Darrell Huckaby - 10/04/09

Well at least he's good for a little comic relief.

The president of the United States, in case you haven't noticed, seems to be a little out of touch with reality these days, and as much as he tries to pretend that he is at one with the multitudes, he is out of touch with the people as well.

Two weeks ago, of course, he went on a media blitz, appearing on every television show aired except "Leave it to Beaver" reruns. He argued with George Stephanopoulos over the definition of the word "tax" and then seemed to want to argue with the Merriam-Webster dictionary. I guess it could have been worse. He could have been debating the meaning of the word "is." Then the leader of the free world stayed up late to yuk it up with David Letterman.

I guess Obama is of the opinion that beating a dead horse can be more fun than one might realize.

And then last week Obama announced that he wanted to lengthen the school day - and the school year - which is why I say that the president is out of touch with reality and with the will of the people.

I am all for education, y'all. I know full well how important it is. I have spent virtually all of my adult life as an educator. I have raised three children, two of whom are in college now and another who will soon be on her way.

I was raised in a four-room mill village house. We didn't have a bathroom inside our house until I was in the fifth grade. I live in a house with four bathrooms now. Five counting the back porch. I know the value of an education. Education changed my life.

I started school about 11 months after the Soviets launched Sputnik. We, as a nation, were fully engaged in the Cold War and everybody and his brother were scared to death that the Russians were getting ahead of us in education in general and science and math education in particular. We countered with an increased emphasis on education and challenged the Soviet Union to race us to the moon.

And we won, despite what those people say who believe that wrestling is real and the space program is fake.

Now it's the Asians. The reason our globe-trotting, attention-seeking Chief Executive gives for wanting to extend the school year is that children in Asian countries consistently outscore American children in math and science tests. He says the reason they do so is because they spend more time in school.

Well, to begin with, that is a false premise. Asian students may spend more days in school each year, but they do not spend more hours, according to the AP news report on Obama's statements.

Secondly, and more importantly, what you do in school is exponentially more important than how long you do it. The primary problem with public education is that we are charged with educating the public and a larger and larger percentage of the public lives in households that do not value education - or at least not enough to insist that the children in those households do what is necessary to succeed in school. Until that changes, all the government mandates and all the standards in the world - supported by all the king's horses and all the king's men - won't increase the quality of education in American classrooms.

Simply put, Asian parents send their children to school with the mandate to behave themselves, mind their teachers, and do their school work. The children in American schools whose parents send them to school with the same mandate do just fine, thank you very much. There just aren't enough of them.

Now, the third fallacy with Barack Obama's plan to increase the school year is the big one. We, the people, aren't willing to pay for the days we already have scheduled! Hello!

Did nobody tell Barack Obama that all over the United States teachers are being furloughed because there isn't enough money to keep the schools open? I have "enjoyed" three unscheduled vacation days this year already and they tell me that I can "look forward" to perhaps as many as seven more after the first of the year.

My counterparts in Hawaii - Barack Obama's native state, so they say - are having to try and make adequate yearly progress while taking 18 furlough days.

Eighteen furlough days! That is a tenth of the school year. The teachers are taking a 10 percent cut in pay and their work year has been cut from 190 days to 172 days and the president of the United States is saying that we are all going to have to add days - with no indication, of course, of where the money will come from.

Maybe he plans to pick the money off the same tree that will provide health care benefits for every American without costing any of us any new tax dollars.

It's a great country, isn't it?

And now the First Family is in Denmark, making a pitch to bring the Olympic Games to Chicago in 2016. Michelle Obama says that the trip is "a big sacrifice" but that she and her husband are doing it "for the kids."

Heaven help us.

Darrell Huckaby