Protecting Public Education Will Be a Challenge under the Trump Administration

Today we mark the inauguration of a new U.S. President and a new administration. Public education is perhaps the quintessential American institution, designed to educate all children—helping them develop personally and forming an educated public. All indications are that President Donald Trump’s administration will set our society back by undermining public education.

A group of 175 deans of colleges of education and chairs of college departments of education has released a declaration of principles to remind us all what we must try to preserve as the new administration takes over federal policy and seeks to privatize education.

First, “U.S. public education policy should: Uphold the role of public schools as a central institution in the strengthening of our democracy... Students are not merely commodities or consumers, and when we treat education as a competitive marketplace fueled by privatization we set up a system that ensures that some win while many others lose…”

Second, “Protect the human and civil rights of all children and youth, especially those from historically marginalized communities. The federal government has historically played a leading role in advancing educational access and equity, as with the passage and enforcement of civil rights laws, targeted funding to address poverty and resource inequities, and appropriate supports for English-language learners and students with disabilities…”

Third, “Develop and implement policies, laws, and reform initiatives by building on a democratic vision for public education and on sound educational research… The U.S. educational system is plagued with oversimplified policies and reform initiatives that were developed and imposed without support of a compelling body of rigorous research or even with a track record of failure.  We urge you to build on the ample evidence from the high-quality research that exists….”

Finally these academic professionals ask our society to support the work they do: “Support and partner with colleges and schools of education to advance these goals.”  They are speaking for the need to sustain an education profession informed by academic research—teachers who know what the fields of psychology and sociology can tell them about their students and their communities—teachers who understand pedagogy and technique and motivation—teachers who have studied education philosophy and considered the ways in which education is more than mere job training.

These principles directly confront the priorities of Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for U. S. Secretary of Education. At her recent hearing, DeVos showed neither understanding of education policy nor respect for the Department of Education’s responsibility to  protect the civil rights of the children who are descendants of slavery and Jim Crow, immigrant children and English learners, disabled children, and others we’ve marginalized throughout our history.  While many of us might prefer that she forget about test-and-punish accountability and the punitive tone of federal policy since 2002, the civil rights protections we have managed to secure for children ought to be non-negotiable.

The most concise summary of the pitfalls of the Trump-DeVos pledge to privatize our schools is from political philosopher Benjamin Barber who warns that ultimately such policies will serve the privileged and further disadvantage the nation’s poorest children and their parents who lack power.  While “parents’ right to choose” is the education motto of the new administration, Barber warns, “We are seduced into thinking that the right to choose from a menu is the essence of liberty, but with respect to relevant outcomes the real power, and hence the real freedom, is in the determination of what is on the menu. The powerful are those who set the agenda, not those who choose from the alternatives it offers.”(Consumed, p. 139) “Inequality is built into the market system, which too often becomes a race to the top for those who are wealthy and a race to the bottom for everyone else. Inequality is not incidental to privatization, it is its very premise. The implicit tactic employed by the well off is to leave behind those who get more in public services than they contribute as taxpayers in a residual ‘public’ sector… and throw in with those who have plenty to contribute in their own private ‘commons.’ The result is two levels of service—two societies—hostile, divided, and deeply unequal.” (Consumed, p. 157)

Barber concludes: “Privatization is a kind of reverse social contract: it dissolves the bonds that tie us together into free communities and democratic republics.  It puts us back in the state of nature where we possess a natural right to get whatever we can on our own, but at the same time lose any real ability to secure that to which we have a right.  Private choices rest on individual power…. Public choices rest on civic rights and common responsibilities, and presume equal rights for all… With privatization, we are seduced back into the state of nature by the lure of private liberty and particular interest; but what we experience in the end is an environment in which the strong dominate the weak…” (Consumed, pp. 143-144)

A retreat under the leadership of President Trump and Education Secretary DeVos will slow what has been a halting journey toward justice for American children. In March of 2000, the late Senator Paul Wellstone reminded the students at Teachers College, Columbia University, “That all citizens will be given an equal start through a sound education is one of the most basic, promised rights of our democracy. Our chronic refusal as a nation to guarantee that right for all children…. is rooted in a kind of moral blindness, or at least a failure of moral imagination…. It is a failure which threatens our future as a nation of citizens called to a common purpose… tied to one another by a common bond.”

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Protecting Public Education Will Be a Challenge under the Trump Administration

  1. Hi Jan,

    Thanks for this thoughtful and thorough analysis in an otherwise thoughtless world. I’m just so sad today. I realize that Rs may have sown the seeds of their destruction in Trump’s election, but I worry that the damage he can do in four years especially to public education can never be overcome. Once charter schools have been formed, it seems hard to get rid of them. I suppose you have heard that groups are forming to resist all over the country including one in Lake County. Ours was motivated by the Pantsuit Nation group, but we will be going our own way because they don’t want to be political and we do. We also learned recently that an Indivisible group is forming in Eastlake and will be coming to our Feb. 15 meeting in Mentor, which will be our third. We have already found precinct captains for one-third of the empty slots in the Lake County Democratic Party and are hoping to resurrect it from its moribund condition. Still, the inequality between what we face now and what the Tea Party faced when Obama was first elected seems stark. Democrats are just not the fighters that Rs are although it seems that are making an effort to learn how to be. I don’t know if Schumer will obstruct in the Senate like McConnell did. If he won’t, we have no chance. So, as I said, I am sad.

    Jackie

    >

  2. I do not get the impression that Trump/DeVos are interested in destroying publicly-financed education in the USA, nor to destroy public schools. There are many fine public schools in the USA. I live in Fairfax County VA, and the public schools here are terrific!

    Trump has floated the idea of sending $20 Billion to the states, that could be used to set up school-choice programs, if the states choose to use the funds for this purpose. I believe that if he can get this idea through congress (doubtful), that few states would proceed with it. It is a long way from a proposal to a reality.

    “It is much more important to kill bad bills, that it is to pass good ones.” Calvin Coolidge

  3. Thank you for pointing out that market-driven remedies for public education will ultimately undermine its foundations and will in turn undermine the foundations for democracy in this nation. Barber’s comment about real freedom is what is on the menu is powerful indictment of market-driven education. Implicitly, the menu (and I’ll add the quality of the selections) should be the same for every child. Weirdly, a market-driven remedy for education could bring us back to a time previous to Brown vs. Board of Education.
    A market has the potential to create winners and losers. Presently, I’m reading Harvey Cox’s new book, The Market as God. He exposes the market as antithetical to the gospel. Our reliance upon market solutions to resolve broad community issues and interests destroys the common good.
    quentin

  4. Reblogged this on Mister Journalism: "Reading, Sharing, Discussing, Learning" and commented:
    Protecting Public Education Will Be a Challenge under the Trump Administration
    by janresseger
    Today we mark the inauguration of a new U.S. President and a new administration. Public education is perhaps the quintessential American institution, designed to educate all children—helping them develop personally and forming an educated public. All indications are that President Donald Trump’s administration will set our society back by undermining public education.

    A group of 175 deans of colleges of education and chairs of college departments of education has released a declaration of principles to remind us all what we must try to preserve as the new administration takes over federal policy and seeks to privatize education.

    READ MORE OF THIS POST HERE:
    https://janresseger.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/protecting-public-education-will-be-a-challenge-in-the-trump-administration/

  5. Pingback: Protecting Public Education Will Be a Challenge under the Trump Administration | Mister Journalism: "Reading, Sharing, Discussing, Learning"

  6. Pingback: Protecting Public Education Will Be a Challenge under the Trump Administration | David R. Taylor-Thoughts on Education

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s