There couldn’t be a more poignant first post for Scathing Purple Musings return. From the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss, the nation’s most important education writer:
Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice is taking the reins of Jeb Bush’s education foundation while the former Florida governor continues exploring whether he will dive into the 2016 presidential race.
Bush resigned from the foundation late last year after saying that he was considering running for president, and on Thursday he tapped Rice, a member of the foundation’s board for two years, as the organization’s new chairman, the foundation’s Web site says.
Bush’s decision to tap her is all in the family: Rice served as secretary of state for his brother, President George W. Bush, from 2005-2009, the first African American woman to hold the position. She also served as Bush’s national security adviser, prior to becoming the nation’s top diplomat.
Jeb Bush created the Foundation for Excellence in Education after completing his second term as Florida governor to continue his influential advocacy of school reform.
As Strauss points out, this isn’t Rice’s first advocacy on behalf of Jeb Bush’s education agenda. In 2012, she co-chaired a controversial Council on Foreign Relations task force that found the nation’s education system a national security risk. The odd venue of subsequent report wasn’t lost on CFR scholar Steven S. Walt:
“…The report exaggerates the national security rationale for reforming U.S. K-12 education. It says a troubled public education system is a “very grave national security threat facing the country,” but it offers only anecdotal evidence to support this unconvincing claim. The United States spends more on national security than the next twenty nations combined, has an array of powerful allies around the world, and remains the world leader in science and technology……..“Second, there is a mismatch between the report’s alarmist tone and its core recommendations. In particular, if the current state of K-12 education were really a “very grave threat to national security,” the Task Force should emphatically support allocating greater resources to meet the challenge……..“Third, the call for a “national security readiness audit” of educational performance repackages the current focus on standards under a misleading label. The proposed audit would not measure “national security readiness,” and it is not clear who will pay for these new reporting requirements or what the consequences of poor performance would be……….Fourth, there is no consensus among professional educators, academic scholars, or engaged citizens about the net impact of charter schools, vouchers, or other forms of privatization, because empirical evidence is mixed. The report leans heavily toward one side in this contested set of issues, however, thereby encouraging a policy course that could do more harm than good.”
Rice’s arrival into the Bush fold at the head of his foundation is a political calculation on both their parts. Has Bush chosen Rice as a running mate? At any rate, Rice has clearly indicated who her favored candidate will be.
Still, the effort by Rice, Bush and others to justify their prescription for education reform in this manner is intellectually challenged, palpably misleading and a shameless attempt to demagogue education policy. Bush’s zealotry for his version of education policy is well documented. It is criticism in the area which gets underneath his skin and unmasks his hubris. Why someone as accomplished as Rice buys into this is troubling.
Moreover, Rice – someone who has an impeccable reputation – has damaged it by allowing Bush to hijack her credentials on foreign policy and national security to achieve his domestic policy agenda. Such irony shouldn’t be lost on Republican voters in the upcoming primary season as they witnessed Democrats doing just that same thing during the presidency of Bush’s older brother.