Libby Mitchell would be great for education

In deep contrast to creationist Paul LePage, Libby Mitchell would be excellent for education in Maine.

Mitchell said Maine schools need to emphasize science curriculum more.

“(We) need to make sure they get it and know that there’s a future for them,” she said. “Maine has a school of math and science, which has been very successful, but all of our curriculum needs to focus on that.”

Whereas LePage and the Republican party are hostile towards science, Mitchell recognizes its crucial importance to the future of the state. She knows that in areas of conservation and new technology (especially for clean energy) it’s going to take a lot of quality education. Maine, just like every single place in the entire world, needs a strong core of people who have highly specialized scientific knowledge.

Mitchell also knows that the answer isn’t to just give away degrees – which is precisely what LePage has suggested we do. It’s obvious to anyone remotely intelligent that the biggest obstacle to students gaining the knowledge they need to get high quality jobs is money: people can’t afford to go to college. Mitchell, seeing this overwhelmingly obvious fact, has a solution.

Maine has far too few citizens with a college degree: only 37% of Maine citizens aged 25 to 64 hold a college degree compared with the New England average of 47%. Creating a public/private partnership for a matching grant program to guarantee tuition for the first year at the university system, community colleges, or Maine Maritime Academy will expand access to higher education and degree completion. This will also help lifelong learners by giving people looking to make job transitions help in getting the education and re-training they need.

Rather than make it easier for people to gain degrees, Mitchell is going to make it easier for people to gain knowledge. If you’re a Maine citizen and you don’t want your degree to mean less and less because absolutely everyone can get one for virtually nothing, vote Libby Mitchell.

LePage would be awful for education

Creationist Republican candidate for Maine governor Paul LePage has some terrible ideas on education. Last week he made this risible suggestion:

“Our program is going to offer high school students a choice — you can go four years at high school and get a diploma or go five years and get an (associate’s) degree,” he said. “We’re going to raise the standard for education in the state of Maine. We need to get our best and brightest out there and educated at the lowest possible cost.”

If I may – lol.

Right. Let’s just give away associate’s degrees. I mean, compressing two years worth of courses – most of which need to be taught by those with specialized, esoteric knowledge (not high school teachers) – into one year would totally raise the standard for education in the state of Maine. Or when a Maine high school student goes to take his terrible high school associate’s degree to an actual college or university and he asks if he can get credit towards a bachelor’s, he’s going to find that he suffered an extra year of low-level schooling for nothing. That’s because every other school in the nation (and I would hope even post-secondary schools in Maine) are going to laugh at that useless piece of paper.

LePage obviously hasn’t thought any of this through, unfortunately. But on the bright side, his lack of foresight and of general intelligence helps to explain why he’s now saying something different and superfluous.

LePage said the state needs to toughen its educational standards.

“We want to give our students an option — four years, you get a diploma or you can earn your associate’s degree with collaboration between the community college system and the University of Maine system,” he said. “It’s going to be tough; the kids are going to have to work harder.”

…wwwwhat? Community colleges and the UMaine system do work together – accredited schools tend to do that. Under LePage’s first plan from just a week ago (which I guess he has abandoned?), these two systems would have to lose a lot of credibility to work with high schools to just give away associate’s degrees. But right now it is perfectly possible to gain an associate’s degree at a community college which holds water when transferred into the UMaine system; the systems are already intertwined.

I highly doubt LePage actually thinks before he says anything.

Judge orders military to reinstate gay soldier

There are a number of nations whose military allows gay soldiers to serve openly with straight soldiers. The obvious reason is that being gay does not make someone a sex-crazed rapist whose only interest is to cause irreparable moral harm to other people by giving them gay. Recent polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans realize this. In fact, the U.S. military largely realizes this, dismissing fewer gay soldiers per year than they did prior to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars; they may as well be saying, ‘Okay, there’s a lot of hatred for gays out there and, really, that’s our motivation, but when it comes down to it, we need good service members.’

Fortunately, in addition to the other recent positive rulings, a judge has declared the military must reinstate a lesbian soldier it dismissed under ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. He cites the lack of constitutionality of the law due to its uselessness.

“The application of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ to Major Margaret Witt does not significantly further the government’s interest in promoting military readiness, unit morale and cohesion,” he wrote.

If it did any of these things, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ would have some validity within its scope. Unfortunately for all the bigots out there, judges are increasingly recognizing that sexual orientation is irrelevant to the effectiveness of military members.

But I think it’s worth pointing out that calling ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ a failure would be a mistake. The law was a compromise that marked a major step in terms of equal rights for gays. This is in a similar vein to when Jefferson put an end to the slave trade in 1808. That point was pivotal in the effort to end slavery, but it was also virtually all that could be done politically. Learning from his earlier days in Virginia politics, he knew any effort to end slavery was premature in his lifetime, lest he lose all political capital and ability to govern in any other area. A similar tale can be told of Clinton. Outright ending the unjustified discrimination against gays in the military was virtually impossible at the time (and it’s still proving to be difficult). But by getting the best deal he could for gay service members, Clinton made the first big step in ending the discrimination they face in the military. The fortunate difference here is that it won’t take us 57 years to reach Clinton’s goal.

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