Trump won the Electoral College and is therefore elected president. However, that win is clearly not a mandate when you consider that he received nearly 63 million votes to Hillary Clinton's nearly 66 million votes. Add into her votes the ballots cast for Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and others and you get to about 74 million people who voted against Trump.
He has not even been sworn in and already there are many warning signs. His background and actions tell us three important things.
1) He is not qualified to do the job, seemingly doesn't want to do the job full-time (he seems to think he only needs to be in Washington, D.C. four days a week and was never a great businessman but really, a good self-promoter. Read this Newsweek article for more (and add Native Americans to the list of people he has insulted.)
2) It is amusing in a sad kind of way to see all these people - from Gates to Paul Ryan to many Christian groups - fall into line thinking that, well, he got elected and he's their guy.
There is no person on this planet who knows what he will do or say at any given time. No one.
Now I believe there are people who know how to manipulate him to get what they want but he has proven to be mercurial, petty and with a shallow knowledge of issues. So good luck to all those who believe he will support their issues except for big business, of course.
3) He has no sense of humor and, like, George W. Bush, has a decided lack of intellectual curiosity. If someone cannot laugh at themselves, it's not a good thing. (There's something to wonder out loud about; will Trump even attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner where traditionally, poking fun at the president is the highlight of the evening.)
Why do I worry for public education?
1) Trump embraces a direction that, sadly, Obama embraced. Namely, the many (non-educator) cooks in the kitchen. From people running the Department of Education to those business-types who have made public education their philanthropy to businesses selling "personalized education" and, along with that, your child's data, they are all in the mix in American public education.
But mainly, it is that this nation seemingly cannot adopt a unified thought on a direction for public education that will produce better outcomes for more children across the board.
I am for states' rights but this mish-mosh of the educational landscape in the U.S. offers no real clues about what works and what doesn't.
What worked out of Race to the Top? Anything? Did the Department of Education learn anything from that experiment? Here's one report and their top item was "the number of relevant education reforms adopted as state policy." The National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance said this: The relationship between RTT and student outcomes was not clear: Trends in student outcomes could be interpreted as providing evidence that RTT had a positive effect, a negative effect, or no effect.
And, when there are pockets of real progress, we don't see adoption of those programs scale up. (This is a key flaw of charter schools and the "vote with your feet" philosophy. Parents choose schools for all kinds of reasons and yet, academic outcomes are the key measure of a school for taxpayers. The charters that are successful - following all federal rules and regulations and serving all students, no matter their background or need.)
What's fascinating is there is a lot of hand-wringing over the lower amount of PE, arts, and civics in our schools and a need for cultural studies and computer science classes but really, where would the time come from? Everyone has their own ideas of what matters but where is that centralized thought for what needs to get done to give students the knowledge and skills they need to be both workers and good citizens?
Given Mr. Trump's lack of real knowledge on public education (for himself or his own children) and his lack of interest in almost any in-depth learning on problems in our country, I would not expect much to change on any real vision for public education.
2) Betsy DeVos, his nominee for Secretary of Education. Read about her here and how to try to stop her appointment. (Trump's first pick was Jerry Falwell, Jr. who leads Liberty University, the biggest Christian university in the U.S. It teaches evolution and creationism.)
Her family background includes her father who helped create the Family Research Council which is acutely anti-LGBT. Her brother started Blackwater, an infamous military contractor. From the NY Times:
From Politico:At a 2001 gathering of conservative Christian philanthropists, she singled out education reform as a way to “advance God’s kingdom.” In an interview, she and her husband, Richard DeVos Jr., said that school choice would lead to “greater kingdom gain.”
The two also lament that public schools have “displaced” the Church as the center of communities, and they cite school choice as a way to reverse that troubling trend.One kind of amusing aside is that Trump has so many billionaires in his Cabinet that vetting their lives and their financial backgrounds is going to take some time. And it may not be in time for January 20th so who will be in charge of what and when is still up in the air. Trump certainly didn't "drain any swamp."
DeVos remains a harsh critic of the traditional education system, which she calls a “monopoly” and a “dead end.” But she said in the audio that she doesn’t want to destroy public education — only inject competition.
“People support school vouchers for different reasons. Some make a free-market argument because they are opposed to public schooling. Others want to prop up sectarian teachings with taxpayer money,” Boston said. “DeVos has a foot in both camps, which does not bode well for our public schools.”
This all leads us to:
3) All the public education sycophants who are lining up to be part of the gang. Naturally, these are all big-bucks people who apparently have gotten over their dislike of Trump in time to kiss his ring.
Where's a good place to start? With an interesting-sounding book, “Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence”by Megan E. Tompkins-Stange. From The Washington Post:
She researched “Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence” over several years, in which she was given access to officials in four foundations — Bill and Melinda Gates, Eli and Edythe Broad, Ford, and W.K. Kellogg— as well as permission to quote people without attribution.At the top of that list, naturally we find Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation.
As we all are acutely aware, Mr. Gates is on a mission to use his wealth and power to change public education in this country. He brought in Common Core (see graphic at end of post) and naturally, is a big promoter of "personalized learning." He's already working on overhauling the public education systems in other countries. From FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting):
The Guardian (8/31/16) published a broadly positive report on Liberian education, which is handing over the reins of 120 primary schools to a consortium of private education companies and NGOs in a pilot program exploring privatization of the West African nation’s schools.Blurred lines, indeed.
What the piece failed to note—other than the fact that Rhee’s tenure left DC’s schools “worse by almost every conceivable measure” (Truthout, 10/23/13)—is that multi-billionaire Bill Gates is both the major investor of the company administering the Liberian education overhaul and the principal of the Gates Foundation, sponsor of the Guardian’s Global Development vertical, where the story appeared.
The story clearly labels the Gates Foundation as its sponsor. What it never mentioned is that Bill Gates is a major investor of the firm at the heart of the story, Bridge Academies International, having pitched in, along with Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar, $100 million for the “education startup.”
Making the conflict more glaring is the fact that this is a personal, for-profit investment for Gates, not a charitable donation.
The Gates Foundation gives grants in the hundreds of thousands and often millions to such media organizations as NBCUniversal, Al Jazeera, BBC, Viacom (CBS) and Participant Media (the producer of pro-charter school documentary Waiting for Superman). Both Gates and the Gates Foundation are sizable shareholders in Comcast, which is the primary investor in Buzzfeed and Vox, as well the parent corporation of MSNBC and NBC News–the latter of which teamed up with Gates and other noted education experts like Exxon and University of Phoenix Online for the week-long charter school commercial “Education Week”.
In the case of the Guardian, Gates effectively owns an entire vertical, so when one of his investments is written up, one doesn’t notice the conflict of interest—like a fish doesn’t notice water. Because his influence is everywhere, it appears to be nowhere.
Then there is the rise of ROI Philanthropy or "social impact investing." This from the NY Times:
Just about every big Wall Street firm and big-time philanthropist has recently tried to get in on what’s often called double bottom line investing. The idea is that an investment isn’t just intended to score a high return; perhaps more important, it is supposed to make a significant difference in an area that had been considered un-investable.Well, sure but if you screw up, who really gets hurt? All those kids you experimented on with your educational ideas.
Now, a group of high-profile executives and investors are putting together perhaps the most ambitious social impact fund. Called Rise, the $2 billion fund is being developed by William E. McGlashan Jr., a partner at the private equity firm TPG, who more resembles a Buddhist monk than a cigar-chomping banker in pinstripes.
“The reality is that no matter which side of the aisle you’re on, and no matter where your framework is, if I can build a great business that’s profitable and successful and, oh, by the way, here’s the impact and the multiple of impact that’s created through that business’s successes, I think that’s good for everybody,” Mr. McGlashan told me.
“We’re not in the business of charity here,” Mr. McGlashan said. “We’re going to make money and build profitable successful businesses and create a top performing fund. But in the process, what we’ve committed to is that we will not do a deal where there’s less than a two and a half times multiple of impact,” suggesting a meaningful social impact that can be measured.Who gets to measure that impact?
The problem with most of these kinds of funds is what Mr. McGlashan calls “greenwashing,” a euphemism for lying, which some in philanthropy feel is rampant among socially conscious investors. Everyone wants to claim some form of success using a shifting mix of metrics aimed at demonstrating how the fund worked.Bono put it this way: “I asked them to hang a sign in their office saying, ‘Warm Fuzzy Feelings Not Welcome Here,’ because we need them to be tough-minded. We need some intellectual rigor, and you’ve got to get these metrics right.
It has an all-star cast of board members, all of whom are investors. Among them are Bono; Jeff Skoll, the first employee of eBay, who now runs Participant Media and is a major philanthropist (“You only need so much for you and your family,” he told me); Laurene Powell Jobs, the philanthropist investor; Richard Branson; Reid Hoffman, a founder of LinkedIn; Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments; Lynne Benioff, a philanthropist; Mo Ibrahim, perhaps the most influential investor in Africa; and Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay and a backer of First Look Media.
The new fund is expected to invest about half of its money domestically in areas like health care, education and clean energy technologies. The other half will be invested in emerging markets in sectors like microlending and other financial services, housing and education.Note the new fund will invest both sides of the money in education. Uh oh.
In Part Two, I'll talk about how the one-two punch of a Federal Student Data Tracking system and "personalized learning" will play a big part in redefining public education.