Education and the American Election: Implications for Canada. 

If we look at the Democrats program and Biden’s campaign promises there is some room for optimism, notwithstanding the fact that a political promise and ratified legislation are two very different things. The Biden transition team was chaired by the progressive movement's probable first choice to be Education Secretary, Professor Linda Darling Hammond but sadly LDH has declined in advance, citing her work in California. Who becomes Education Secretary after Betsy DeVos is critical but fortunately it could not possibly be worse. The transition team also included representatives from the NEA and AFT, the two largest teachers unions in the country, a promising sign as Biden told a Zoom panel of CEOs and AFL- CIO types “I'm a union guy you know!!”. 

 

Biden has promised to hire more teachers to create smaller classes and he wants to triple the federal Title 1 money and direct much of it towards teacher pay. He has promised the NEA a teacher for Secretary of Education although profs and superintendents probably qualify. 

 

Biden and the Dems platform both promise “high quality, universal pre-kindergarten for 3-4 year olds” but states are expected to chip in. 

 

Biden is far less hostile to “colleges” the American universal name for what Canadians distinguish as universities and colleges. Student loan forgiveness is a high priority item for both the Biden centrists and the Bernie Sanders progressives. It is being sold recently as a major stimulant to the economy and it polls very well. Biden says he’s in for free public colleges but we will see what survives the Senate. Biden wants to address “disproportionate discipline of black students”.

 

It will take a bit of time to undo some of the damage DeVos did during her incompetent and far right four year tenure. If the Senate balks, Biden can do some of it by executive orders. 

 

DeVos favoured private colleges with funding and this will be dialed back. Kamala Harris prosecuted private colleges for loan scams in California. Fortunately DeVos did not really get voucher education off the ground because congress threw up too many roadblocks.

 

Biden wants to “close learning gaps, especially since they have widened since Covid 19 took hold, according to what Biden spokesperson, Stef Feldman told the Education Writers Association. 

One rather positive aspect of the DeVos and Trump tenure is that they pushed charter schools so hard, Democrats, who had been divided on charters, swung strongly against them in reaction. Biden took the following position on charters. First of all, no money for private charters, public charters, including on-line charters, which must come under some sort of democratic control like a local school board. If they can’t show results over a short period of time they should be closed. Right wing “reformers” are already complaining that this is the dream position of the unions. Lurking in the wings are Democrats for Education Reform DfER, a conservative, Wall Street Democrats group dedicated to furthering charter schools. 

 

The 1619 Project, a curriculum project to look at American history through the POV of black Americans since 1619 with the arrival of the first slave ships. This enraged Trump and some conservatives who started touting the need for a 1776 project that glorified American history. It looks like 1619 will survive but 1776 may not. 

 

Implications for Canada

We should not delude ourselves in Canada that our 10 times larger behemoth to the south doesn’t exert a heavy gravitational pull on all of our institutions, and education is no different. 

 

Charters took hold in Alberta due to American influence. It is doubtful they will be rolled back but perhaps their growth will be stifled due to the new situation in the USA. 

 

Hopefully, the example of increasing teacher pay will rub off on us, especially in BC. 

 

Universal Pre K, the Yanks call it, helps Canadians push the downward extension of the school system which Montessori always believed should begin at age 2 when toilet training is complete. 

 

The cancellation of student debt would be incredible, as would free public postsecondary. education, including trades training. 

 

More money for poor kids in high poverty areas is a big help. 

 

Nobody should hold illusions about who Joe Biden is and who he isn’t. Nevertheless, the progressive wing of the Dems has lobbied long and hard for the reforms listed above. Politics is about alliances and when you let down a major constituency, there are consequences. Let’s hope for the best with our eyes wide open

Well, it's over, finally and Trump lost. At this perch we are more like Bernie Sanders folks and that was a shame he wasn't nominated but with an authoritarian crypto Fascist in the White House, a common front is the traditional remedy and Sanders, AOC and Noam Chomsky endorses Biden so it's hard to be peevish. 

 

The question for those interested in education in general and Canadian education in particular is what are the implications of Biden’s win for education and what, if any, are the Canadian spillovers. 

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