, you can watch it in the video link below: