Is Education on the Ballot?
Unfortunately we will start with the 2016 US Presidential Election and the policies, or lack thereof, that the candidates have championed for education in America. Throughout the campaign, especially in the debates, it was difficult to capture a segment of the event where education had the spotlight. In fact, the unprecedented atmosphere of this year’s election clouded all serious policy-related issues in favor of foreign affairs and flagrant remarks. So I can assume with great certainty that most of the voters did not have a good idea of the direction that their educational system would be headed under the leaderships of either Trump or Hillary.
If you had asked someone what was Donald Trump’s stance on education, that person will probably have no idea or might simply say that Trump wanted to get rid of the Department of Education entirely. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton’s stance on education was not properly conveyed by the media to the public even though it was much more substantial than Trump’s.
During the length of his campaign, the only constant he offered for education in America was to decrease federal control in schools across the country and give local authorities more power. While this could be considered a classically Republican approach to the issue, when combined with the fact, which he explicitly stated in his book Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America, that he would act to abolish the Department of Education as the President of the United States, it presents a formidable threat.
With severe budget cuts already placing an immense burden on the American students, not to mention the faltering quality of education, the disappearance of a federal department will most likely be a catastrophic event for academics in America. Not only will the lack of a federal budget reduce the capacity of schools to teach properly, but the tuition fees will also skyrocket. In a nation where college students are already protesting the rise in their tuitions, a further decrease in the budget may push them over their financial limits. With education being such an important domestic issue, I lament over the fact that it was not as widely covered or even emphasized in this election.
Meanwhile In Korea
It seems like in the midst of the corruption, horses, and shamanistic aura, education has not been receiving the attention it deserves in Korea as well. There have been a multitude of grievances against the current administration and one of them was regarding the government’s push to replace all history textbooks in the nation’s schools with state-written versions. However, this issue was quickly overshadowed by the Sewol Ferry tragedy and the Choi Soon-sil Gate scandal. The controversial decision to force state-textbooks should be a key issue in the protests and in politics, where the opposition parties could overturn the policy if and when President Park resigns and her party disbands.
The Horizon of Education
When we look to the horizon, we picture the future. Whether it be catastrophic, insipid, or joyous, the future is coming. And in the West, that future may bring an end to the education system while in the East, a reversal of the past four years of poor policymaking may be within our grasp. We can only watch or we can proactively fight.