I’m trying to remember what got me into this foray into presidential politics last July.
It’s the age of Trump. Many people I greatly admire or enjoy reading, from Jonah Goldberg to Charles Krauthammer to Charles Murray, are dismayed by Trump. Not I. What delights me about him–and make no mistake, I’m ecstatic–has nothing do to with his views on education policy, where I’m certain he will eventually offend. I cherish his willingness to say the unspeakable, to delight in unsettling the elites. I thought Megyn Kelly was badass for telling her colleagues not to protect her. I also think she’s tough enough to deal with an insult or three from The Donald, and I imagine she agrees. What’s essential is that the ensuing outrage wasn’t even a blip on the Trump juggernaut.
Why, given Trump’s popularity, haven’t other Republican candidates jumped on the restrictionist bandwagon? Why did John Kasich, who I quite like, go the other way and support amnesty?
To me, and many others, the reason is not that the views aren’t popular, but because some vague, nebulous top tier won’t have it that way. The rabble are to be ignored.
This isn’t bravery. Politicians aren’t standing on their principles, looking the people in the eye firmly, willing to lose an election based on their desire to do right. Ideas with regular purchase out in the real world are simply unmentionable and consequently can’t become voting issues. Americans on both sides, left and right, feel that they have no voice in the process. I could go on at length as to why, but I always sound like a conspiracy nut when I do. The media, big business, a vanilla elite that emerged from the same social class regardless of their political leanings…whatever.
And along comes Trump, who decides it’d be fun to run for President and stick everyone’s nose in the unsayable.
I understand that conservatives who oppose Trump are more than a bit miffed that suddenly they’re the ones on the wrong side of the Political Correctness spectrum, given their routine excoriation by the media and the left for unacceptable views. Better political minds than mine will undoubtedly analyze the Republican/conservative schism in the months and years to come.
I don’t know how long it will last or what he will do. I just hope it goes on for longer, and that Trump keeps violating the unwritten laws that dominate our discourse. The longer he stays that course, the harder it will be to instill the old norms. That’s my prayer, anyway.
Anyway. Back in July, someone complained that education never mattered in presidential politics and expressed the hope that maybe Common Core or choice would get a mention. Maybe a candidate might express support for the Vergara decision!
Every election cycle we go through this charade, yet everyone should know why education policy doesn’t matter at the presidential level. No presidential candidate has ever taken on the actual issues the public cares about, but rather genuflects at the altar of educational shibboleths while the Right People nod approvingly, and moves on.
So I decided to demonstrate how completely out of touch the political discourse is with the Reality Primer, a book the public knows well, by identifying five education policy issues that would not only garner considerable popular support, but are well within the purview of the federal government. (They would cut education spending and reduce the teaching population, too, if that matters.)
I support all five proposals in the main, particularly the first two. But my agenda here is not to persuade everyone as to their worthiness, but rather illustrate how weak educational discourse is in this country. All proposals are debatable. Negotiable. We could find middle ground. The problem is, no one can talk about them because the proposals are all unspeakable.
No doubt, the Donald will eventually come around to attacking teachers or come up with an education policy that irritates me. I’m braced for that eventuality. It won’t change my opinion. Would he be a good president? I don’t know. We’ve had bad presidents before. Very recently. Like, say, now.
But if he’s looking for some popular notions and wants to continue his run, he might give these a try. Here they are again:
- Ban College-Level Remediation
- Stop Kneecapping High Schools
- Repeal IDEA
- Make K-12 Education Citizen Only
- End ELL Mandates
In the meantime, at least let the series serve as an answer to education policy wonks and reporters who wonder why no one gives a damn about education in politics.
As for me, I got this done just an hour before the Starbucks closed. I will go back to writing about education proper, I promise.