Everyone is talking about the war on public education, and they should be. However, the war on public education is tied to an another struggle in education: the war on teacher education and the marketization of it.
In 2016, the Obama Administration released standards for teacher preparation meant to open the credentials market in ways that will de-skill and further devalue teaching. Such teachers (from non-University based programs) will be left to work in our most disadvantaged communities, furthering the equity crisis in education.
Trump wants to further localize education, but his idea of localization is akin to privatization—thus interrupting the public education project which has proven so fundamental to our democracies (locally and nationally) and the larger goals of equity.
While the nomination of Betsy DeVos has pointed some attention to education, education was a relatively silent issue in last year’s national election discourse. Unasked and, thus, unanswered, were questions about the nation’s commitment to achieving equity through education systems. From most angles, it appears that the federal government is trying to get out the education business (or at least diminish its funding role in it) after the enormous failure of No Child Left Behind.
These are four (of many) issues that are not coming up (but should) in the national discourse post-Trump:
(1) Equality does not equal equity. The idea of this thing or that thing “for all” without responsiveness to the unique needs of different student populations and the manifold needs of vulnerable students is a mistake.
(2) Education and dignity (for families, students, teachers, and communities). Test and punish, no excuses, etc. while they seem to frame a set of solutions for education (i.e., raised test scores mostly), they don’t necessary improve the education of vulnerable students. Yet, we have millions of vulnerable bodies trapped in systems of education that sanction their punishment in the guise of serving them.
(3) School to prison pipeline (or schools as prisons). It is unconscionable to me that in an election year that we’ve discussed mass incarceration that we have left out what comes before it—mass suspensions, expulsion, labeling, pushouts, etc. The conversation between the relationship between schools and penitentiaries must take center stage is we are to better serve vulnerable students.
(4) Genuine and true solutions in education: In order to change things inside schools, we’ll need to change things outside of them. This means focusing on jobs in vulnerable communities, social and residential integration, trauma recovery and healing, the creation of safe and nurturing environments for learning, culturally connected systems of social alignment between schools and communities, etc. This is where the conversation begins.