The second Presidential debate was a bust for the millions of Americans who care about public schools.
Instead, we got Donald Trump mansplaining away his vagina-grabbing days. We got Hillary Clinton blaming Machiavellian duplicity on a movie about Abraham Lincoln. But not a word about K-12 education.
After all these debates in the primary and only one more debate left in the general, it seems a pattern is emerging. The media just doesn’t ask the kind of questions parents, teachers and students really care about. After all, there is no defined position staked out by each political party on schools and schooling. Both sides are kind of the same. Asking about it wouldn’t support the usual narratives about so-called “conservatives” and “liberals.”
So once again I appeal to the power of education bloggery to give you what I imagine a debate on this subject might sound like from Clinton and Trump.
Hold on to your pussies. Here goes…
Me: Thank you, Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump, for being here today to talk about education issues.
Clinton: You’re very welcome.
Trump: (sniff) Yes. I am very glad to be here. No one cares more about education than me. Okay?
Clinton: Well, hold on there, Donald. I’ve spent my entire career fighting for kids and families…
Trump: (sniff. sniff.) What about the kids and families of Benghazi?
Me: O-kay! Let’s begin. Shall we? This question is for both of you. How would you describe your education vision? Mr. Trump, you won the coin toss, so you go first.
Trump: Thank you, Steven. And let me just say I have lots of education vision. My education vision is just tremendous. I think public schools are the most important thing in our country. The taxes we pay for them are just incredibly high. No one pays more taxes for schools than we do. Not the French. Not the Chinese. Not the Russians. And as President I would make America great again by cutting taxes on schools. The business community doesn’t need this. It hurts competition and that hurts education. And there are too many taxes for you regular people out there, too. Unlike my opponent, she’s just terrible. Isn’t she, folks? I’d cut taxes while she would raise them.
Me: Your time is up, Mr. Trump.
Trump: …and I just want to say this one last thing, Steven. Hillary Clinton is a liar. And I would never lie like her. Ask Bernie Sanders about that.
Me: Thank you, Mr. Trump. Secretary Clinton? Same question.
Clinton: Thank you, Steven. I want to take this opportunity to thank you, personally, for being here. As a country, we don’t appreciate teachers enough. You are our number one resource. And a renewable resource. Right? You can clap here, People. Ha! Ha! But seriously my vision for education is a strong one. I’ve fought for children and families all my life as First lady of Arkansas, as First Lady of the United States, as a U.S. Senator and as Secretary of State. You might say that I am the most qualified candidate for President in U.S. history.
Me: Thank you. Madame Secretary. Though I wish you had answered the question.
Clinton: Oh I will answer the question. That’s why I have been endorsed by the largest teachers unions in the country…
Me: Next question. Secretary Clinton, you mention your experience. Some have criticized you for putting the needs of Wall Street ahead of working families. How would you prioritize the needs of students and parents over the corporations and edu-tech industry?
Clinton: As you said, Steven, I’ve been around a long time. I’ve seen a thing or two. Like you, I’ve raised a daughter and know how to navigate the pitfalls of our education system. And, honestly, I don’t think we have to have a conflict of interests between business and education.
Trump: Crazy Bernie says differently.
Clinton: …I see our public schools and public charter schools working together hand-in-hand to provide our children with a world class education. You know my husband and I have long supported…
Trump: You should be in jail.
Clinton: Donald, I think this is my time. Is this my time, Steven?
Me: Yes, Mr. Trump. Please stop interrupting. You’ll have a chance to respond.
Trump: Sorry, Steven. I’m just not used to a woman talking for so long. It’s exhausting.
Clinton: Anyway, I’ve always been a booster for higher academic standards. And as President I would do everything I can to make sure our students get the best education possible.
Me: Mr. Trump. Same question.
Trump: What was that question again, Steven? I kind of forgot while I was listening to that long speech she just gave. Talk. Talk. Talk. This isn’t the Bengazhi commission, Hillary, but I wish it was. Trey Gowdy…
Me: Mr. Trump. The question was “How would you prioritize the needs of students and parents over the corporations and edu-tech industry?”
Trump: Students and parents? They’re just wonderful. We need more students, but I guess that’s where parents come in. That’s why I had so many kids, and they’re all so successful. We didn’t stop with just one. We raised one, two, three… a whole bunch of them. And they’re just tremendous. So I would definitely make sure their needs were being met. Their needs are my needs and so, of course, I would make sure they were being met. You know, perhaps she should have spent more time meeting her husbands needs. Do you know what I mean?
Me: Mr. Trump, the question was about corporations servicing public schools.
Trump: (sniff.) In that case, I’d service corporations. I believe in business. I’ve been a businessman all my life. Very successful. No one knows success like Trump. And I’ve just got to say we all might have been better off in the ‘90s if she had serviced her husband more. I have to tell you.
Me: You are disgusting.
Trump: (shrugs) This debate is rigged.
Me: The next question is for you, Mr. Trump. Whenever you’ve spoken out on education issues, you’ve consistently criticized Common Core. As President, what would you do about Common Core and what role do you think is appropriate for a President in setting national education policy?
Trump: Common Core? I’m against it. It’s no secret. I think it’s been just terrible. It’s been a disaster. A national disaster. And one of the first things I’d do – well the first thing I’d do is throw you in jail…
Clinton: Donald, I…
Trump: But after that I’d get rid of Common Core. There would be no more Common Core. Our kids don’t need Fed Ed. Period. They need more choice. Parents should get to pick the schools they send their kids to. We should stand back and let the parents choose. That’s what I did for Ivanka and my other children and they turned out just fine. Don’t you think they turned out fine, folks? You all saw them on my hit TV shows ‘The Apprentice’ and ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’ Those were great shows. Award-winning TV. Must See Television. Those were good days.
Me: Secretary Clinton. Same question.
Clinton: Thank you, Steven. I appreciate the quality of your questions. It’s clear that this debate has been put together by educators and not representatives of the media. Though I thoroughly support the field of journalism as a profession and a calling.
Trump: You never had a TV show.
Clinton: As to Common Core, I just want to ask Donald something.
Trump: (pops a Tic Tac) It’s surprising you’re going to give up your time to let me talk. I have to say. This is the first time you’ve let somebody else talk…
Clinton: How do you propose to get rid of Common Core when the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives that power back to the states?
Trump: (sniff.) E-S-S-A? Never heard of it. I’ll have to ask Mike Pence about it. But the President can do what he wants. You know the old saying, folks: it’s good to be the king.
Clinton: You talk a good game about states rights, Donald, but when you propose getting rid of Common Core, you’re proposing a federal policy that takes away states rights. Every state legislature has the power to change academic standards or retain…
Me: Secretary Clinton, that may be true, but the question was meant for you. What would YOU do about Common Core as President?
Clinton: Nothing. I would respect the law.
Trump: THAT’S a first!
Clinton: I would encourage states to adopt high academic standards and if those standards were the same as Common Core then so be it.
Me: How would you encourage them? By withholding federal grant money like the Obama administration did?
Clinton: I… I think the federal government has a strong role to play in the education of our children. But I would not violate the spirit of the ESSA, unlike Donald. He says he’s for states rights but he calls for a bigger federal power grab than anything my party has ever participated in.
Trump: (sniff.) Wrong.
Me: Okay. Next question. Since we’re talking about the federal role in education, let me ask you both what role you see for the U.S. Department of Education under your administration and whom would you nominate as Education Secretary? Secretary Clinton. You go first.
Clinton: Thank you, Steven. As I said, I believe in the Department of Education. I believe in the Secretary of Education. I believe in teachers. And if we’re going to give our students a leg up – all of our students – then we need to strengthen our public schools and public charter schools. That’s where the Department of Education comes in. Not to enforce education policy but to set the agenda. It helps the states get things done through competitive grants, research and data collection.
Me: So whom would you nominate to head the department?
Clinton: I would have to talk about that with my advisors…
Me: Give us the shortlist.
Clinton: Perhaps someone like John King.
Me: John King!?
Clinton: He’s already there and as my daddy said, if it ain’t broke do not fix it.
Me: Mr. Trump. Same question. What in your opinion is the federal role in national education policy?
Trump: Well, Steven, I don’t think there is one. You know the government that governs best governs least. I learned that from my good friend, Gary Busey. You know? Come to think of it, he’d make a pretty good Secretary of Education, but no. One of the first things I would do is completely disband the Department of Education. On day one. Gone.
Me: So what would happen to Pell Grants, for example, and all the federal money that helps buoy our public schools?
Trump: Do we need it? I was able to raise my family without any help from the federal government.
Clinton: Unless you count your nine bankruptcies, and using loopholes to avoid paying any federal income taxes for over a decade at least.
Trump: I did it all on my own. My father gave me a loan but I made it pay out for me so I could build the Trump empire.
Me: Didn’t you inherit most of your money?
Trump: I’m surprised at you, Steven. I expect something like that from her. She’s bleeding from her… whatever. But you should know better. You think Americans are stupid. And I just think they are strong enough to do it on their own. They don’t need the government to help. We don’t need the regulation, the taxation. Parents can use state money to choose and that will be good enough. Let the free market decide.
Me: Okay. Next question. Standardized testing has come under fire for assessing children’s economic situation more than what they’ve learned. Would you continue to mandate annual testing for all public schools? Mr. Trump?
Trump: I dunno. I’ll have to ask Pence on this one.
Me: You have to ask your vice president what to think on standardized testing!?
Trump: Yes. I mean no. I’m not really sure. Could you make this one multiple choice?
Me: Secretary Clinton? Same question.
Clinton: Standardized testing has been an important part of how we hold school districts accountable. While I understand the concern about over-testing, I think it is important we keep testing our children in grades 3-8 and once in high school. It helps us make sure our schools are meeting all our students’ needs and not violating their civil rights. Many of my former colleagues in the Senate expressed the same concern you mention, Steven, but changed their minds when they were approached by various civil rights organizations…
Me: Many prominent civil rights organizations such as Journey for Justice and various chapters of the NAACP still oppose testing. Why do you chose to side with the organizations who are beholden to the testing industry for their funding?
Clinton: I think… maybe we can give the situation more study and find solutions that would satisfy both the civil rights organizations and testing critics. But it is imperative that schools are held accountable…
Me: What about politicians? Shouldn’t they be held accountable for adequately funding our public schools? That’s why schools struggle. They serve poor populations and don’t have the resources to help their kids excel.
Clinton: This is something you’re obviously passionate about. I have always listened to teachers and with the NEA and AFT would strive to work together to find a solution that’s mutually beneficial to everyone.
Me: Okay. Last question. Since you brought up civil rights, Secretary Clinton, one of the biggest issues facing our schools today is segregation. Many modern schools are as segregated or more segregated by race and socio-economic status than they were before Brown vs. Board. What would you do about that?
Clinton: That is a problem. We must make sure that all our students needs are being met. We cannot let our schools revert to old bad habits. We cannot have schools for blacks and schools for whites. Black lives matter – even when they’re in school. As President, I would make sure everyone had the opportunity to go to the best schools possible. Students who don’t get what they need at school end up on the streets. They feed the school-to-prison pipeline. They end up lost, and many of them become super-predators.
Me: Isn’t that the term you used as First Lady to describe black youth when your husband’s mandatory sentencing policies expanded our prison population exponentially?
Clinton: Yes and I stand by that statement. We need to help minorities rise above their circumstances. We need to give them a helping hand. They deserve all the same amenities my daughter had, because all lives matter…. Oh shit.
Me: Mr. Trump? Your response?
Trump: Do I have to?
Trump: Okay then. Let me just say that segregation is a bad thing. It’s terrible. I’m not exactly sure why but that’s what I’m hearing. We need to make sure only the best students get to go to the best schools and the worst students get their own schools, schools that are right for them. That’s why we need school choice to weed out the worst kids and let them go to the schools that are right for them.
Me: Isn’t that just segregation?
Trump: N…No. That was a really stupid thing to say. Too many people are just stupid today. That’s why I’m going to make America great again. We’re going to have the best schools. You won’t even believe it. They’ll be just the best anyone has ever seen. Okay?
Me: But they’ll be separate schools for blacks and whites? Rich and poor?
Trump: I’d like to pass, Steven.
Me: Okay. That’s all the time we have for today. I’d like to thank both candidates for coming…
Trump: Steven, I just want to say one last thing.
Trump: I… uh… I never grabbed anyone’s pussy. That was just locker room talk.
Clinton: Oh please! It’s just that kind of talk that empowers rapists…
Me: Thank you both for coming…
Trump: Your husband certainly understands this, Hillary. Men like us with such big hands, we’ve never had any complaints. You know? Here let me show you. (reaches into pants.)
Me: Cut their microphones please. Call security on, Mr. Trump. Thank you, everyone, for coming. We’ll see you at the polls in November. Just remember, you picked these two assholes. We could have had Bernie Sanders but we’re left with these two tools. This is your democracy at work. We should have let Jill Stein in here to class up the joint. Oh well. Goodnight and good luck.