The Importance of Education In President Obama’s State of the Union Address 2012

President Obama stood before Congress and delivered the State of the Union address on January 24, 2012 stressing the importance of education. The president’s message was strong and clear: The health of our economy and the quality of our public education system always has been and always will be intertwined. Obama is right. Strong public schools are the cornerstone of a strong economy, a strong democracy and a strong middle class.

As summarized by Tor Cowan, Political Director of the AFT, President Obama told the nation to “stop bashing” teachers and instead to recognize the value and role of educators in rebuilding the middle class and strengthening our democracy. As he put it, “We cannot teach to the test.” And we cannot test our way to a strong middle class; we can, and must, educate our way to a strong middle class. The President also recognized that rising college tuition costs can be the most daunting obstacle to pursuing a higher education; and called on states to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets, and colleges and universities to do their part to keep costs down.

President Obama made clear what America’s teachers have long understood: The overemphasis on testing has led to narrowing of the curriculum, rather than creating a path to critical thinking and problem solving. These are the kinds of knowledge and skills our children need to compete in the global economy. Respecting public school teachers and providing them with the tools and resources they need to help our children learn and grow are essential to building a strong public education system, competing in a global economy and restoring economic opportunity for all.

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