Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and 2016 presidential candidate, talked education during an interview Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, during which he said that he’s not against national testing, despite his anti-federal-meddling attitude. Though to be sure, he’s still very much opposed to a national curriculum.
The interview largely focused on foreign affairs issues, but crept into the edu-world when host Chuck Todd asked Paul about an idea in his book, Taking a Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America.
The idea, loosely explained, is that a superb teacher should be teaching millions of students via online classes, not 20 to 30 students in a small classroom.
Here’s the idea explained in Paul’s own words:
One of the big leaps forward for America was when we started becoming a meritocracy and everybody was open for education. There's still some people in America, but particularly in other countries, who are trapped in poverty and don't have access. When the Internet expands this access and someone in the recesses of the jungle can learn from the best calculus teacher on the planet, we're going to discover a genius who will allow progress and mankind to improve, and I think it's going to be a huge leap for technological progress. But it's by having larger classrooms, which is counterintuitive, not smaller. They will be virtual classrooms, and they will be extraordinarily cheap."
Specifically, Todd pushed Paul to explain why this idea of having one teacher teaching an entire nation— a teacher who presumably creates his or her own curriculum—is different than a national curriculum, which Paul explains in his book that he opposes.
“How is that not in contradiction to being against the Common Core [State Standards], but for nationalized teaching, like what you describe?” Todd asked.
Paul’s libertarian ideals plant him firmly in the “get government out of my life” camp—in fact, if he had his way, he’d abolish the entire U.S. Department of Education—so the question was meant as a bit of a gotcha. (And, side note, the common core is a set of standards—not a curriculum, as it’s often characterized by those who oppose it.)
“I’m not saying this comes from government,” Paul said in response to Todd’s question. “I think this comes more than likely from the innovators you meet in Silicon Valley or the innovators you meet in Austin, Texas.”
When Todd pushed back, saying that it doesn’t sound like the local government mantra he’s so fond of, Paul clarified: “I’m not arguing against any kind of national communication or even national testing. I took national tests when I was a kid,” Paul continued. “What I’m arguing against is centralized control in one body of the government.”
You can listen to the entire exchange here. Scroll across to minute 41.
That education made it into the 10-minute interview at all is a big deal, and bodes well for education being a major issue in the 2016 election cycle, especially debate over the ever divisive common-core standards.