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Op-Ed: Where Education Should Have Been Mentioned During Last Night’s Presidential Debate

Op-Ed: Where Education Should Have Been Mentioned During Last Night’s Presidential Debate

Education was only fleetingly mentioned during last night’s highly anticipated presidential debate between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump.

As an estimated 100 million people watched, Clinton and Trump went head to head on many issues with the exception of how to best improve K-12 education.

Despite Trump recently referring to a lack of national school choice as the “new civil rights issue of our time,” he didn’t bring it up once, even when directly asked about race relations and how he would bridge a “very wide and bitter gap.”

Clinton also failed to mention education’s role in closing the racial divide. While Clinton has previously spoken about her intentions to invest in fixing the school-to-prison pipeline, she made no mention of it even when talking about the disproportionate incarceration of minorities.

"Too many young African-American and Latino men ended up in jail for nonviolent offenses. And it’s just a fact that if you’re a young African-American man and you do the same thing as a young white man, you are more likely to be arrested, charged, convicted, and incarcerated,” she said.

The phenomenon that is the school-to-prison pipeline would have had a place in this conversation, but alas, was left out.

Trump failed to mention K-12 education on another occasion when it would have benefited him most—the moment he was asked how he would help the country defend against cyber attacks.

The importance of teaching computer science was on the tip of his tongue when he clumsily said:

"I have a son. He's 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it's unbelievable.”

Certainly, we can assume that Trump’s son has access to only the best education the country can offer to a 10-year-old, and therefore likely has access to computer skills that many other, less privileged students would benefit from having, too. Enter: computer science instruction for all.

Clinton has previously discussed intentions to invest in computer science education and training thousands of teachers to make it a reality in her technology and innovation plan, but made no mention of these efforts in her own response.

"We need to make it very clear—whether it’s Russia, China, Iran or anybody else—the United States has much greater capacity. And we are not going to sit idly by and permit state actors to go after our information, our private-sector information or our public-sector information,” she said, leaving it at that.

In a rare moment, education was briefly discussed as Trump defined a singular issue that both he and Clinton are united on: improved access to childcare.

"As far as child care is concerned and so many other things, I think Hillary and I agree on that. We probably disagree a little bit as to numbers and amounts and what we're going to do,” Trump said.

Unfortunately, those numbers and amounts were never discussed. 

On the bright side, there are two more scheduled presidential debates and therefore two more opportunities for K-12 education issues to take the stage. Here’s to hoping.

Read the full transcript of last night’s debate here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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