DSC00207Last week I had the opportunity to interview Rick Santorum for Caffeinated Thoughts.  We talked extensively about education:

SVH: “What role, if any, should the federal government have in education?”

Santorum: “Limited…  I’m of the belief that the education system should be centered around serving the needs of… what am I going to say?”

SVH: Parents

Santorum: “Parents… that’s right, serving the needs of the parents.  You don’t hear many politicians say that.  They’ll say serving the needs of children.  I don’t think the education system is there to serve the needs of children.  They serve the needs of parents.  … They do serve the needs of children through doing what the parents think is best for their children.  Now there may be situations where there are no parents and the educational system has to serve in the place of a parent.  But, where there are parents the educational system should engage parents in designing an educational experience for their children that suits their children.”

“We have a factory model of education that was created a 100 years ago and we haven’t changed it.  The schools that we have are a result of the industrial revolution.  Children weren’t educated this way.  Why?  Because it was an agrarian society, everyone had local schools with kids from all different ages that worked together and did things together.  They had homeschoolers and everything else, but when people moved to the cities and into the factories with assembly lines.”

“So we went to assembly lines, we went to assembly lines for kids.  We put them all in a factory, we divided them up into the same ages, and created an experience that is not like anything they are going to experience in the rest of the world – and the government took it over.  The government runs the schools systems.  It was local communities, but ever since it has been left up to the state and then the federal government.  And what we need to do is get back to – not that we are lean and fast – we can customize, we can customize.  Let’s go back to the 90s and talk about the technology revolution, we can go back prior to that.” 

“We are talking about customized work here in an area that is vitally important – the lives of our future, the future of our country.  Can we provide a customized educational experience for our children that is going to maximize their ability to succeed.  And the federal government is an impediment to that, because the federal government wants to support the existing structure.”

SVH: “In your opinion, the federal government should or shouldn’t advance core curriculum standards?”

Santorum: “No.  I mean I don’t think that is their role.  I think that the federal government’s role, if there is any, as I would see it, is to get the school systems to focus on parent-centered education.  And say that we’re going to back off all of these ‘this is how you have to this and this and this’ and say let’s just get to where every parent at the beginning of the school year, a couple months before the school year and sits down with the administrator or somebody and says ‘this is what we are going to do for your kids and the school system.  We are going to take it plan by plan, and we are going to design the plan and that means if they are going to go to West Des Moines Elementary then that’s great.  Because you know what?  That may fit Suzy best.’  There may be a Christian school where Mom and Dad may think she’ll do better or homeschool where she’ll do better or Catholic school where she’ll do better.  Then the responsibility for the school is to help you.  There may be resources we can give you.  There may be remedial programs…’ Design a program that fits.  You may say, ‘well you can’t do that it’s just too complicated.’”

“No it’s not.  No it’s not.  What you’ll have is that you’ll have parents engaged and involved in their children’s education to a degree that you’ve never seen before which is vitally important.  The problem is always laid on the schools and the teachers, it’s not.  We have problems in the schools and with teachers, but there are problems in the family.”

SVH: “I was listening to an interview with our new education chief, to be education chief (he hasn’t been confirmed yet), Jason Glass and he was talking about testing standards and how you can almost take the testing standards and line them up to zip codes.  It is typically in areas where there is definitely a poverty-stricken… issues with poverty.”

Santorum: “It’s not just a matter of book knowledge.  Are you going to hire somebody… if you have to hire somebody who really has got a lot of book knowledge, but has poor character traits?”

SVH: “No.”

Santorum: “Who doesn’t work hard, who isn’t honest.  School isn’t just about teaching kids ABCs, it’s more than that.  And Parents know it is more than that.  So if all we are going to do is measure book knowledge.  We’re missing the boat.”

SVH: “My point with this was not so much the testing standards, but rather how to address this issue, because liberals will come at you and say ‘what about areas where there (are) single parents working two, three jobs to make ends meet and we need to come along side and help those parents.’”

Santorum: “Those parents want their kids to go to schools where they feel they can get their best chance.  The D.C. Voucher program were almost all single parents, they all wanted their kids someplace where they thought they could thrive.  We are talking about designing the program, customizing the program – We do this, we have IEPs for special needs kids.  Every kid has special needs.  There is no normal kid out there.  Every kid has something special about them.  And we need in a sense, not the extensive IEPs, but we do need to have individual plans for every kid in the school system and the parents have to be at the heart of it.”

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