"How long is it going to take us to figure out you can't educate kids by testing them to death?" -- John Edwards
At a speech in Iowa, Edwards begins the dialogue on poverty and education as he looks towards 2008.
Edwards garnered a standing ovation when he challenged the Democratic Party to be a party of "big ideas." He told the ISEA that the party needs to focus on lifting Americans out of poverty, creating an energy-independent country and providing universal health care.
"I want to see my party get a little backbone and spine," he said. "We used to be the party of big ideas. ... We are the party that always gave voice to people that had no voice."
He said the country is desperate and hungry to be inspired, and looking for a chance to be involved in something important. Poverty should be that issue, he said.
He said it was immoral for the Bush administration to take money away from programs for the disabled, seniors and poor people, while giving more to big oil companies.
"We are better than this, America is better than this, and it's time for us to finally call for better answers for the American people," Edwards said.
Linda Nelson, president of the ISEA, said Edwards' message during the 2004 campaign of a country divided by poverty "resonated with our members."
"We all know that we must first meet the human needs of students who come through our doors before we start addressing their academic needs," she said.
ISEA member Jean Swenson, of New Hampton, said Edwards had the right message.
"He said things we needed to hear, things that we all know, things that we have forgotten. ...
Pretty much it's how teachers have thought forever," she said.