Convocation miseducation

In response to the article that appeared concerning the Opening Convocation (Thomas speaks at Convocation, Sept. 14, p. 1), I feel it’s necessary to address several inaccuracies voiced during the ceremony by Dr. Mary Hatwood Futrell.

This year’s Opening Convocation was designed to allow students to become more familiar with the upcoming presidential election by having four GW professors present speeches in the areas of health care, economics, education and foreign policy. The object of the Convocation was to objectively present information to the GW student population about specific issues. Following the objective speeches, moderator Carl Stern gave each speaker the opportunity to voice a more personal opinion about the candidates and their respective issue.

Dr. Futrell, however, turned her objective speech into an all-out assault on presidential nominee George W. Bush. Instead of objectively presenting information, Futrell needlessly attacked and misrepresented Governor Bush’s stances on important education issues.

In describing the candidates positions, Futrell decided not to inform the audience that Bush has proposed increasing higher education spending by almost $7 billion over the next five years in the form of more Pell Grants and state scholarships. Obviously, this would have been of great importance to the many GW students who receive financial aid. Additionally, Futrell failed to mention other Bush education initiatives, including $2.4 billion to train new teachers and enact teacher accountability programs, $1 billion for a math and science partnership fund and $3 billion for an educational technology fund.

Futrell also declined to name important educational steps Governor Bush has instituted in his home state of Texas when she described his educational policies during his governorship. For example, minority students in Texas have the highest national test scores in both math and writing. Further, Governor Bush delegated $200 million to the Head Start program, making Texas one of a limited number of states that have donated money to Head Start. Finally, the Bush Administration improved overall teacher quality, an improvement that led the Fordham Foundation to name Texas teachers first in the nation in quality.

While Dr. Futrell misrepresented the issues, this did not upset me as much as the way in which she accomplished her goals. Professors are free and entitled to their own political opinions and slants; in fact, Professor Robert M. Dunn Jr. offered his own conservative views about the presidential election. The difference between Dunn and Futrell, however, was that Dunn waited until his second speech to deliver his personal opinion. His first presentation about the issues was unbiased and let undecided students fairly evaluate the issues. Futrell never made an objective presentation and turned her objective time into a 20-minute education rally for Al Gore.

The real losers in this situation are the students who came to Convocation to learn more about the candidates. The students who came to find out more about education were never given a choice. Dr. Futrell denied them that opportunity. Futrell’s presentation was not a collection of the facts but rather a poorly disguised campaign speech for her favored political candidate.

We don’t have to agree on every issue but a correct representation of the facts is integral to any informed decision, especially when deciding upon presidential candidates.

-The writer, a freshman, is a member of the GW College Republicans.

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