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State of the Union: #16Words to Spark an Education Revolution

Published:  February 5, 2013
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“The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” – George W. Bush, 2003 State of the Union Address
A single statement is sometimes all that is necessary to signal a significant shift in policy. Presidents throughout history have used the State of the Union to set their agenda, indicating issues and initiatives that will take priority in the year to come. Ten years ago, President Bush made the case for invading Iraq in just 16 words, spurring not only a war but also a dramatic shift in American foreign policy.
In the lead-up to President Obama’s first State of the Union address of his second term on February 12, education observers have produced much speculation on what issues will make the top of the list. So far, the Administration has signaled that President Obama will make early education a priority.
During his Inaugural address last month, the President painted a vision for education, stating “We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.”
While an Inaugural address may provide a vision, the State of the Union signals policy direction. With this in mind, the Early Education Initiative weighed in with a number of suggestions for 16 words to further that vision of equal opportunity:
  • From their earliest years, every child has a right to a free, high-quality, and well-rounded education.
  • It’s an antiquated notion that education starts in elementary school.  That is six years too late.
  • One-fifth of American children speak a language other than English at home. Are our schools ready?
  • One in five American children are in poverty. We cannot ignore poverty’s impact on their learning.
  • Teaching programs must be overhauled so teachers learn how to spark success in all their students.
  • Parents, you play a major role in the success of America’s next generation. You deserve support.
See more examples at In the Tank, a new blog that highlights articles, commentary and blog posts by experts in many different sectors at the New America Foundation (including the Early Ed Initiative and our larger Education Policy Program).What 16 words do you want to President Obama to say? Tweet them to us @newamerica or @newamericaed using the hashtag, #16Words.

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