Condoleezza Rice on the need for high standards and choice in education

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke movingly about the need for education reform and increased parental choice at the Republican National Convention last night, referring to the crisis in K-12 education as “a grave threat to who we are” and “the civil rights issue of our day.”

Here is an excerpt of the education portion of her speech:

“We have been successful too because Americans have known that one’s status at birth was not a permanent station in life. You might not be able to control your circumstances but you could control your response to your circumstances. And your greatest ally in doing so was a quality education.

Let me ask you, though, today, when I can look at your zip code and can tell whether you are going to get a good education – can I really say that it doesn’t matter where you came from – it matters where you are going. The crisis in K-12 education is a grave threat to who we are.

My mom was a teacher – I have the greatest respect for the profession – we need great teachers – not poor or mediocre ones. We need to have high standards for our students – self-esteem comes from achievement not from lax standards and false praise. And we need to give parents greater choice – particularly poor parents whose kids – most often minorities — are trapped in failing neighborhood schools. This is the civil rights issue of our day.

If we do anything less, we will condemn generations to joblessness, hopelessness and dependence on the government dole. To do anything less is to endanger our global economic competitiveness. To do anything less is to tear apart the fabric of who we are and cement a turn toward grievance and entitlement.”

Earlier this year, Dr. Rice and former NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein led an independent task force that produced a Council on Foreign Relations report on education and national security. The report (which can be downloaded here) found that U.S. students are lagging in international rankings and young people are increasingly unprepared for the workforce and the military, creating a national security risk as well as weakening America’s global competitiveness.

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