I know I haven’t been reading as often or as widely in my aggregator of late, but I’ve been somewhat surprised by how little we’ve been writing about this next election, which, I think is simply put the most important election of my lifetime, at least. I’ve really been struggling with the state of the world more than usual these days. The environment (I think when you travel a lot you really get a sense of what an extraordinarily wasteful society we live in), the global conflicts, the very tenuous hold we seem to be having economically both here and abroad. All of which makes me want to at times crawl under the covers with my kids, a flashlight, and a bowl of chocolate ice cream.

And in a education context, I’ve not been all that impressed with any of the candidates in terms of how they seem to understand the moment and the challenges. But I’ve finally started to do a little more reading and digging, and I came across a pretty interesting assessment of the Democratic field in terms of understanding the Web and its potential for education.

is run by the Personal Democracy Forum which was started by Micah Sifry, who also sponsored the PDF event that I was able to attend this summer. Now, Sifry and most of the bloggers on the site have a left-leaning feel to their posts, so this summary will probably end up comparing favorably with the look at the Republicans that is still to come. And, these assessments were made not by any direct contact with the candidates or their campaigns but by attempting to piece together answers based on what they have said in speeches or debates and/or what they have released in terms of policy. But it’s a starting point. Bottom line, Barrack Obama seems to “get it” more than the rest when it comes to the six specific policy goals they are attempting to judge the candidates by, which are to:

  1. Declare the internet a public good in the same way we think of water, electricity, highways or public education.
  2. Commit to providing affordable high-speed wireless Internet access nationwide.
  3. Declare a “Net Neutrality” standard forbidding Internet service providers from discriminating among content based on origin, application or type.
  4. Instead of “No Child Left Behind,” our goal should be “Every Child Connected.” (Emphasis mine)
  5. Commit to building a Connected Democracy where it becomes commonplace for local as well as national government proceedings to be heard by anyone any time and over time.
  6. Create a National Tech Corps, because as our country becomes more reliant on 21st century communications to maintain and build our economy we need to protect our communications infrastructure.

The money quote on Obama is

But by calling for the explicit use of blogs, wikis and social networking tools “to modernize internal, cross-agency, and public communication and information sharing to improve government decision-making” and direct public commenting on the White House website before legislation is signed, Obama is clearly signaling a commitment to a much more robust e-democracy than anyone else.

The short summary of all the major candidates in terms of education:

Edwards–“while his education platform has many strong aspects, it makes no explicit mention of the need to close the digital divide (though in fairness that is covered elsewhere) or how the internet could serve as an educational resource, as a way to expand learning moments beyond the classroom, and as a tool to connect students, parents and teachers 24/7.”

Clinton–“Her speeches and policy statements on education make no mention of the digital divide, rural or urban.”

Obama–“When it comes to education and the digital divide, Obama’s platform is surprisingly less ambitious in imagining technology’s potential benefits (given how broadly he sees its value elsewhere); his main concern appears to be wiring schools.”

Richardson–“Take his education platform: “We should use the best technology to create more flexible learning environments,” he said in his speech on the topic. “We need to increase opportunities for Advanced Placement and online courses.” Umm, is that it? Yes, it seems.”

Dodd–“He also calls for a “virtual learning innovation funding” to support online courses for public schools. Yet, despite a call for “world-class” public schools, he makes no mention of the need for “world-class” internet access for all students.”

Biden–“When it comes to how the internet can transform educational opportunity, however, Biden, like many of his peers, is pretty old-fashioned, talking only about “bringing computers and the Internet to schools,” rather than connecting children, parents, teachers and educational resources 24/7.”

We need to weigh in on this debate, or at least have a debate, I think, as to what the full slate of candidates on both sides have to say about education and technology. Collectively, in this election, we have a much bigger voice than three years ago, and I think we need to use it. Not to endorse a candidate per se, but to engage in and model the ways in which we can promote a wider discussion of the issues and ideas, conversations that will hopefully make all of us more involved in whatever ways that works. I’ll start a tag in case anyone might be interested in chiming in: edelection08

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