To the Editor:
I was surprised to read the following statement by President Barack Obama in his July 29 speech to the National Urban League, quoted in your article “Obama Stands Firm on Education Agenda Amid Qualms From Lawmakers, Advocates” (Aug. 11, 2010): “The whole premise of Race to the Top is that teachers are the single most important factor in a child’s education from the moment they step into the classroom.”
It’s difficult to imagine that Mr. Obama could have uttered these words, because in numerous speeches and writings he has acknowledged the family as the most important factor in a child’s education. In an interview published in Essence magazine in March, for example, he is quoted as saying: “I know in my own life it’s only because I was pushed and prodded by my folks that I was able to succeed.” Elsewhere in the article he says that you can have the “fanciest classrooms,” the “best computers,” and everything else, but a child is not likely to succeed without the support of his or her parents.
There is a mountain of evidence to back up that statement. In regard to teachers, the research tells us they are the most important factor in the schooling of a child. Yes, the teacher is definitely important, but he or she does not compare with mom and dad.
Is Race to the Top built on a false premise?
Linda Mele Johnson
Long Beach, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the August 25, 2010 edition of Education Week as Obama’s Mixed Messages on School, Family Influence