Monday, April 10, 2017

Trump Education Sad Argle Bargle

So, Donald Trump held a town hall, if your idea of a town is a place where only CEOs live. It included some Presidential word chunks on the subject of education, and happened all the way back on last Tuesday and yet somehow I missed it (almost as if I'm not actually a CEO) but Valerie Strauss was right on top of things for the Washington Post.

As one might expect, the entire conversation was a fact-free zone. It included some fact-free questioning from Catherine Engelbert, the head honcho at Deloitte, a consulting/accounting company you're probably not important enough to know about. But to be clear, this is a consulting firm that does not actually do anything, but describes itself with language like this:

Clients count on Deloitte to help them transform uncertainty into possibility and rapid change into lasting progress. Our people know how to anticipate, collaborate, and innovate, and create opportunity from even the unforeseen obstacle.

Englebert walked straight out of Lehigh University with her BS in Accounting and into a partnership at the multinational company. So when she talks about the “disconnect between what employers need and what are our students coming into the workforce are prepared to deliver,” you know that she backs that up with all the first-hand knowledge of a multinational bean counting consultant. Englebert throws in some statistics-- NYC schools graduate 70%, and only 37% are assessed as college and career ready. The first number may have some basis in reality, but the second has none. That's okay-- it fits in with the Trump narrative that public schools are a festering black pit of carnage and fail. His response--

Why are the numbers so horrific in terms of education and what happens when somebody goes through school and then they can’t read?

Well, sometimes they become famous and get tv shows and even become President. Even Englebert didn't allege that we are graduating a bunch of illiterate folks, and she tries to add that NYC has done some great things and couldn't we throw some more money at public-private partnerships, but Trump plays her off and notes that public education in cities is "rough," because all cities are hell-holes of despair and non-whiteness.

Other highlights from our Commander in Chief?

Charter schools are another thing people are talking about, a lot, and some of the charter schools in New York have been amazing. They’ve done incredibly well. People can’t get in, you can’t get in. It’s been, I don’t call it an experiment any more. It’s far beyond an experiment. If you look at so many elements of education and it is so sad to see what is coming, what’s happening in the country. … The cities. It’s a very rough situation.

Yes, people are talking about charters, just like they've been buzzing about that Frederick Douglass fella. I will agree that charters are no longer merely experimental-- we've established pretty clearly that under most of the operating circumstances in this country, they are failing to produce any kind of real success.

But education? Sad. Many elements are sad. I would be impressed if Trump could name a single element of education, but not holding my breath.

Also, he's going to do something about Common Core. Or he's already doing it. That part is unclear, although given the current laws on education, I think it's safe to say that he is doing everything he can about Common Core, which is nothing. He seems to think that Common Core is about school districts being controlled from DC, where there are bureaucrats, he says, who may be very nice but are making lots of money and don't give a hoot about your local community. It is unclear whether he is describing how things used to be or how they are currently operating under Trump; one more indication that he still thinks he's a candidate and that government's problems are not actually his responsibility. It is also unclear whether he knows that he has stacked his education department with a heaping helping of Jeb Bush-issue, Common Core lovers.

Betsy DeVos is doing a "terrific" job and has one of the "toughest jobs of any of our secretaries," which would explain why taxpayers are paying millions of dollars for DeVos body guards. She's also got a "tremendous track record," a statement for which I have supplied the subject and the verb because Trump begins just dropping out nouns with superlatives stapled to them, rather than actual sentences, but anyway-- doing what? As USED Secretary? Previously? I mean, we've all been looking over her track record pretty closely and I'm not sure where the word "tremendous" applies, though she does have tremendous amount of money, so maybe that's it.

Oh, and in other tremendous news, Trump reports that Ivanka and some other administration officials are "totally in love" with education issues and what the hell does that even mean? What does it mean to be in love with an issue? "Oh, I just feel so warm and fuzzy when I think about income inequality, but when I look at systemic racism, I want to take it home and cuddle it all night long." It's almost as if he sees issues not as problems to be solved that affect the real lives of real people, but as a sort reality show challenge, a game that gives you the opportunity to show how awesome you are. "Oh, yeah-- I am in love with the rope climb because I always have the fastest time."

As an education commenting guy, I have read many, many, many extrusions of education argle bargle. Arne Duncan could spout sentence-ish gibberish like nobody's business. But Trump, who has only a couple of main education themes to hit -- schools are awful, charters are wonderful, and Common Core, whatever it is, must go, somehow-- can fracture partially-formed empty sentence husks with a special kind of flair and wild carelessness, like a driver who pushes a car past the edge of a cliff because the law of gravity won't be enforced for him.

Trump also says "I think we are going to have a great four years," and I'm not sure what great is supposed to mean, but I am pretty sure that "we" does not include those of us working in public education.


  1. "...transform uncertainty into possibility...."

    I have to confess, I'm actually sort of in awe of the brilliance of that little bit of bullsh*ttery. I mean, they do know that possibility is still uncertain, don't they? But it sounds so good!

  2. Trump and his family are going to have a great four years. He's treating it like a vacation paid for by the taxpayers. Ever the con artist.

  3. You may have missed this doozy of "the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing."

    AFT President Randi Weingarten put out an angry press release, calling it "the height of chutzpah" for Secretary Devos and First Daughter Ivanka Trump to make a high-profile visit and glamorous photo op to a federally funded NASA education program, along with a later "HIDDEN FIGURES"film screening ... with Betsy and Ivanka being feted and honored, as the two of them went on praising and celebrating the NASA program as an effective vehicle whereby young female students especially are now embracing STEM education ...

    ... while that very same NASA program has been slated for elimination (!!!) by President Trump (Betsy's boss and Ivanka's dad) in his draconian cuts to Education:

    Interestingly, the WASHINGTON POST put out two starkly different coverages of this event --- a glowing account by print reporter Emma Heil:

    ... and a critical take, echoing Weingarten's press release, from THE WASHINGTON POST's on-line columnist Valerie Strauss, who says the whole debacle "is in the you-can't-make-this-up category":