October 16, 2008
Last night at the Presidential debates Obama described education as our top economic issue. All politicians say education is a top priority, but I’ve never heard Obama refer to it as the top economic issue. This is interesting because my recent poll of 500 economists listed education as the top economic issue, and I think that surprised a lot of people. We know that Obama is heavily influenced by data, and it’s a certainty that members of his campaign saw the results of the survey. Did it have any impact on his message about education?
In my September 17th post about my survey of economists, I said, “We know that kids do best in school when their parents are managing the process right. If either candidate had a plan for educating parents on how to help their kids succeed in school, I think that would be compelling.” In Obama’s exchange about education he made a point of emphasizing the role of parents in improving the performance of their kids in school. I don’t recall hearing that before. And as obvious as that might seem, McCain didn’t mention it in his remarks about fixing education.
Obama’s comments stopped short of where I think the government needs to be in terms of teaching parents how to coach their kids to be good students. I think parenting is a skill that can be taught, especially in regard to education. Most of the countries that kick the United States’ butt in student academic performance spend less per student. That suggests that the biggest point of leverage is at home. And it passes the sniff test, because the top students in any class generally have parents that are actively steering the ship.
Do you think the Dilbert survey of Economists had any impact on Obama’s message about education? Or is it just a coincidence?