As I waited for my twice-delayed flight to board in shimmering, subtle McGhee-Tyson Airport, Air Force One descended into Knoxville, Tennessee. This Presidential visit had no scarcity of fanfare – miles of interstate blocked off, a kaleidoscopic display of armed officers from various divisions, and even an entire floor of a local hospital occupied by Service agents in the event of an emergency. This kind of preparation I find entirely appropriate, though I question the purpose and result of President Obama’s visit to my quiet town of the South.
It was in Knoxville that the President would announce his new plan, “America’s College Promise,” a clumsier parroting of Tennessee’s own state-level initiative Tennessee Promise. The state’s governor, Bill Haslam, has become well-known for his activism in the realm of education: spearheading the drafting of Common Core State Standards as a member of Achieve, Inc., expanding TVAS (a student performance based teacher evaluation system), and seeking to fill an increasing job demand throughout the state requiring college degrees. The governor has made substantial progress, despite my fundamental frustration with his pragmatic, career-concerned motives.