by David Safier

Here it is, your last installment of “Meet Your Candidate in the Classroom.” I’m not going to go into Ron Paul’s educational plans, because with his numbers, he’s not a major player. If you’re interested, you can find his ideas here.

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I knew I should expect something a little different from Mike Huckabee when I saw the title of the issue paper: Education and the Arts. THE ARTS? What does art have to do with education anyway? I thought it was all about reading, math and standardized testing, sunup to sundown.

Well, Huckabee thinks art and music have lots to do with education. They are essential “Weapons of Mass Instruction.” (Cute phrase. He’s the best man on the stump with a folksy quip and a goofy grin.) He even talks about the importance of the left and right sides of the brain. “Our future economy depends on a creative generation,” he writes.

These are the moments when I start liking Huckabee. Then I wake up and remember he wants the Constitution to take a back seat to the Bible, after he abolishes the IRS. Oh well, you can’t have everything.

Huckabee’s educational ideas aren’t all soft, fuzzy and creative. He wants intensive, back-to-basics reading and math programs for the younger grades and a demanding high school curriculum, including lots of advanced placement classes.

He wants to be able to fire teachers who aren’t teaching, but he also wants to put money in the classroom, not into administration, and “provide bonuses and forgive student loans for high-performing teachers to work in low-performing schools.” So he’s not a teacher basher by a long shot.

Huckabee loves the idea of charter schools and home schooling. He wants “public school choice,” which doesn’t sound like vouchers for private schools to me, unless I’m missing something. Again, I’m pleasantly surprised. He even brags that his three children attended public schools K-through-12, as did he and his wife.

No Child Left Behind has value, Huckabee says, but it shouldn’t get in the way of states’ abilities to develop their own educational benchmarks.

Huckabee’s a funny guy. Most of his agenda scares the hell out of me, and then I read something like this. If anyone among the major Republican candidates deserves the label “straight shooter,” it may be ol’ Huck.

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