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Richard Corcoran: Education is freedom

“Education is everything. Education is hope and dignity for the population.”

To Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the purpose of an education is not to get a job. Nor is it to make money. The purpose of an education, Corcoran said, is to create critical thinkers.

During a speech delivered at the at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Learners to Earners Workforce Summit, the former House Speaker said treating education as a means to jobs or money would lead the nation down the same path as authoritarian regimes such as the one in Venezuela.

“If you could do anything possible to change society, what would you do?” Corcoran asked.

“I’ve thought about it hours upon hours upon hours and there’s only one thing we can do … there’s nothing more important that you can do than create a world-class education system.

“Education is everything. Education is hope and dignity for the population,” he said.

The Pasco Republican said the century-old educational philosophy of John Dewey was flawed from the start because it never considered students’ “talents or their hopes or their dignity.”

What a world-class education system would look like in the Sunshine State isn’t fully clear. Nor is it clear what it takes for students to make a successful transition into the workforce.

“The reason I can’t tell you is because the companies themselves can’t tell you,” Corcoran said.

What is clear, in Corcoran’s opinion, is that the current education model needs a shakeup.

One key to getting there — and an unsurprising one given Corcoran’s recording on education — is catering to students’ individual needs through school choice.

Corcoran’s tenure as House Speaker saw an expansion to charter schools via privately-run “Schools of Hope,” which aims to provide alternatives to chronically failing schools, often in poor areas.

During his tenure as Education Commissioner, the state also expanded private school vouchers through the new Family Empowerment Scholarship Program.

The other key ingredient to a world-class education system is bringing in more world-class teachers.

“Almost every person in this room can name a teacher that profoundly impacted them … we need those teachers in every classroom,” he said.

Sussing out which teachers are “world-class” needs some work, Corcoran added.

“Only in education are we meritless — imagine having a combine for teachers” he said, referring to professional sports tryouts. “We don’t have anything like that.”

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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