Educating a Nation

Once upon a time I thought that everyone could see how full of holes America’s educational system is. That was before I took a particular digital humanities course last fall. When we started talking about education, and what to do about primary schools specifically, one of my classmates said, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” I was aghast that someone could think the school system ain’t broke. “It’s so broken,” I replied. That conversation didn’t get very far, but it did show me something about opinion.

I think our education system is a mess, especially from pre-K up till 12th. Kids are forced into an artificial structure and kept busy all day (otherwise they might learn something about their own interests!), interact only with kids of their own age group (that version of socialization really prepares them for life—not), and are separated from the community of elders they should be interacting with regularly in order to learn how to be grown-up. I think we need less school, not more. But not everyone agrees.

Hillary Clinton And NYC's First Lady Announce Childhood Dev'pt Initiative

Hillary

“We have got to have early childhood education, especially starting with low income disadvantaged kids, if we’re going to prepare kids to succeed when they get to elementary school…It’s a big priority for me.” (source)

“We have to do a better job of explaining why a common set of standards is really in the interests of the parents who are opting their kids out [of tests].” (source)

Hillary is in favor of “universal pre-K,” of sticking with Common Core, and supporting Teacher’s Unions. Way back in 1986 she started something called HIPPY (Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters) and later said, “What HIPPY does is to provide a very structured way for mothers to interact with their children. . . . If the mother knew what she was supposed to do, she would do it.” (source) This was a long time ago, but I think it still reflects Hillary’s stance on public education and structural systems.

As a homeschool graduate, the acronym HIPPY has some added significance for me, especially regarding the letter it leaves out. Every year, homeschooling families in NY must submit an IHIP (Individualized Home Instruction Plan) for each student. There’s no “I” for “individualized” in Hillary’s ’86 plan.

In sum, Hillary will protect and defend the status quo in American education and increase the reach of the system. She also happens to be the only candidate running who believes in the national standard of Common Core.

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Trump

“There’s no failed policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly.” (source)

“When teachers’ unions say even the most minuscule program allowing school choice is a mortal threat, they’re saying: If we aren’t allowed to keep 90% of the market, we can’t survive. When Bell Telephone had 90% of the market, a federal judge broke it up.” (source)

The views expressed in Trump’s quotes on education could hardly be more at odds with Hillary’s. Unsurprisingly, Trump looks at schools as a business. (Doesn’t he look at everything as a business?) He’s obviously critical of teacher’s unions and the status quo, though if he has a plan for making things better, I haven’t heard it.

I would be disappointed if Trump suddenly began supporting America’s current educational system, whereas I would expect Hillary to do so. Of course Trump’s crazy, and he’s a liar (not exactly like Hillary), but I think his views on education are fairly on-target.

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Jill

“Guarantee tuition-free, world-class public education from pre-school through university. End high stakes testing and public school privatization.” –Jill’s website

Jill, the forgotten candidate, doesn’t have a lot of media coverage, published photographs, or quotes on the issues. However, according to this source, her views on education are pretty close to Hillary’s, and Jill’s website seems to support that fact. I would balk at her views, though. Tuition-free education just means that everyone has to pay for it. And is she actually advocating for the end of privatized schooling? Why in the world would someone be in favor of ending private schooling, unless they’re bordering on socialism? I don’t see how supporting the monopoly would be good for kids or for taxpayers. Don’t vote for Jill! (Well, you could if you want, but it would be a throw-away.)

More on Jill’s educational views here.

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Gary

“I would abolish the federal Department of Education and very quickly.” (source)

“Really, I think that we should bring competition to public education. I would like to get the federal government out of education…” (source)

Gary, as usual, sounds pleasant and rather vague. If you take his second quote in context, you can see that he just tossed in education as one issue out of many where he’d like to “get the government out.” Abolishing the Education Department sounds pretty concrete (I wonder when “very quickly” is) but the thinking behind this action isn’t in the right place. The reason Gary wants to abolish the DE is that it wastes educational funds. Without the DE, Gary argues that more funds could go straight to schools and be spent on school supplies. In other words, this view is a version of the “throw more money at the status quo” paradigm.


What You Need To Know

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Hillary

Will work to support and expand the current pre-K through (free) college system. She supports common core, national standards, and highly structured education.


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Trump

Is quick to criticize the status quo and probably believes we should break up the public school monopoly and increase competition in the school market. I haven’t heard him say anything about free college.


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Jill

Wants free pre-K through college (like Hillary) and to end privatized schooling (at least Hillary’s not that vocal).


garyjohnson

Gary

Thinks we should stop wasting educational funds through the Department of Education and that we should somehow bring competition to the school market.


In sum, if you value freedom of education and also like to hear solid plans, there are no good choices this year. But Hillary and Jill are definitely in the same support-monopolized-education camp, while Trump and Gary lean towards something a little bit closer to an open market.

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