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The Obama-Romney education divide

Wondering how to distinguish the education positions of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? You're not the only one. The Washington Post's Jay Mathews calls them "education policy twins."

But Peter Cookson Jr. comes to the rescue with this great explainer.

This sums it up beautifully: President Obama and Governor Romney are not really educational twins after all; they stand for two different approaches to change. The President favors a government guided path forward and the Governor favors a market guided path forward.

Cookson, president of a Washington,D.C.c onsulting firm who also teachers at Columbia University's Teachers College, also offers this:

If these differences were merely semantic or incidental they might not be worth a great deal of discussion; after all, the education world is awash in rhetoric. But, in fact, the candidates' differences underscore one of the most contentious and divisive tensions in American life today: How can individual autonomy be reconciled with community responsibility?

Education isn't just about acquiring techniques and skills; it's about who we are as a people and what we most fundamentally believe. The struggle for educational answers goes deeper than specific policies; it is a cultural struggle — the outcome of which will determine the nature of public life for a very long time.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at