April 19, 2012, 10:41 am
President Obama and Justice Sotomayor (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
When Barack Obama first came to national attention with his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he sounded a post-racial theme of national unity:
There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America—there’s the United States of America.
His 2008 campaign built on this theme but in a complicated and paradoxical way. An appeal was built on the idea of transcending racial division by embracing a politician who self-consciously styled himself as “black.” The nation poised in dynamic equilibrium between the ideal that race shouldn’t matter and the reality that it mattered very much.
That equilibrium didn’t last long. Even during the campaign, Obama…
March 6, 2012, 5:16 pm
President Obama’s agenda for higher education includes the goal of having nearly all Americans receive at least one year of formal education beyond high school. For shorthand, he has often referred to this extra year as “college,” which has prompted controversy. College for all? He referred to this in his January 24 State of the Union address as part of “the basic American promise,” namely:
if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.
What this means is a matter of some dispute. According to the New York Times, “almost 70 percent of high-school graduates in the United States enroll in college within two years of graduating.” Is that figure too low? When Obama addresses this issue he sometimes sounds like he is enunciating a general principle that all or nearly all should go to…
February 7, 2012, 4:55 pm
President Obama’s account of what has happened, is happening, and will happen in higher education; his various policy statements; and his administration’s agency initiatives deserve to be considered as a whole. They add up to a large and energetic attempt to recast the role of American colleges and universities. But while each of his major statements and every one of his administration’s actions has been well publicized, somehow the larger picture gets relatively little attention. I’d like to attempt a synthesis in the next several posts, first going through what I take to be the eight major points, one by one, and then reassembling them as a whole. His eight major points seem to be:
(1) The United States needs a massive expansion of undergraduate enrollments. His benchmark for this was set February 24, 2009 in his address to a joint session of Congress where he enunciated “a new…
January 26, 2012, 4:32 pm
On January 10, the White House staged an event to mark the release of a new report calling for “the nation to reclaim higher education’s civic mission.” The report, A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future, is the fruit of the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement.
That task force was appointed by the Obama Department of Education in 2010. The new report comes with a forward by DOE Under Secretary Martha Kanter and the Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, Eduardo Ochoa, who connect the enterprise with the Obama administration’s goal for the United States “to once again lead the world in the proportion of college graduates by 2020.”
We haven’t heard much about that goal recently, perhaps as economic realities impressed themselves on the administration. To achieve the “lead the world” proportion of college…