President Trump spoke for one hour, 20 minutes and 31 seconds (including applause) to deliver his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, and spoke directly about education policy very briefly — for one sentence, or two if you want to be charitable.
And he didn’t mention school choice, which is surprising, given that he has said it is his chief educational priority.
This is what Trump said in regard to education policy:
As tax cuts create new jobs, let us invest in workforce development and job training. Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential.
There was nothing about school choice, graduation rates, student loans, standardized test scores, curriculum standards. And as Post reporter Moriah Balingit noted here, he didn’t include schools when he talked about rebuilding America’s infrastructure, saying: “We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways and waterways across our land.”
The focus on vocational schools is in line with his administration’s views of the purpose of education: to create skilled workers for America’s work force, which is rather limited in scope, as Arthur W. Foshay wrote in “The Curriculum Matrix: Transcendence and Mathematics,” in the Journal of Curriculum and Supervision in 1991:
“The one continuing purpose of education, since ancient times, has been to bring people to as full a realization as possible of what it is to be a human being. Other statements of educational purpose have also been widely accepted: to develop the intellect, to serve social needs, to contribute to the economy, to create an effective work force, to prepare students for a job or career, to promote a particular social or political system. These purposes offered are undesirably limited in scope, and in some instances they conflict with the broad purpose I have indicated; they imply a distorted human existence. The broader humanistic purpose includes all of them, and goes beyond them, for it seeks to encompass all the dimensions of human experience.”
Or what Martin Luther King Jr., said about the purpose of education:
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.”
Trump gave anyone commenting on the education portion of his speech very little to work with, as seen in Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s statement about the address:
“America must do better to prepare our students for success in the 21st century economy. I join the president in calling on Congress to act in the best interest of students and expand access to more education pathways.”
It is worth noting that despite his call for more vocational education, his first education budget proposal sought to slash $168 million in grants that fund career and technical education programs in high schools. Why? He wanted to use the money to expand school choice. The proposal wasn’t popular with Democrats or Republicans, and most of the proposed grant cuts were not supported by Congress.
These were the only mentions of “school” or “education” in his 2018 State of the Union Speech, besides the vocational schools remark:
The first pillar of our [immigration] framework generously offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age — that covers almost three times more people than the previous administration. Under our plan, those who meet education and work requirements, and show good moral character, will be able to become full citizens of the United States.
One of Staub’s employees, Corey Adams, is also with us tonight. Corey is an all-American worker. He supported himself through high school, lost his job during the 2008 recession, and was later hired by Staub, where he trained to become a welder. Like many hardworking Americans, Corey plans to invest his tax‑cut raise into his new home and his two daughters’ education. Please join me in congratulating Corey.
Here tonight are two fathers and two mothers: Evelyn Rodriguez, Freddy Cuevas, Elizabeth Alvarado, and Robert Mickens. Their two teenage daughters — Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens — were close friends on Long Island. But in September 2016, on the eve of Nisa’s 16th birthday, neither of them came home. These two precious girls were brutally murdered while walking together in their hometown. Six members of the savage gang MS-13 have been charged with Kayla and Nisa’s murders. Many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors — and wound up in Kayla and Nisa’s high school.
And he briefly mentioned college savings accounts, with “briefly” being the operative word:
Small business confidence is at an all-time high. The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion in value. That is great news for Americans’ 401k, retirement, pension, and college savings accounts.