Blog posts have been the name of the game in our Election Issues module this week. Students have been conducting research on chosen election topics - looking into the background and contrasting perspectives of two candidates for president - and will be reflecting on their research in their posts.
Because blog writing is new to many of these students, I'm providing a sample blog post on a topic not covered by any of the students: education. So here we go!
Waxing lyrical on my favorite topic: education
Abigail Adams, wife of one of America's early leaders, John Adams, wrote once in a letter to her son, "Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence." Education is a topic that affects every citizen in America, but politicians have differing opinions on how to approach it.
In the 2016 election, politicians are considering how to educate effectively, who should be in control, where the money should come from to fund education, and how that money should be spent. The problem is, there's no easy answer.
Context of the education debate
To understand today's education debate, it's important to know how education has evolved in the US. Fifteen years after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Plantation, the first schools were founded in the colonies - a Latin grammar school first, followed by the first free school. The first college, Harvard College, was founded a year later.
Since those early days over 300 years ago, the history of education has been a series of laws, policies, and philosophies. The first law, the Massachusetts Bay School Law of 1642, established that "good education of children is of singular behoof and benefit to any Common-wealth" and stated that citizens needed to ensure no one "shall suffer so much barbarism in any of their families as not to indeavour to teach by themselves or others, their children & apprentices so much learning as may inable them perfectly to read the english tongue, & knowledge of the Capital Lawes." In other words, children should be taught to read and understand laws governing them.
Fast forward to the turn of the 20th Century. As the Industrial Revolution brought cars and cheap clothing to the masses, it also took over our classrooms. Typical public school education for the past 100+ years has followed that same format - the same standards, the same tests, the same expectations for every student across the country.
In the past 20 years, two governmental reforms have dominated education: the No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2001 and the implementation of Common Core Standards in 2010. And so here we are today, in many ways maintaining standardized education for students who are by no means standardized.
Hillary's K-12 education platform focuses on modernizing the education system. She promises to improve teacher training and pay and wants to re-build and modernize schools. Hillary also plans to increase computer science programs to better prepare students for tech jobs and to overhaul school disciplinary systems - offering schools funding to "implement social and emotional support interventions" instead of leaning on punitive punishment systems.
At the college level, Hillary wants to make college debt-free, offer free community college across the board, and offer extra funding to minority-serving higher ed institutions.
Trump wants to focus on student choice in his education plan: allow students to choose their school, encourage students to participate in magnet or charter schools, and increase choice for students living in poverty.
For college, Trump's plan includes decreasing costs by offering tax breaks to institutions and make it easier for students to attend a college or vocational school.
Christine weighs in
I'm not running for president, and I don't envy either of the candidates for being in the spotlight to "fix" education. Then again, Hillary and Trump chose their path, so power to them. Comparing the two plans I have researched, I find myself aligning more with Hillary's standpoint at the K-12 level but am skeptical about her plans for post-secondary education.
First, K-12 education: we have an incredible resource in our public education system, and I would rather invest time and money in improving those resources instead of advocating to ship students off to private schools. My concern is that, if we focus on expanding student choice, the public schools will be left in the dust because they have limited funds to begin with, whereas private schools are free to solicit funds from alumni and other interested supporters. Schools are also an important link with their communities; an investment in a local public school is an investment in the community itself.
As for the college level... I don't necessarily agree that college should be free to any student who wants it. College is an incredible resource, but it should be an investment of time, effort - and finances. My experience in life has shown me that we most value things we have earned through hard work. So while I appreciate the philosophy behind Hillary's pledge of free college education, I'm not convinced it is the best way to teach the value of education.
Christine Bailey: teacher of English, user of fountain pens, fan of Calvin and Hobbes, and advocate of parallel structure.