It’s been less than 48 hours since the world went into post traumatic shock having witnessed the unlikely presidential campaign victory of now President-Elect Donald Trump. Most of the world, even many of Trump’s ardent followers were completely surprised to have witnessed Mr. Trump crush his competitor, Secretary Clinton in 30 states gaining the often viewed inequitable electoral votes in 30 states. While I honestly found much to be desired from both political candidates, I too was surprisingly shocked by the results of the 2016 presidential campaign.
Having said that, I began for the last 24 hours to review and reassess exactly why I was placed on planet earth—to add value to the lives of people, particularly young children. My commitment to helping educate and increase literacy amongst children in urban areas is greater more now than ever. The greatest questions now are, what is Mr. Trump’s views on public education in America and exactly what needs to be changed, why, and when will those changes be implemented? These are the questions that parents, educators, and law & policy makers must stay focused on if we are to realize meaningful change.
There is no uncertainty about Mr. Trump’s running points of his entire campaign, build a wall separating the border of Mexico and the U.S. to reduce unwelcome immigrants, to deport undocumented immigrants, to repeal Obamacare, and of course to Make America Great Again. While Mr. Trump’s hopes of making of America great again may be an optimistic ambition I can promise Mr. Trump and his entire cabinet that greatest will never happen unless our education system goes through a grueling reformation. The condition of our education system which includes children in urban areas, underserved regions of American, and children from poor families is at it’s all time worst.
While I’m no passionate supporter of either Mr. Trump or Secretary Clinton I am an ardent supporter of education and children’s rights in the United States and abroad. In all fairness, several points made by the incoming President if acted on may point our education in a progressive direction. While some may agree that Mr. Trump ran a campaign on broad terminologies, childish insults and uncertainties, his short take on education was rather clear with regards to the problem in underserved areas and possible solutions to rectifying the matter altogether.
Trump pointed out that children in urban areas are miserably underperforming despite the autonomous influence given to the Department of Education under the Obama administration. As a result of having had eight years of testing their programs and practices that something must change beginning with downsizing the entire department. Downsizing is not a welcomed word in the private or education arenas as the very mention of it alarms the Teachers unions. Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers and also an advisor to Hillary Clinton believes that if Trump’s proposal is enacted it would mean the “decimation” of public education.
My question is, If the system as we now know it is not functioning and educating our children then why should it continue? It would be better to decimate a non-working system and replace it with one that works for the good of all not just the chosen children who received the right lottery number to be placed into a high performing school. What exactly is Mr. Trump’s position and what does he suggest change. First, he believes that the states must expand school choice so that parents have more control over what kind of education their children are receiving and that they are afforded more choices in the process.
This expansion would include choices for school vouchers for private education, charter schools, and magnet schools. The system, as now, limits student’s choice of performing schools and operates in many states under an unfair lottery system which proves only to further exacerbate the problem of disparities in education for poor and underserved children. Contrary to partisan belief, it should be noted that President Obama has made enormous achievements in his eight-year tenure, many of which he hasn’t received proper credit for. Sadly, one of the areas that has remained strained and perhaps even worsened is the area of proper education for children in inner cities.
Mr. Trump asserts that a part of the solution is to stop funding schools that are not performing of which I wholeheartedly agree. Also part of that solution is to ensure that each parent/student is afforded a plethora of healthy options for schools rather than being limited to poorly performing schools that continue to produce poor results. Having led several for profit businesses over the past 27 years I can understand why Mr. Trump believes that schools that are underperforming school not be funded. It doesn’t make sense, yet states and cities all across America continue to waste taxpayers’ dollars on schools that are producing an illiterate population, unable to compete in the world marketplace.
The second thing that Mr. Trump is adamant about is getting rid of Common Core Standards. Mr. Trump believes that Common Core Standards are not working to properly educate children thus needing to be eliminated and replaced with something else. Trump attended The Kew-Forest School and at the age of 13 allegedly left due to behavior problems and insubordination, then joining the New York Military Academy graduating in 1964 at the age of 18. Perhaps it is because of his exposure to different schooling methods that he may believe that there are different ways to educate different children.
Not all children are the same. In fact, no two children are exactly alike. Therefore, it is impossible to believe that a common core can justly represent the educational needs and interests of all children. The Common Core is not Common and neither are all of its standards unbiased and equitable. Our philosophy at The Scribe’s Institute has long been to employ ways to educate children that they are actively involved in, discard traditional methods that are no longer useful, and keep the traditional methods that are time tested and still highly functional. While more contemporary methods may be novel such as Common Core Standards they do not always speak to the immediate needs of all children, especially children in underserved areas.
Thinking from a business point of view, to continue to pour billions of dollars into something that is not producing positive results is fiscally irresponsible and in many cases outright delusional. There are limitations to Trump’s actual authority as President. For example, federal law explicitly forbids the federal government from interfering with each states decision with regards to their academic standards. However, on the other hand the federal government allocates certain amounts of money to each state for education, and each state receiving federal funding must strictly follow a set of guidelines in order to continue receiving funds. If you are confused by that, don’t worry I am as well, as it seems completely contradictory to give full autonomy to states that are required to fully comply with federal guidelines.
While there is much to be seen and determined of Trump’s true leadership potential in the coming months and years, one thing is clear. Mr. Trump has at least positively identified a “wall” that has long existed in cities with a preponderance of children of color and children who are underserved. He has also recognized that there is a “wall” between the have and the have nots and that proper education can rightfully address those extreme disparities. There is a “wall” between highly performing schools and schools in need of drastic improvement.
There is an even larger wall that separates the house and the senate as well as state representatives from state senators on issues that can lead to progressive change in public schools. Interestingly these walls continue to remain. Mr. Trump has claimed to be an expert on the subject of walls even to the point of vowing to the American people that he will build a wall on the Mexican border and invoice President Enrique Peña Nieto and the Mexican government to pay the bill. Whether he will do that or not is to be seen.
In the meantime, Mr. Trump has identified a wall of injustice in our educational system that disproportionately disadvantages the most disadvantaged people in America. Will Mr. Trump tear down the wall? America has already long-paid the bill for the deconstruction of this wall. If it doesn’t come down in a hurry America will pay far more in the future than it can actually stand. Mr. Trump please commit your first order of business to tearing down the wall before building one up. America’s need for highly functional education is top priority.
Dr. Aaron Lewis – 11/10/16