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The Conversation I didn’t Have with Barack Obama

Posted on | January 8, 2014 | Comments Off on The Conversation I didn’t Have with Barack Obama

Obama Bobblehead

Obama Bobblehead meets Chuck on the beach

12/31/13 Kailua, Hawaii: I’ve been working on an Obama sighting for several days now.  He’s vacationing here, and we jog on the same beach…just not at the same time.  But a rum-punch inspired dream conjured up this conversation:

CTK:  Nice day, Mr. President.

BHO: Chuck!  Fancy meeting you here.

CTK: Just vacationing with my family.

BHO: Me too.  (waving at another runner) It’s friendlier here than in Washington.

CTK: (noticing that the runner smiled and waved with a full hand)  I can see that.  They’ve even got a welcome banner down at the Island Snow place.

BHO: They should, after all the business I’ve sent their way.  Who would have thought you could make a living on shave ice? People follow the motorcade when we go there.  The stuff is full of sugar, but it’s good.

CTK:  The root beer?

BHO: Yea, root beer rules…. So, Chuck, tell me what you’re thinking.

CTK: Inequality, Mr. President.  I loved your speech.  Stay with it.

BHO: Is anyone other than Robert Reich and the New York Times paying attention?

CTK: Not too many, but remember the Occupy Movement.

BHO: Only barely, and that’s the problem.

CTK: Hang in there, Mr. President, inequality is the civil rights issue of this generation.  You know the stats as well as I do.

BHO: But how do I get people to pay attention.

CTK: Bully pulpit.  Do what TR did and make friends with journalists who want to go after the story.

BHO: It’s complicated.

CTK: Personalize the attack.  Over and over.

BHO: That’s risky.

CTK: So is losing.  Do you really think that the republic will hold together without a solid middle class and a working class who has hope for the future?  What happened to that campaign organization?  All I get from Democrats is scare pitches for money.

BHO: So, I thought that you were supposed to be interested in education policy; why not start with schools as the great equalizer?

CTK: Schools can’t help kids when opportunity is limited to the top 10 percent.  But I do have an education policy plea.

BHO: Yes.

CTK: You gotta’ realize that Duncan’s plan isn’t working.  He’s lost the Red states over federal intrusion.  He’s lost California over teacher evaluation.  He could have had anything he wanted in an ESEA revision, but he wasted his political capital on Race to the Top, and now he’s piddling around with waivers.  That’s not accomplishing anything.

BHO: So what should we do?

CTK: Give everybody a waiver.  That will kill off No Child Left Behind and let the Common Core of Standards and its assessments kick in.

BHO: That’s it?

CTK: That’s about all Duncan can do.

BHO: But schools are still failing our students, particularly poor Black and Latino kids.

CTK: I know.  It turns my stomach and troubles my soul. But the federal tool kit is not all that large, and your administration is running out of time.

BHO: That’s the case.

CTK: The Trojan horse in education reform is to change how students learn.  When your girls want to look up something what to they do?

BHO: They Google it, of course.

CTK: That’s my point about education.   I’d take the remaining Race to the Top money and focus it on getting learning tools in the hands of students.  Kids could carry around machines that would teach them algebra or history?

BHO: Nah, they’d just play games.

CTK: What if the games taught them algebra or history?

BHO: Possibly. Can we talk more later?  Hey, Happy New Year.  Gotta’ run.


(Dr. Leanne Kerchner enters).  Wake up Chuck, you’re talking in your sleep again.

CTK: I just had a great conversation with Obama.

LBK: In your dreams.






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Charles Taylor Kerchner is an Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Fellow at Claremont Graduate University. My daily musings appear in the blog. The archives of my EdWeek blog are available via link under the 'On California' head. Some of my photography can be seen by clicking on 'Gallery.' And numerous links to academic work and other research and commentary can be found by clicking on 'Projects.'


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