The 2016 presidential election is fast approaching and televised debates are well underway in preparation for Nov. 8. As Election Day nears, the two major presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, face constant criticism from both the media and the public. Their respective plans in economics, international relations, and education have been widely compared, but the question remains: how would either candidate’s policies affect the student body at South Eugene High School?
Hillary Clinton is popularly known for her liberal beliefs and her background as First Lady and later as the Secretary of State of the United States. Her newly introduced ideas include several educational propositions that could have a substantial effect on student life at South. One such subject Secretary Clinton has addressed is the practice of religion in schools. In her political philosophy, It Takes a Village, she stated that “students may participate in prayer during the school day, as long as they do so in a non-disruptive manner and when they are not engaged in school activities.”
The comment has raised questions about religious freedom in schools, such as what exceptions would be needed if certain prayers were time-sensitive or they had to be performed in a certain way. In regard to curriculum, Clinton noted in her philosophy that “schools may not provide religious instruction, but they may teach about the Bible or other scripture in the teaching of history or literature, for example.”
Clinton’s stance on religion in schools is one that is shared by many instructors in our schools today. At South, her ideas could alter student life by allowing religious students to engage in prayer around the rest of the student body. Religious students may have trouble completing their prayers, however, if specific requirements are instituted to do so. Schools, including South, may potentially have to make accommodations for those students.
In terms of school safety, Clinton has asserted her opposition to the “school-to-prison pipeline” that has become a trend in many low-income schools around the nation. This phrase refers to the tendency for administrators to handle discipline, particularly with minority students, through the criminal justice system, which many political leaders, including Clinton, believe do more harm than good. Clinton has outlined a plan to place more social workers and experts in schools that will guide the staff in reforming their disciplinary policies.
There are a multitude of ways in which Hillary Clinton’s propositions could impact South students should she secure the presidency. South’s student body, a sizeable portion of which trends towards favoring progressive political thought, would likely prefer a Clinton presidency.
While a majority of the country has been consumed in the debate surrounding what could result from a Trump presidency, some schools have already been impacted by the actions of the notorious presidential candidate. Many teachers have referred to it as the “Trump effect,” which has increased the fear for racial minorities among students all over the United States.
In a release from the Southern Poverty Law center, two-thirds of teachers reported a decrease in tolerance and acceptance for ethnically and racially diverse students in schools, especially Muslims and children from families that had immigrated to the United States. If Donald Trump were to become president, South, a school with a majority of white students, could become more biased and intolerant of other racial minorities.
Aside from the effects that schools have already experienced, there is a slew of propositions that Trump has alluded to during his candidacy that could impact schools in an irreversible way. For example, Trump has voiced his opposition to the Common Core Standards that have been implemented in many schools around the country, including South, which utilizes CPM math books that are developed from Common Core. His proposed elimination of the Common Core standards would require many schools to purchase new textbooks and train teachers for a different curriculum.
Finally, Trump has often stressed his support for a school choice system across the country. In his novel Crippled America, Trump stated, “Competition is why I’m very much in favor of school choice. I guarantee that if you forced schools to get better or close because parents didn’t want to enroll their kids there, they would get better.”
In Trump’s business-centric view, schools can improve only if there is a constant demand for better conditions in schools. However, if every student and their family had the freedom to select the school of their choice, schools without many students would struggle to remain open, leaving teachers without jobs and many schools understaffed.
This phenomenon is evident in the 4J District, which currently adheres to a relatively lax school choice policy. Students that value high-quality academics may want to attend South, but competitive athletes may lean toward Sheldon. With a bit of choice in the matter, students flood these schools, while others in the district suffer from dwindling enrollment counts.
If families gained complete control over their students’ public education, schools in low-income neighborhoods would likely lose the most funding and eventually close. With more competition, poor neighborhoods throughout the country would be forced to pay a steep price.
The next president for the United States will change the country irrevocably in one way or another. Though it is impossible to make an exact prediction as to how South’s student body will be affected when a new president takes office, South students can only hope that, whether it be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, our lives will be changed for the better.