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Bob Herbert's Educational Rant

I like to complain about the lack of serious interest in education as much as any semi-literate product of the Tennessee public school system, but the start of Bob Herbert's column today strikes me as excessively snarky.    

We don't hear a great deal about education in the presidential campaign. It's much too serious a topic to compete with such fun stuff as Hillary tossing back a shot of whiskey, or Barack rolling a gutter ball.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Coverage of presidential races invariably fixates on personality clashes, pseudo-scandals, and horse-race minutiae. That said, I think the lack of false promises about what these candidates vow to do to save our nation's schools is kinda refreshing. Usually, politicians tend to be too quick to gush about how they plan to transform our educational system (a topic that makes soccer moms everywhere swoon) despite the fact that the federal government has precious little real control over schools relative to the states. And even when it tries something significant, like pledging to leave no child behind, the states and local-control obsessives do their damnedest to undercut the effort by fighting national standards and then gaming the system in order to make themselves look better (or at least marginally less pathetic) vis a vis other states. (For a while, I kept a running tally of news stories about school systems that were using absurdly easy tests or finding creative ways to inflate student scores, but the exercise became too depressing.)

So while I too am sad to hear that 11 percent of respondents in a recent survey thought that Eisenhower was the president downed by Watergate, I'm inclined to give this crop of presidential candidates a slight break. While they may not be wowing us with detailed plans for improving math scores, they have been talking about serious issues--health care, war, the economy--that the federal government actually has more influence over. It hasn't all been about booze and bowling.

--Michelle Cottle