Anty Bobo: Where's the Obama Burger?

Like Jim Cramer pretending to make stock picks, David Brooks is always the centerpiece of his own columns. Today, his title could have come from Cramer, too: No Picnic for Me Either. Imagine the crocodile tears lapping the gunwales of Mr. Brooks’ laptop lifeboat in an angry sea of DFH bloggers. Why, I can almost hear the tick-tock of Bobo’s alarm clock in the crocodile’s stomach.

The topic is grade- and high school education. According to Mr. Brooks, the two things necessary for its success are “relationships and rigor”. (I like alliteration as much as the next guy, but it’s supposed to amplify meaning, not detract from it.) Bobo comes to that conclusion after recounting the oft-told tale about Obama’s mother waking him early for extra tutoring with the bracing: “This is no picnic for me either, buster.” You could call it the, Goodbye, Mr. Brooks vision of education.

Even within the confines of a pundit’s column, “relationships and rigor” seems too narrow a definition of what’s required for educational success. A less constipated analysis might include hiring, paying for and promoting qualified teachers, giving them adequate buildings and materials, and few enough students that they can teach rather than herd them. A good education might depend on good childhood nutrition, including school lunch programs, adequate community-based child care and basic health care. And as Andrew Carnegie thought a hundred years ago, it might also depend on having a good library or its digital equivalent open and near each child who wants to learn.

Never mind. Assessing the foundation of an effective educational system is not what Mr. Brooks has in mind. It’s school vouchers. Mr. Obama, it seems, nixed a pilot program to give 1700 Washington, DC, students taxpayer-paid access to private charter schools and it’s sent Mr. Brooks into a tizzy.

The heartless president even refused to grandfather existing students, “so those children will be ripped away from their mentors and friends.” I don’t remember Mr. Brooks feeling empathy for immigrant families being ripped apart in the aftermath of ICE’s electorally timed show-raids. Or the families of service personnel ripped apart owing to their second, third and fourth deployments to Vietnam Iraq. That’s because Charter schools are a perennial GOP favorite, like home schooling and other forms of segregating the GOP faithful from the teeming masses that its wealthy members don’t want to school.

Oddly, the milquetoast Mr. Brooks has never been accused of having a sense of proportion, even by Jim Lehrer. Little wonder that he describes Mr. Obama’s action as maximizing suffering. The lady doth protest too much.

David Brooks greets with a yawn Congress damning the only federal city to decades of lead-polluted tap water and to two centuries without Congressional representation. He thinks it unavoidable that DC’s thousands of students will be taught in substandard buildings, with substandard materials and poorly paid teachers. Just as it was unavoidable that DC’s genteely-snarling traffic should have been brought to a standstill whenever Mr. Cheney’s block-long motorcade ventured out to entertain a fellow dictator, or pick up a pizza or another quart of bile at Wal-Mart.

No problemo. But using scarce taxpayer funds to fix an entire school system rather than to pluck out 1700 lucky students and pay for their private schooling, that’s “maximizing suffering.” I guess the “relationships and rigor” Mr. Brooks had in mind belong to the lobbyist, not the statesman.

Obama hopes to change incentives so [school] districts do the effective and hard things instead of the easy and mediocre things. [Unlike Congress, which always does the latter and never the former.] The question is whether he has the courage to follow through. Many doubt he does.

A cheap shot over a comma in the federal budget, but an important point for everyone living in Washington, DC, who can’t afford to send their kids to Country Day. But who says ideology and partisanship have been taken off the GOP menu? David Brooks is feasting on them.