Donald Trump’s education agenda is puzzling. Where does he stand and what does he know about public schools, teachers and students?
Pam Vogel for Media Matters in America, Eric Robelen in The Atlantic, and Valerie Strauss from the Washington Post questioned Trump’s education agenda. And charter school and No Child Left Behind promoter Nina Rees thinks Donald Trump can jump on the privatization bandwagon.
The common thread is that no one really knows what a President Trump would do when it comes to public schools and education. He complains but offers few real solutions.
The Bullying Problem
When it comes to Donald Trump and education issues, it is first a challenge to plow through the persona that is Trump.
With bullying a problem with young people, it is difficult for many teachers and parents to accept Trump’s tirades against others—especially the condescending remarks against women, Mexicans and Muslims.
I thought a recent Doonesbury cartoon portrayed this problem well, placing Trump in the role of a middle school student dicing other students.
Young people should learn about the political process, and, yes, politics has always had its share of ugliness, but it seems like the past months have seen a new low.
Students need a better example when it comes to adult behavior.
We live in a diverse country. America is a melting pot of people who are from, or who have ancestors they are proud of who came from, other countries and worked hard to make this home.
This diversity makes our country strong.
Yet, while no one denies that immigration and terrorism right now are problematic, Mr. Trump’s ideas are unduly harsh and especially unsettling when one thinks about children and their schooling.
There are concerns that schools will be less safe due to Mr. Trump’s bitter rhetoric.
Our policies should be ones that consider the lives of children, not just in this country but around the world. The challenge is to unite not divide.
Common Core State Standards
Trump constantly says he will get rid of Common Core, which makes a lot of people happy. But does he really understand who is behind CC and what standardization of public schools involves?
The problems with attacks against public schools started long before Common Core.
It is easy to say what many Republican parents want to hear. Common Core is one of those issues that resonate with parents, and Trump has used it for his benefit.
But, the reality is that Common Core is a state-led program. And with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, giving states more power over education, even if Mr. Trump becomes President, he will have a tough time eliminating it.
Then again, he could withhold funding to schools that don’t throw out Common Core. But in the anti-public school climate, that could hurt public schools in general.
Trump’s Education Secretary
It has been reported that Donald Trump might ask neurosurgeon and former GOP Presidential candidate Ben Carson to be education secretary. I find this just as troubling as placing Arne Duncan or Margaret Spelling in that role. Carson has never been an educator. He has never taught children.
Eliminating the Department of Education
Like any other huge federal program in the country, the Department of Education is always criticized and right-wing conservatives want to see its demise.
I think a U.S. Department of Education is important, like departments in other areas, to keep a check on the kinds of education programs that exist in this country and to work with States when there are program shortcomings. The federal, state and local governments should work together to make public school programs the best in the world.
However, the Department of Education was hijacked a long time ago by foundations and corporations who want charter schools and choice. Rarely do you find actual educators working in place to lift real public schools.
Children and Self-Esteem
Trump makes outrageous claims that school officials are overly worried about student self-esteem so they cater to children—implying they spoil them.
Yet, public schools and charter schools have become more highly-structured than ever before.
We see evidence of this in teacher preparation programs where teachers are learning harsh teaching techniques to maintain control—not to practice good teaching.
One also only needs to look at the testing schedule children face in kindergarten.
A Well-Rounded Curriculum
Trump claims students should have a well-rounded education. Most of us would agree, but does he understand many poor children have no access to the arts in their public schools?
Parents and teachers want to hear more about what Mr. Trump will do to fix the problems he mentions. How will he make public schools whole again?
Will he reinstate a comprehensive arts program with real teachers in every school?
Local Control vs. Choice and Vouchers
I have written before about how Trump praises choice and vouchers yet claims school boards and “local” communities should be in charge of schooling.
Vouchers give parents a clump of tax dollars, originally meant for public schools, to permit them to place their kids in private schools. Public schools lose funds, and parents and school boards are out of the mix.
Local school districts have no say in how those private schools run—or who they accept or reject into their schools. The exception is when choice is within the school district, or when school districts oversee charter schools. I don’t think that’s what Trump means when he talks about competition.
You could also say that parents have had choice with charter schools and some private schools for years. This type of competition has not revolutionized education. It hasn’t raised test scores either.
I am concerned about health care when it comes to children. It is anyone’s guess what will happen to healthcare for the poor if Mr. Trump becomes President. Yet how children fare when it comes to their health is important to how they do in school. Too often it is neglected.
Remember Deamonte Driver, the young student who died from an abscess tooth? Our public schools should all be staffed by at least one legitimate nurse to oversee the healthcare needs of children.
I am waiting to hear a Presidential candidate say this loudly.
This is especially a concern when you consider the increasing problem of lead poisoning.
How would Mr. Trump address special education?
While we’re at it, what about mental health care for students? What kind of programs will assist students with emotional and/or behavioral problems in public schools?
How will Mr. Trump treat students with severe cognitive disabilities, gifted and twice exceptional students, students with autism and those with learning disabilities and dyslexia?
I have not heard Mr. Trump mention these issues, yet mental health difficulties and special education needs are a huge problem for parents across the country.
In his favor, Mr. Trump is liberal leaning when it comes to the student debt crisis. He blames the federal government for profiting off of students.
I also find his own children to be well-spoken, seemingly kind and caring and a great asset to Mr. Trump.
But it is hard to forget that Donald Trump is a businessman when he compares schools with a failed telephone company. He believes they should be shut down if they aren’t working!
This is similar to a comment made by Hillary Clinton. It is a simplistic notion when it comes to the needs of children.
Like Clinton, Trump doesn’t seem to understand the kinds of failed reforms that have taken place due to business pals who know little about children.
For thirty years, the Business Roundtable has been a serious influence on public education, changing the landscape of schooling and denigrating the teachers responsible for teaching students. It is difficult to see Mr. Trump, a businessman, stepping up for parents and teachers to return public schooling to its rightful local control.
But one should never say never in this election season. Certainly, many democrats have not been good friends to public schools and teachers for a long time now.
It would be nothing short of revolutionary to see a President Trump turn the tables in favor of parents and their locally controlled public schools. I just find it hard to believe.
In the meantime, Mr. Trump needs to seriously describe his real education agenda to the American people. So far it is terribly lacking.
Next: Bernie Sanders