Ed Moore: It’s better to criticize the policies, not the person

A recent opinion column got me to thinking about how shallow our critiques are when we focus on those who are thought of as potential leaders of our country.

We have become so immersed in personal attacks and derogatory politics that we cease to focus on the content of the policies espoused by potential office holders. All of this is to our detriment. A lot of recent commentary about Jeb Bush and his possible run for the presidency has attacked him personally and focused little on his policies.

Let me be clear — Jeb Bush does not need me to rise to his defense. He can defend himself with vigor. But some things just can’t be ignored.

Jeb Bush has dedicated much of his political life to educational reform because in his heart he knows every child can learn and deserves the best possible environment in which to learn. He believes every child dreams of success.

Bush knows that education is so much more than an activity. It is the greatest tool for creating the possible. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

Perhaps writers denigrate Bush because they believe criticism appeals to readers. A cynicism of this depth is hard to explain. Not everyone is evil and not all elected officials act to serve the interests of those who pay for campaigns.

Political campaigns need money to deliver their message of reform. This is true of individual candidates and of organizations seeking reforms. People give money to politicians and organizations that support the positions they espouse. Donors provide money because they want a candidate’s or an organization’s ideas to succeed.

Advocacy is expensive. To focus on who supports an organization or a candidate while ignoring the message is shortsighted and intellectually shallow.

Instead of focusing on the opinions of cynics, let’s focus on the results of the education reforms by Bush when he governed Florida.

Florida’s graduation rate is at an all-time high. We are in the top five states for passing AP exams. Our fourth-grade readers had the top international score in reading achievement and our low-income fourth graders were first in the US. Florida is now seventh in the US in K-12 student achievement. Minority students are in the top 10 in reading achievement.

We have vastly improved since 2000. We have come a long way baby!

Yes, we still have a long way to go to the day when reforms planted in Florida bear a full harvest for all students. By focusing on ways to improve even more, we will reap the bounty of a bright future for our children.

We grow when we challenge ourselves to do better. Our children grow too when we challenge them, but also give them better tools to learn. For Florida to succeed, we must continue to focus on improvement so all children have a shot at reaching their potential and fulfilling their dreams.

Ed H. Moore, President of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, writes and lives in Tallahassee. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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