What comes through when Mr. Bush is asked about education is how radical his views are. He would toss out the traditional K-to-12 scheme in favor of a credit system, like colleges have.
"It's not based on seat time," he says. "It's whether you accomplished the task. Now we're like GM in its heyday of mass production. We don't have a flourishing education system that's customized. There's a whole world out there that didn't exist 10 years ago, which is online learning. We have the ability today to customize learning so we don't cast young people aside."
This is where Sweden comes in. "The idea that somehow Sweden would be the land of innovation, where private involvement in what was considered a government activity, is quite shocking to us Americans," Mr. Bush says. "But they're way ahead of us. They have a totally voucherized system. The kids come from Baghdad, Somalia -- this is in the tougher part of Stockholm -- and they're learning three languages by the time they finish. ... There's no reason we can't have that except we're stuck in the old way."
So are Republicans, Mr. Bush believes. But with a few adjustments, the GOP can become a modern reform party. "I don't think there's anything that holds us back," he says. "I think we're actually well positioned to do exactly that." Mr. Bush would stand the party on its head by de-emphasizing Washington and mounting "a real effort to play offense outside of Washington in advancing a reform agenda. I think a respectful, policy-oriented opposition in Washington will be quite effective." But the states are where "being able to change things is easier to do."
Mr. Bush also has a suggestion for President Barack Obama.
"I think it would be great politically for President Obama" to break with one of his party's interest groups, Mr. Bush says. "I hope it's the teachers' union. He can bring about a transformation of education" and speak "on behalf of the kids that traditionally are shut out of the learning process, and [allow] a thousand flowers to bloom, not just one prescribed from Washington."