Here is an imaginary interview.
Imaginary reporter: "Miss Kennedy (???), why do you want to be a senator?"
Imaginary Caroline: "Well, first of all, I've followed the career of Sen. Clinton with interest. I am very impressed by her accomplishments regarding [issue one and issue two, whatever they might be] and want to make sure that momentum is not lost there.
"Secondly, as you may know, I have long been interested in education. It's my observation that No Child Left Behind has put new and much-needed focus on the performance of students who traditionally have passed under the radar of our education system. At the same time, NCLB has some flaws that I'd like to see ironed out. With the globalization of the economy, the success of public education is crucial to the national prosperity as never before.
"And then the dichotomy between security and preservation of civil rights is tighter than at any time I can think of in our nation's history. We're on a knife-edge here, of either losing the very freedoms that make America unique in the world, or falling prey more and more to the acts of terror that we've seen elsewhere in the world [be prepared to name London, Madrid, Bali]. Serious, informed, knowledgeable people disagree about exactly where on the continuum from absolute security to absolute freedom we need to find ourselves. Our government has to have people pulling both ways on this issue so that we can strike a balance between these extremes. It will be a dynamic balance. At no time will everyone be happy. But we have to try to reach consensus, and be flexible enough to respond to global events, and I want to be part of that conversation."
Imaginary reporter: "Miss Kennedy, going back to NCLB for a moment - what do you see as its flaws?"
Imaginary Caroline: "One flaw is that the states tend to set one standard for all students of each grade. With the mainstreaming of special-education students (a very worthy thing in itself) we see that the standards are being set artificially low in order to prevent these students from negatively affecting the test score averages. [Examples ready.] Another flaw is that there is no national standard so that there is no way to compare one state's performance to another. And I would like to see more analysis of the data we have - we can see which school systems are teaching their minority and special-ed students more effectively within the same state, but I'd like to see more structure for sharing strategies that work.
"Ideally, a public school system should be able to take each individual child as far as his or her innate ability and ambition will go. We can't have one-size-fits-all standards for an entire grade-level cohort and think that we can measure that.
"But NCLB gives us somewhere to start. We need to build on it and make it better."
Well, so much for imagination. Here is the reality.