GOP hopeful Rick Santorum speaks on education, gay marriage

BY JON FRANK | MAY 03, 2011 7:20 AM

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Potential GOP presidential nomination candidate Rick Santorum championed himself as a socially and economically conservative candidate before a crowd of roughly 20 on Monday in the IMU.

The former Pennsylvania senator addressed several issues, ranging from social to education.
And the Dickinson School of Law graduate called the public-education system into question.

Santorum said public schools are failing in large part because they don't address individual needs, strengths, and weaknesses; instead, he said, they emphasize uniformity. He proposed a turn toward the customization of education.

"People learn differently today," he said.

Santorum attacked the current government's overall approach to educating the country's youth, condemning its efforts as ineffective and fiscally wasteful. He likened the current system to a industrial factory.

"Big institutions have been won over by the left," he said, referring to the country's public-school system and health care.

Iowa City School District Assistant Superintendent Ann Feldman said customization is always the ideal situation, but it requires creativity.

"The ultimate goal for any teacher is to offer a personalized classroom," she said. "In order to do that, we have to think differently — intergrating technology into classrooms or computer-aided instruction. We who work in schools are only part of the equation — parents and students are equally important."

Before Santorum's speech started, Bob Vander Plaats, the head of the Family Leader, discussed recent controversy at the University of Iowa.

He called for the removal of UI Professor Ellen Lewin, who sent a profane e-mail response to the UI College Republicans' e-mail about the group's "Conservative Coming Out Week" events on April 20.

"I have no idea why this professor is still on campus," Vander Plaats said.

UI officials have declined to confirm whether Lewin will receive any discipline for the e-mail.

"That's no way to respond to an educational debate," Vander Plaats said to a round of applause.

Audience members supported Santorum's stance on several social issues.

The unabashedly social conservative took shots at same-sex marriage and applauded Iowa's decision during the November 2010 midterm election to oust the state judges that ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Santorum said the appointed judges overstepped their boundaries and had no business ruling on the issue.

Don Racheter, an audience member at Santorum's speech, said he was impressed with the former senator's presentation and said he thinks he is a viable candidate to run against President Obama in the 2012 presidential election.

"The fact that he has been able to beat Democratic incumbents … that, I think is one of the things that does set him apart from many of the other people who are trying to get the nomination," said Racheter, the government affairs director for Iowans for tax relief.

Deb Derksen, another audience member, said Santorum's views on family life make him a strong candidate for the GOP nomination. However, she said, she's hesitant to jump just yet.

"In order for any of us to make informed decisions on whom we will support, we need to vet everyone," she said.

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