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Dear Mr. President, Try Harder and Do Better

Robert Barkley, Jr.

Dear President Obama:

It has been long enough for you to demonstrate courage and wisdom in many areas.  So far rhetoric has been your saving grace, but beyond that I remain hopeful but disappointed.

I suppose all elected officials - particularly at the federal level -- are by the very nature of those positions, incompetent in most areas they must address.  One would hope they realize this and would surround themselves with experts in areas where they are not expert themselves.  You have failed to do that in all too many instances.

Your education policy, an area about which I know quite a bit, is wrapped in popular but terribly unenlightened principles. Charter schools have a place, but not the one you have chosen for them. Standards will have exactly the opposite impact of what you hope for and is based on several myths. And individual performance pay for teachers will be both unsustainable and counterproductive - guaranteed.

Your pursuit of military answers in Afghanistan is terribly foolish.  Further, listening to military leaders on the strategic level is misguided. Their expertise is on the operational level alone.  Unfortunately, our nation has allowed them to evolve into strategic policy leaders - something our Constitution rightly left at your feet and not at theirs. Military leaders will answer every problem with military answers. As any student of history should recognize, this has more often than not been a disastrous development.

Your fiscal policy, admittedly in the midst of a crisis you did not create, while necessary in some regards, has largely ignored the middle and lower class workers of our nation. And any coddling of the financial-investment-insurance sectors is inexcusable.  How could you not see this?


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And then there is the Patriot Act and all that it has done to violate our traditional rights -- not to mention the evilness of Guantanamo and extraordinary rendition.  Can you not bring yourself to right that ship at least? It seems to me you've broken your promise here.

The health care/insurance issue speaks for itself.  Your leadership has been seriously lacking on this topic, and your hopes for bipartisanship are surprisingly naïve.  There will be minimal progress at a time when there could have been huge progress had you inserted yourself forcefully.  You did not - at least thus far. That's inexcusable.

Your failure to openly and strongly take on the stranglehold of corporate demagoguery has been a great disappointment and will have unnecessary consequences for your continuation in office.  I still have my yard sign supporting your election, but while I may vote for you again, thus far it will not be with the same enthusiasm or with that sign in my yard again.

All that said, I continue to prefer your level of incompetence much more than that of your predecessors or your opponents. Please try harder.


Robert Barkley, Jr.

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Robert Barkley, Jr., is a counselor in Systemic Education Reform, retired Executive Director of the Ohio Education Association. He is the author of Quality in Education: A Primer for Collaborative Visionary Educational Leaders and Leadership In Education: A Handbook for School Superintendents and Teacher Union Presidents. He resides in Worthington, Ohio where he studies and writes on education and politics.

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