Dr. Matthew Lynch

Dr. Matthew Lynch
Langston, Oklahoma, USA
December 31
Langston University
As a professor of education, I am, first and foremost, committed to developing outstanding K-12 teachers. That’s because I believe that highly qualified and passionate educators are the best instruments to improve education in K-12 settings. I am the Chairman of the Department of Elementary/Special Education and an Associate Professor of Education at Langston University, and I spent seven years as a K-12 teacher – an experience that gave me an intimate view of the challenges facing genuine education reform. Before assuming my position at Langston, I spent three years as an Assistant Professor of Education and Director of Secondary and Social Studies Programs at Widener University. With that experience behind me, I’ve focused the second stage of my career on researching topics related to education reform, the achievement gap, and teacher education. What I’ve found is that improving teacher education is an essential component in closing the achievement gap. My articles and op eds appear regularly in the Huffington Post, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, Education Week, and Education World. I’ve also written numerous peer- reviewed articles, which have appeared in academic journals such as AASA Journal of Scholarship & Practice, International Journal of Progressive Education, Academic Leadership Journal, and others. In addition, I’ve authored and edited a number of books on school reform and school leadership. Please visit my website at www.drmattlynch.com for more information.


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Editor’s Pick
APRIL 23, 2012 8:48PM

Grading Barack Obama's First Term

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America's focus is on the 2012 presidential race. Will Barack Obama be elected to a second term or will a new challenger knock him off his throne? I think it's safe to say that at least half of the country still supports President Obama, even though they may not agree with all of his policies. When Obama assumed the presidency, he was charged with resolving the nastiest set of problems and issues of any incoming commander-in-chief since Franklin D. Roosevelt took office on March 4, 1933. Obama immediately served up a range of big-ticket solutions that included the unprecedented stimulus package, the auto bailouts, and a health care bill.

Since then, Obama ended the war in Iraq, killed Osama Bin Laden and implemented regulations to improve the environment. In addition, he implemented Race to the Top, began the drawdown of U. S. forces from Afghanistan, appointed two women to the Supreme Court, and ended "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I could go on and on, but in the interest of time, I think I'll stop there. In spite of all of these accomplishments, for many Americans, Obama's first-term as president has left much to be desired.

Obama's hecklers come not just from the right, but from other progressives and from well-known African-Americans. A lot of people seem to think that Barack Obama works for them and when they don't get the reaction they want from pulling his strings, they call him a puppet to somebody else. The president has a whole lot of work to do and a great many needs to tend to, but the impression across the board is that people believe the president should work for them and them alone.

Although the president's ability to directly influence policy is usually exaggerated, he still wields a considerable amount of power and influence. For instance, executive orders allow him to operate proactively in areas where congress has failed to act. However, they are contentious because they permit the president to make key decisions, without the approval of Congress.

As he nears the end of his first term, many laymen and politicos alike are pondering this question; how will the first African-American president's initial term be remembered? Presidential historians will not have the advantage of hindsight for a decade or two, but when it comes to grading Obama's Presidency, ask yourself the following questions. Did he make good on his campaign promises? If he didn't, were there extenuating circumstances that stood in his way? Are the criticisms that he has received, warranted? What grade should his presidency receive?

Since the president's first term is not quite complete, the best that I can do is offer an interim assessment. Any definitive assessment will have to wait until after the 2012 election. I will assess Obama's presidency by asking myself the same questions that I posed to you.

Did he make good on his campaign promises?

Politifact.com, the Pulitzer Prize-winning site published by the Tampa Bay Times, contains a special feature called the Obamameter. One of the lists that it publishes is "The Obama Scorecard," which assesses 508 campaign promises made by Obama with the following ratings: promise kept, promise broken, compromise, in the works and stalled. I used this unbiased tool to determine whether or not Obama kept or is progressing towards fulfilling his campaign promises. According to "The Obama Scorecard," he performed as follows: promises kept- 35%, promises broken- 12%, compromises- 11%, in the works- 28% and (promises) stalled- 13%. Also, it is important to point out that 0.4% (2) of his campaign promises have not been rated yet.

On 74% of his promises, Obama kept, comprised or is in the process of fulfilling them. Also, 13% of Obama's attempts to fulfill his campaign promises stalled not because of him, but because of partisanship. Out of 508 campaign promises, Obama has only broken 12% of them, which is mind-boggling when you consider the current political landscape. According to these results, the president did a good job of keeping his campaign promises; however, you can be your own judge.

If he didn't, were there extenuating circumstances that stood in his way?

In some situations, it seems as though Obama can't catch a break. Regardless of what he does, for some people, it will never be good enough. In some instances, President Obama proposed legislation to Congress that either did not make it to the House or Senate floor or simply failed to garner the necessary votes for passage. Also there were times when in order to avoid giving the president what he wanted, the opposition simply voted down legislation that was good for America.

To be clear, Obama's obstacles have come not just from the right, but also from Obama's own party and prominent African-Americans. In response to some of these occurrences, Obama used executive orders to act in areas where congress failed to act. What else can he do? In spite of extenuating circumstances, President Obama continues to keep a smile on his face, and he sticks to his message. So as you can clearly see, in some situations, there were extenuating circumstances that stood in his way.

Are the criticisms that he has received, warranted?

A large majority of the criticisms are uncouth, disrespectful and engineered to discredit Obama's patriotism, religious beliefs and competence. The toxic venom that has been hurled at Obama is unprecedented in modern politics. When in modern times have people openly called for the assassination of a U. S. president? Never.

When I hear scholars such as Cornel West lambasting President Obama for giving oligarchs and corporate America a free pass and for failing to make the "war on poverty" a top priority, I cringe. Not because I believe that Professor West's criticisms have no merit; I cringe because I know that that Obama's detractors will try to use it as rhetoric to further discredit him. At the end of the day, he gives his heart and soul to his presidency and he should be afforded the respect that his position demands. At the end of the day, there may be a small percentage of the criticisms that may be warranted, but nobody's perfect.

What grade should his presidency receive?

As I stated earlier in this piece, when Obama assumed the presidency, he was charged with resolving a nasty set of problems and issues. In response to this, his administration rose to the challenge and fostered positive change and progress in America. Because of this, I think the president deserves an B+, which reflects his solid record as Commander-in-Chief.

At the end of the day, we are all entitled to our own opinion, and I am sure that many on the right and left will disagree with my assessment. So remember, my opinions are just that, my opinions. I am looking forward to reading your comments and I encourage you to use this article as a springboard for discussion.

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Good information clearly thought out and presented. I have no doubt that he represents our best choice in the election but a perfect choice? of course not. He is learning, he is growing and in the end history will grade us all; all we have is the present, the best choice, and dreams of the future-time to stop grousing and get back to the fight.
Good post and in my book he gets a B+. I had hoped for more, have been content with what he has been able to accomplish and know that any Republican in office would be a huge mistake. It is my firmest hope that democracy will survive, our nation will survive.
What a thought-provoking post. Execellent questions we should all try to answer honestly. I found I was in agreement with the vast majority of your answers. More people need to thoroughly think about their views rather than allowing themselves to succumb to empty political rhetoric or knee-jerk reactionism.

Thank you for this thoughtful piece.
I would assign the same grade. When I look at accomplishments in taking out Taliban and al Qaeda leaders and winding down wars he didn't start, the successful, surgical use of specially trained small military units, and improving our relationships with foreign governments, he has certainly shown courage, audacity, and good judgment. He's the first president to sign health care legislation and to take unpopular steps to avoid a serious depression. He's also avoided what would have been roundly criticized by both the GOP and undecided independents: proposed policies and executive action that would have appeared to favor the Black community over the population as a whole. Complaints by Tavis Smiley, Cornell West, Jesse Jackson, and other black and Hispanic leaders that he hasn't done enough for them exclusively ignores the reality that such favoritism would be deadly in a re-election effort. And, except for George H.W. Bush, he's the first president since Truman to avoid any hint of scandal, contrary to the spurious charges by Daryl Issa.
Your guitar strings are true as tight and you hit the points of our national challenge well, maestro ... it has been the toughest times that I can remember. Not only economics, but the tide of this massive blame game, begun with the plaque that would end our civilization -- Healthcare reform ... maybe better termed Obama Scare, if one listens to the F*X outlets and their numb skull media parrots. The whole idea was turned on its head. Obama did what he had said, halt special interests buying votes, in this case the Insurance behemoths that fill the pockets of Congressmen as they snort at the public trough. Such outrage over cutting costs. Who could gain by that? Have the Repubs actually thought about fooling us -- again?
Hey, the man pulled the financial markets from cliff diving -- even before taking office and Bush had his wagon packed and ready. Give a little credit. And no, he did not produce all that we would have hoped. Who could? He did what many could not even think about. History will prove it.
Nice try. I'm a progressive. Obama gets a D for lack of effort/guts on real healthcare and financial reform, for killing American citizens without due process, for changing nothing about Washington's corrupt culture, and for generally not pushing back against the Republican baloney until it was campaign time again.
In the USA the job of a president is to keep order among the corporate elite and ensure that working class America stays in its lowly and precarious position. In that regard Obama has done a passable job. We change presidents often. What we don't change is the system that allows a tiny elite to lord over the rest of us.
He is the best I have seen in my lifetime. I support him one hundred percent. B plus sounds good to me!
have been 'round since ike and can safely say most statements could be said bout every pres i've seen.saying a promise has been fullfilled is always dependent on perspective of who's saying it. only the young and foolishly naive believe ANY political candidates campaign "promises". he's made good and bad decisions as have we all. the measure for me is,do i believe decisions, right or wrong,were made with the best interests of america at heart. still judging.
I'll go with the B+ too. Great article. I am grateful for the addition of the statistics from politifact. Also, Kate's mention of Chris Rock has me thinking...many of his detractors wanted him to be so much more radical. I think all of his supporters were looking forward to more action and excitement. Your piece makes an argument for him having done, maybe, the best he could.
It's probably time to move many of those initiatives from in-the-works to stalled, but he remains a completely viable option in a head-to-head match-up despite his failings and weak spots. It doesn't matter what grade he gets in my book if the opposition gets an F. /r/
Thanks for sharing this...great post!
Obama has done as much as anyone could. The simple fact is nothing short of long-term sacrifice and major investment in the future will fix our present course. Anyone who has had to get out of a hole knows progress is not a straight and even line of progress. Instead it is like a paying down a 20 mortgage. The first years hardly makes a dent in the principle and the last 5 years pays more principle than the first 15. Even if Obama is given another term it will be a decade before we see any real progress.

But, the American people don't want to hear the truth they want to believe we can continue with business as usual and some how everything will be OK. Think of the last 30 years of deficit spending, allocating trillions to the military at the expense of the infrastructure, not forming a real energy policy and allow the banking and healthcare industry to reek havoc on our financial system as the mortgage we now have to pay.
I support Our President and will in 2012. The right-wing Republican alternative would be backward progression.
Hmmm... I too would give President Obama a B+ as an overall performance grade. However, the conservative Christians would more likely than not give him a D- grade.

I've been a Republican since the first time I could vote - and that was for Barry Goldwater in 1964. Nowadays, it looks and sounds like the Republican Party is trying to "pull out all the stops," to prevent Mr. Obama’s reelection.

However, so far, the Republican Party scores a big fat F- grade, by providing only four very marginal presidential wannabe candidates.

I am extremely disappointed to see that of the gaggle of at least a dozen Republican Party POTUS wannabes, Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul, were the only choices the GOP could come up with as candidates. Really! Is that the best we have to offer?

Out of ALL the Republican business leaders, people experienced with running large corporations, no one else can come to the rescue of the Republican Party? That really pisses me off.

I believe that if Willard does get the GOP nod, it would be like handing the election to Mr. Obama; and, unfortunately, millions of dollars will be poured down the advertising rat hole.

I believe that Willard Romney is out of touch with the common person. He and his wife do not know what it is like to sweat making the rent or house payment. The more Willard and his wife try to look and act like "normal folks" the worse it gets. (Case in point: Especially with the recent news that Willard is installing an elevator for his cars; and, what’s with his costume of blue jeans and sport coat at most public appearances...?)

From the time he was a child, Willard grew up in a very wealthy family. Willard is definitely part of the 1% of the 1%...

One cannot keep doing the same things and expect different results. IF, the Republican Party does not get very serious, very soon, about finding a couple of quality candidates, the election of 2012 will be handed to Mr. Obama, on a sliver platter.