Presidential race

What kids are learning from the election


A presidential election can be a teaching object for young kids, offering a civics lesson in simple terms. Students at the Austin elementary school with which I am most familiar had an election night assignment to color the states on a U.S. map red or blue as returns were reported and the electoral scorecard was tabulated.

Few, if any, of those kids were awake when the election was finally settled, but for a couple of hours some of them felt engaged in a crucial civics exercise. Others were simply bored. One thing they were not supposed to be was afraid of the results.

But across the country many children were fearful as they went to school the next day, according to reports on social media from parents and teachers. Hispanic students of immigrant parents, Muslims, gay kids, even a boy with Autism expressed fear of what a Donald Trump presidency might mean.

Educators — including at least one principal, probably more, in Austin — took extra care to try to assure students that they and their families were safe.

Trump obviously had a strong appeal to Texas and American voters, but his campaign was a horrible example for school children, mocking, defaming or ridiculing, as he did, virtually every minority group in America. Even before Election Day, there were reports of increased bullying and racist comments among school kids mimicking his style.

Trump’s victory speech was conciliatory, much more gracious than his campaign, as he began the transition, we hope, to becoming presidential.

It remains to be seen what he will do about his campaign pledges to build a wall on the southern border, round up undocumented immigrants and crack down on Muslim refugees trying to enter the country.

Texas school kids and their parents will be waiting, and many will be apprehensive. More than half of Texas’ 5.2 million public school children are Hispanic, and many are legal citizens but the children and grandchildren of undocumented immigrants. Many other Texas children are Muslims. Who can blame them if they are wondering who they will find at home at the end of the school day?

I am not sure I believe in anyone’s poll anymore. But according to exit polling conducted for the Associated Press, more than 7 in 10 Texas voters, including many who voted for Trump, believe that immigrants working in the United States illegally should be given the chance to apply for legal status and not be deported.

Trump should consider that a civics lesson and take it to heart.





Education, the Supreme Court and Trump


Now that we know which presidential candidate really should be locked up – and it’s not Hillary – it is interesting to observe the rationalizations that some partisan officeholders and hypocritical Christian religious “leaders” have for holding their noses and sticking with Donald Trump.

“Interesting” is not the word I wanted to use, but it will have to do.

One of the often-repeated excuses for putting an admitted sexual molester in charge of our country’s future is that he would appoint the “right” ideologically inclined people to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In truth, we don’t know who Trump would appoint to the Supreme Court or anything else, for that matter, since about every other sentence that comes out of his mouth is a distortion, fantasy or outright lie. But if you want to take him at his word on the high court issue, educators and parents should consider that one of the potential Supreme Court nominees on the “short list” he released a few months ago is Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett.

Willett is among the nine justices who recently turned their backs on Texas public schools and millions of school children suffering from under-funded classrooms.

Willett wrote the grandiosly worded but mealy mouthed Texas Supreme Court opinion that admitted the state’s school funding system is awful but concluded that it didn’t violate the state constitution. That decision gave the governor and the legislative majority a free pass to continue short-changing school kids.

I wonder if Willett will be joining other partisan officeholders and voting for Trump. Maybe, maybe not. During the Republican presidential nominating follies, Willett repeatedly mocked Trump on Twitter.

So, let us hope the justice’s interest in the future of our country is stronger than his apparent lack of interest in the future of public education in Texas.





George Washington warned us (sort of) about this election


I am not sure how many social studies’ lesson plans have been torched by this year’s presidential race, but Washington Post columnist Stuart Rothenberg has a pretty good, not-from-the-textbook summary of the current, raging battle for the free world’s most important office.

“This election has gone from unusual to unexpected to surprising to odd to strange to weird to bizarre,” which is where we now find ourselves,” he writes, predicting that the next few weeks before Election Day will be “indescribable.”

It should be difficult for either Clinton or Trump supporters to argue with that summation and prediction, although I am sure many will. It’s the nature of the political divisiveness that has made our country’s basic civic exercise so uncivil.

In his farewell address in 1796, George Washington warned against the “common and continual mischiefs” of partisanship, but I doubt that Washington had any idea just how bad those “mischiefs” would become, even to the point of paralyzing government in the national capital that now bears his name.

He couldn’t have predicted either that a woman would ever be a major party’s nominee for the nation’s top office, that she would be eminently more qualified for the office than her chief male rival – or that she would be so vilified by a large chunk of Americans for a laundry’s list of reasons, some deserved but many driven by sheer partisanship, sexism or conspiratorial imaginations.

Elections are about choices, and seldom is any choice perfect. But there are numerous reasons for supporting Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, the basic reason being competence for high office. TSTA and the National Education Association are supporting Clinton because she is the only candidate running for president who has a grasp of the needs of public schools, students and educators. She will promote public education, not demonize or privatize it.

Public education is an afterthought for Trump. About the only thing he has said about public schools is to propose the diversion of education tax dollars for private school vouchers. And he is a horrible role model for children, unless the schoolyard bully is your idea of world leadership.

In the column linked below, Rothenberg writes: “Republicans hate Clinton so much that they are willing to embrace a populist snake oil salesman who is proud he hasn’t paid his taxes, rarely (if ever) sounds thoughtful, knowledgeable or intelligent, and goes on 3 a.m. tweet binges to avenge past slights. And oh, yes, he uses his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits and to purchase a huge painting of himself. Intelligent conservatives have recoiled from Trump, wisely noting that he is a narcissist with no ideology.”

Unfortunately, not everyone willing to risk the country’s future on this snake oil salesman is a Republican. Too bad George Washington couldn’t warn us about him.






Trump’s planned attack on students, educators


As I have noted before, Donald Trump declared, upon winning the Nevada Republican caucus in February, “I love the poorly educated,” presumably because many under-educated people were voting for him during the GOP nominating process. Unfortunately, so were a lot of well-educated people, or he wouldn’t be the Republican presidential nominee today.

In any event, Trump will have many more poorly educated people to love if he is elected to the White House and Congress approves his plan to abolish or drastically reduce the U.S. Department of Education.

According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, enactment of Trump’s “education plan,” if you want to call it that, could cost 490,000 teachers’ jobs throughout the United States, including as many as 49,000 in Texas. In Texas alone, more than 760,000 students could lose funding for critical education programs.

Here are a few other potential impacts of a Trump presidency on education, and my thanks to Phillip Martin at Progress Texas for calling the analysis to my attention:

# Five million children with disabilities would lose $12.7 billion each year for special education programs. Texas children could lose $1.1 billion of that.

# Nine million low-income students throughout the country would lose $15 billion of Title 1 funding each year.

# Eight million students a year throughout the U.S. would lose Pell grants for college.

# Some $700 million used by states to help educate 5 million English language learners would be cut, including as much as $108 million in Texas.

These are only some of the likely cuts. In all, about $70 billion in federal education funds could be lost each year under a Trump presidency, including $5.7 billion in Texas.

Elections have consequences, and these are but a few of the consequences for educators, students and their parents if Trump is elected.