A teacher, graduate student, and blogger from Maine, Emily Talmage, who has been cited on these pages before, takes a long look at what the presidency of Donald Trump could mean in terms of keeping the quality of education our kids receive high. She asks community members to engage at the state and local levels in order to keep corporate education reform at bay.
She fundamentally believes that a Trump administration won’t be very different from what the administration of Hillary Clinton would have looked like if she had won the election. They use different terms—Mr Trump couches his policies in ideas like school choice, while Mrs Clinton couches hers in ideas like social justice—but, Ms Talmage believes, the result of either candidate achieving the highest office in the land would have been the same: a hard push for corporate reform’s “big” agenda.
She claims, for instance, that the current gains being experienced by the for-profit college industry, owing to an anticipated relaxing of regulations but not necessarily an increase in the quality of education they provide, will continue under the forthcoming Trump administration and that the education-industrial complex will continue to grow, as it did during the administrations of George W Bush and Barack Obama. She wonders:
- Will low-quality online schools and alternative K-12 and higher education models, such as competency-based learning, “personalized” learning, etc., proliferate in the interest of corporate profits rather than the education of our children?
- What does Mr Trump mean by “streamlining” the federal education department?
- Will Ben Carson, William Evers, someone from the private sector with limited education experience or expertise but good work in philanthropy or some kind of reform, or someone else entirely be tapped for education secretary?
- In a Trump administration, will we see bigger budgets in support of one-to-one tech initiatives?
- Will our modes of data collection be more invasive in the interest of supporting a cradle-to-career tracking system?
I have a great deal of respect for Ms Talmage’s blog posts: they are thoughtful and show great concern for educating students. That’s to be expected, since she’s a teacher who is studying at a university to improve her craft.
What she doesn’t grasp is national politics. Mr Trump comes to the Oval Office with a résumé unlike any president who came before him, yet bloggers and educators continue to expect the same strategies of community organizing will work this time. His campaign was filled with messages that would not be possible as the president. Winning an election is different from governing, and we really don’t know what a Trump administration will do or be able to do. But we know it’s likely to be different from anything we’ve ever seen.
We can speculate all we like, and it’s fun to do so. But I urge readers of this blog to keep an open mind. Mr Trump will be the president, and there will come a moment when he ceases to be a man and a candidate for president and becomes the chief citizen of the United States, the last of seven roles enumerated for the executive. As the chief citizen, he will represent all people of this country, especially all citizens.
That includes kids in school, and I remain hopeful that he will bear that in mind, at least after the aforementioned transformation occurs. That transformation—from a man to the president—has to happen, and until it does, there will be no talking to him or any of his supporters. They are demagogues, not pragmatists. He is merely the leader of a political party, not the chief citizen of the United States.
If that transformation never happens with Mr Trump, he will remain a narcissistic demagogue, bent on bringing in people that will make him look good to a narrow group of (mostly white, non-college educated) voters. All the parent and community groups, all the well-meaning educators in the world, won’t be able to get his ear.
My honest assessment of his transition is that a supportive posture on the part of real educators will work better than a planned opposition to specific agenda items, as Ms Talmage calls for. If opposing ideas can’t get an appointment with the new president—and a supportive position will, I believe, stand a better chance at that—we’re just talking amongst ourselves, preaching to the choir, beating a dead horse, and so on. A president who doesn’t listen to Ms Talmage’s good ideas will never do the right thing for kids, so first things first.