Presidential race

For Trump, less education is more


Please don’t blame school teachers for the blustery rise and, so far, staying power of Donald Trump at the top of the Republican presidential sweepstakes. But there may be a connection between Trump’s popularity and the education – or, more specifically, the lack thereof – of many of his supporters.

Trump, the billionaire real estate mogul and reality TV star, draws most of his support, according to the Washington Post story linked below, from Republicans, primarily white, with lower levels of education.


Trump has led the charge among Republican presidential candidates against immigration and immigrants, beginning with his allegation about “rapists” coming over the border from Mexico to his latest outrageous – and unconstitutional – declaration that the U.S. border be closed to all Muslims.

As the Post noted: “Trump has certainly distinguished himself as the candidate willing to express outrage and horror about the nation’s immigration challenges. He has also espoused a range of demonstrably false, unproven and outright conspiratorial ideas about immigration.”

And, who feels the most threatened by immigration? They are the Americans at the bottom of the job ladder – the uneducated and the under-educated – who fear the job competition from immigrants the most intensely.

That’s because, the Post points out, many immigrant workers arrive in the United States with limited educations and are competing for the same manual labor, service and other low-paid jobs as Americans with limited education and job skills. Even some of the more-educated, professionally trained immigrants have to settle for low-paying jobs because they can’t afford the additional training and testing that their professions may require in the U.S.

Not all Americans of limited education support Trump. Many do not. But obviously there are enough of them who consider themselves Republicans to make a difference so far in GOP polling.

Trump’s simpleton rhetoric — “bomb the —-“ out of America’s enemies – also appeals to less-educated people unable – or unwilling – to comprehend the complexities of the challenges that will face the next president of the United States.


Needing an education in education


Ben Carson was a brilliant neurosurgeon. But as a presidential candidate he has indicated an acute need for more education, including but not limited to more education in ancient Egyptian history and an education in education itself, specifically the importance of public schools.

While they were in Milwaukee for the Republican debate earlier this week, Carson and Sen. Marco Rubio sat down for separate interviews with public school-basher Campbell Brown, a former TV newswoman who now heads “The Seventy Four,” an online “news” organization dedicated to expanding charter schools and privatization and blaming teachers unions for most of the world’s problems. That is not exactly how Brown characterizes the organization, but that is certainly the reputation it has earned.

In his interview, Carson endorsed vouchers for low-income kids and rated various education options.

“We know that the very best education is home school,” he said. “The next is private school. The next is charter schools, and the last is public schools. If we want to change that dynamic, we have to offer some real competition to the public schools.”

That makes about as much sense as Carson’s much-publicized historical “insight” that the biblical Joseph had the Egyptian pyramids built to store grain.

Granted, the public schools that Carson attended in Detroit had serious deficiencies, and he had a strong mother who helped inspire him to succeed. But whether Carson admits it or not, the vast majority of children in this country – particularly in depressed, low-income neighborhoods – are going to be educated in traditional public schools, if they are educated at all. And, the last thing those kids need is to see their neighborhood schools get slammed with more budget cuts so that a handful of children can get tax-paid vouchers to attend private school.

In his interview, meanwhile, Rubio said Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton was “fully owned by teachers unions,” which he portrayed as evil “special interests.”

Members of teacher unions are working every day to deliver a quality education to all their students and advance educational opportunities for every child. Their interest is universal, and their success is crucial to our country’s future – regardless of who the next president is.





What philosophers and welders have in common


One issue the Republican candidates haven’t spent much time discussing during their four televised debates is education, and that’s probably a good thing. I mean, the president of the United States has only a limited amount of responsiblity over public education, and the last two presidents have wasted much of that responsbility by promoting a wasteful, counterproductive testing regime.

So far, about all the current GOP hopefuls have offered for “improving” education are non-solutions like abolishing the Department of Education and increasing privatization. If a candidate on the Republican side has called for a significant reduction in testing and/or a greater investment in classroom resources, I have missed it.

But it was interesting during last night’s debate when Sen. Marco Rubio kind of dipped his toe into the education issue by comparing welders and philosophers.

“Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers,” he said.

His remark earned good marks for rhetoric from debate-raters but maybe not so much from grammarians. The preferred wording, I believe, is “fewer philosophers,” not “less,” although Rubio’s version is much more commonly heard.

I am not sure if the senator was trying to diss philosopers because he believes most of them are liberal Democrats or was trying to make the point that welders perform a more useful everyday function for most Americans. Philosophers teach, write and debate sometimes controversial ideas, while welders build and repair physical things that people can see, touch and use.

Which profession appeals more to the conservative Republican base? Rubio is sure he knows, but apparently he doesn’t know how much most philosophers and welders earn.

The Washington Post gave Rubio credit for a “great line” but said he was totally “off base” on his facts.

Citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Post said the national median wage for philosophy teachers is $63,630, compared to $37,420 for welders. Nationally, the top 10 percent of college philosophy professors make almost $200,000 a year – not sure how many of those are in Texas – while most welders top out at about $58,590.

Philosophers and welders have one thing in common though. They both require educations, and the vast majority got their start in public schools.




A bad “fix” for health care is bad for education


Gov. Greg Abbott isn’t endorsing anyone yet in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but he has listed the top criteria for a candidate to gain his support. The first two are border security and “fixing” Medicaid. There already has been a lot of hyperventilation over the first, so let’s skip to the second.

Regarding Medicaid, according to The Dallas Morning News, Abbott wants his choice for the Republican nomination to “promise and commit to at least a block grant program so that Texans can do a better job of taking care of themselves with regard to the health care system.”

I assume the governor delivered that line with a straight face, but the thought of the current state leadership doing a “better job” with the health care system is preposterous. That would require a complete reversal of priorities for a political leadership that consistently has ranked public health care at the bottom of its list of concerns, right alongside public education. And, health care has important consequences for education.

Texas continues to lead the nation in the percentage of people without health insurance and, last year, edged out the more populous California for the largest actual number of uninsured people as well. About 5 million Texans, or 19 percent of the state’s population, lacked health insurance in 2014. That was an improvement from 2013, when 5.75 million residents, or 22 percent of the Texas population, were uninsured.

Texas leaders, though, did nothing to cause the reduction in the uninsured. The reduction was brought about by the fact that about 700,000 Texans found insurance under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which the political majority in Texas continues to castigate. The Texas leadership also refuses to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which could provide health care coverage to as many as 1 million additional adult Texans with the federal government picking up most of the cost.

Abbott and other state leaders want more authority over Medicaid so they can have more authority over eligibility and other rules, with the goal of saving money in the state budget, not necessarily increasing health care coverage. And, their approach would increase the burden on county taxpayers, whose hospitals would have to provide more expensive, emergency care to indigents without health insurance and access to preventive care.

Several hundred thousand of the Texans without health insurance are public school students. Without proper health care, they are more likely to struggle in class, have lower test scores and drop out.

Let’s make health care a real priority, not a political one.