A couple of weeks ago, Governor John Kasich joined us at the City Club. It was great to have someone of his stature and station join us, as you can imagine, and we were thrilled that he had come to talk about healthcare reform. But even though he has been outspoken about healthcare, about his own efforts to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, about his own critiques of the House-passed American Health Care Act, the most interesting thing he had to say had nothing to do with healthcare.
It was about education, and I think a lot of people may have missed it.
As our traditional Q & A began, City Club regular and member of the State Board of Education, Meryl Johnson posed the first question. She pivoted from healthcare to “the health of our public schools.” (watch at the 37:00 mark in the video below)
The Fordham Institute recently found that students in the voucher schools are doing considerably worse and that’s a quote from the report, we find that our charters even though there are some wonderful charter schools, two-thirds of them are failing but at the same time the Republicans are still pushing school choice and so my concern is that we have 92% of children in our state that go to public schools and need the best public schools possible, so my question to you Governor Kasich is when are you going to apply that same wonderful compassion that you have for Medicaid, when are you going to apply that to the state of our public schools?
It was a classic City Club moment—the well-informed, pointed, challenging question, and even though it was off-topic, everyone understood that when the governor is on the stage, you can pretty much ask him anything related to the office. He was game for it, and, as many politicians do, he didn’t answer the question as it was asked. Instead, he answered the question he thought was more important. After speaking about the value of choice, as he sees it, he turned to his point:
Within a relatively short time, the number one occupation in this country, driving—we won’t need drivers. We will have autonomous vehicles and all those people you see driving around in trucks, will not be driving in trucks, what’s going to happen to them?
Think about what’s happening with drones, think of the impact that is on so many facets of our lives. Even think about the grocery store business, you know Watson, artificial intelligence, you know who Watson is? Do you know what that’s going to mean for stockbrokers, and insurance risk adjusters and all these folks. We are going to see a tsunami of confusion and significant impact if we don’t prepare for the dramatically changing digital economy.
We went from agriculture to manufacturing, manufacturing now over to the digital economy and let me ask you this question, are we in the public schools today both in k-12 and higher education, preparing our kids for the future? For having eight or nine different occupations over the course of their lifetime? Are we preparing them in a way where they have real work experience, where we have flexibility? …
We’re not going to make it. Now I’m going to be out of office in a year and a half, this is my Paul Revere warning. We got to stop squabbling about this stuff and start thinking about new ways to get kids out there, get the skills, get them inspired and the old way is not working anymore by and large, so we have bigger issues to fry than whether we got school choice or we don’t’ have it, or charters or vouchers or whatever.
I suppose this isn’t such a revelatory thing, but there was something about what he said, how he said it, and that it was the governor himself saying it that made this former high school teacher take notice.
There’s this old saw about education and Rip Van Winkle, that if he were to wake up today, the only thing he’d recognize is the K-12 classroom. A lot of us who have worked or currently work in education like to think of ourselves and our classroom practices as innovative, but whether you’re in an urban or rural setting, public or private, charter or whatever, chances are what’s happening in your classroom is more similar to how education has long been than we’d care to admit.
We do a lot of forums on education reform here at the City Club. We’ve talked about reforms in Newark, New Jersey, where Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan dumped a fortune into the schools and almost nothing changed. We talked with David Kirp about a school district that is beating their own demographic destiny. We’ve heard from researchers on charters and voucher programs, from advocates on every side, and tomorrow, we’ll hear from the leader of Teach For America, one of the most innovative programs to disrupt teacher training since the normal school. None of these addresses what the governor is talking about.
So here’s what’s been bugging me ever since the governor didn’t answer Ms. Johnson’s question: Who is truly re-inventing education? And when can we get them to come to Cleveland and share their vision? Or are they already in Cleveland and we just don’t know them?
Thanks. See you at the next forum.