Poll: What Should Trump’s Education Department Do to Reform Higher Ed?

Now that the election has ended, Donald Trump faces new challenges. He must assemble a team, choose a direction, and begin to govern. During his long campaign, he gave a few hints as to how he might change federal education policy.

On Wednesday, Trump announced his nomination of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education. Devos previously led the American Federation for Children, which promotes choice in K-12 education. It’s unclear, however, which higher education policies she will pursue.

Trump’s policy advisor mentioned a few ideas early on in the campaign. One would give “skin-in-the-game” to universities that accept students receiving tuition loans. Such a move would compel colleges to share some of the risks of such loans. The advisor also suggested moving the Office for Civil Rights from the Department of Education to the Justice Department.

And Trump—who has business experience with for-profit universities and the problems that can accompany them—may move to change the way the Education Department treats such entities. There may, perhaps, be a push to abolish some of the regulations that judge for-profits on their graduates’ employment rates and to reform the accreditation that such schools need to operate.

Take the poll below to tell us what you’d like to see from Trump on higher education.

  • DrOfnothing

    The level of denial at the Pope Center continues to amaze me. DeVos “promotes choice in K-12 education?” Don’t be absurd. She supports gutting public education and privatizing the whole edifice. And Trump has no interest in governance, just in winning the election. When this administration starts actively silencing its critics (it’s already begun intimidating the press) and dismantling the rights of free speech in exactly the way that Pope Center authors always accused Democrats of, will anyone here actually raise a protest? Or will they somehow continue to blame anyone but their own corrupt and incompetent party? We’ll see, I suppose.

    • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

      Certainly, DeVos is a wild card, but we do know that her neo-Calvinism is theocratic as well as educational, so religious vouchers are definitely in the cards. I hope this trumps her disaster capitalism.

      You are right to focus on the issue of free speech, so ardently defended by the Pope Center. Previous Presidents have always tangled with the press and critics, so this is to be expected. But what we need is a comparison study of Presidents and how their respective administrations handled the press and critics; this would provide context and perspective for the next four years. Nixon obsessed about the media, but it is hard to imagine Trump obsessing about the media in the same way. Trump has made himself the center of attention by attacking others, including the media.

      What would Trump and his administration have to do to evoke a defense of free speech from the Pope Center? Dominating the opposition is part of Trump’s political style, so this is definitely something to watch.

      According to Randall Collins, “Front-stage charisma is his strength. He dominates public meetings, making the crowd enthusiastic and intensely loyal on his behalf. … Front-stage charisma is generated by connecting with the audience, building emotion, and riding with it.”

      “Trump stands out from other politicians by constantly doing something surprising. From the point of view of his opponents, this means saying things which are shocking; but it also leaves them spending most of their time responding to him, expressing outrage, and rebutting his claims. Trump thus always seizes the initiative, and refuses to give it up. Whereas most people lose emotional energy when they are attacked by a barrage of criticism, Trump does not back down, but renews the attack. Media scandals usually destroy people’s careers, but Trump is unfazed by them, and uses them to focus even more attention upon himself.”

      “Trump uses the media to monopolize the focus of attention of the wider public; he uses his rallies as a stronghold to protect himself from fallout. The way he stands firm and plunges even further ahead in his pathway makes him a beacon for his followers. He becomes an emotional energy hero: no one can top him or push him off his trajectory. … Trump is not shaken by pressure to behave according to conventional good manners … Early in his campaign, he rejected persistent questioning by television journalist Megyn Kelly, shifting the focus to her effort to control the topic. This is where his notorious “blood oozing out of her…” remarks came from. Feminists found this scandalous; but it also alerted the audience that this was someone who would not be pushed around by reporters, even in the smallest details of questioning.”

      “Always doing something surprising; never letting the other side set the agenda; seizing the initiative and never giving it up: these are key characteristics of highly charismatic persons.”

      This is exactly why dominating and controlling the media will be such an important issue for Trump. Collins also talks about “reputational charisma,” a multiplier-effect of the other forms of charisma, but elsewhere documents its complete unpredictability — once front-stage and back-stage charisma make the transition to the public sphere, i.e., reputational space, there is always the danger that the source of charisma loses control. This would be disasterous for Trump because, as Collins shows, it is central to his public charisma.

      Perhaps, with the advent of social media, Trump will simply side-step the traditional media, and appeal directly to his followers. This would solve the problem, and nurture and maintain the collective emotion that he needs.

      • DrOfnothing

        Good points all around. Not to digress too far, but this idea of side-stepping the traditional media is very worrisome, since it puts the power to control the narrative of political and social events in the hands of someone who has shown no respect for truth and often demonstrates disregard for rule-of-law. This would bode ill indeed for free speech and other individual rights both within academia and beyond.

        I also find the appeal to emotion profoundly disturbing. Wise politics, democratic process, and policy consideration must always be based on rational principles supported with the best and most unbiased information available. Simply appealing to the masses and intentionally swaying them with force of personality is mere demagoguery and flirts dangerously with mob rule. It also tends to substitute the appearance of consent for its actuality, with real power concealed behind the facade.

        • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

          Yes, I agree. The death of Castro reminds us of how true this is, not far from our shores.

          I especially liked your last sentence, and want to think about it more. In the meantime, Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, confirms your worst fears in this surprisingly insightful and persuasive analysis of Trump’s charisma. Enjoy!

          • DrOfnothing

            Well, I don’t think the Castro comparison should be taken too far. As bad as he was, anyone with knowledge of Cuban history could tell you that Batista was worse! I also don’t think Trump’s charisma is really what won him the vote. It was more an anti-establishment populist wave, and not in any way a rational, sensible choice, given how patently unfit he is for public service (witness his latest petulant tweetstorm).

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Also true, about charisma not explaining everything/anything.
            It fails to describe his audience, and why they would become his followers. It is just half the equation.

            But the choice was sensible for those that voted for him — a local pediatrician voted for him, the result of years of mounting frustration, and hatred for Obama who became a scapegoat for every perceived failing. That foundation, and Trump’s skillful clearing-away of Republican competition, are why we are having this discussion. He sold himself as the only one big enough to defeat Hillary, and he delivered on that promise. That is amazing, in and of itself (see Collins on success-charisma). Folks in my town are getting Trump tattoos to celebrate, for heaven’s sake.

          • DrOfnothing

            And the sad fact of it is that the entire campaign was based on a series of lies–this pattern of complete disregard for truth (or post-truth politics, as it is now cynically dubbed) has continued with this absurd claim about “millions” of illegal votes. The tattoos will eventually fade, but the damage done to our democracy will not be so easily abraded.

        • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

          re: “to substitute the appearance of consent for its actuality, with real power concealed behind the facade.”

          Just the first part of the sentence: Echoes the “manufacture of consent,” and what that might mean. My best reference for starting to peel this onion is James E. Block, A Nation of Agents, and more recently, “The Crucible of Consent: American Child Rearing and the Forging of Liberal Society” (2012).

          From a review: “From its revolutionary origins in the eighteenth century to the present day, liberal democracy has depended upon the consent of the governed. The making of such consent, the author contends, was located in the nation’s youngest inhabitants, where the self-direction and integrative social conduct necessary to legitimize the Republic could be established without inciting suspicion or opposition.” Block describes 3 historical stages of this process.

          The problem of consent and agency that was raised and unleashed by the American Revolution can be best analyzed, according to Black, by examining “the paradox of child rearing throughout American history … in *shaping* the young to believe they are free.” Block’s earlier book looks at the problem more globally, across American history, and economic and intellectual spheres

          This problem, and Block’s relentless examination of it, is important for understanding education, because public education emerges as an important solution to the problem of manufacturing consent, and has endured numerous successive mutations thereafter. It is for good reason that John Locke, devoted an important book to education.

      • goldushapple

        Wasn’t Collins the same sociologist who said capitalism was going to end?

  • BT

    I’m still trying to find the word education in the Constitution. Shut the department down, block grant the money for primary and secondary schools, gradually tapering it to zero. Ditto Pel grants and all the rest of the nonsense. Think about what exactly has happened to education in this country since the formal establishment of this awful bureaucracy since President Jimmy established it.

  • TR

    Begin the move to a competency based validation of student ability and away from validation through credit hours.


      What want talk about?

  • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP
  • goldushapple

    Ah, to see both DrOfNothing and Glenn, two kindred souls, share their anti-Trump (IT WAS AN ELECTION CHOICE NOT OUT OF RATIONALITY!) sentiments. Two men filled with sophistry. Sorta reminds me of that one scene from Good Will Hunting where that snob Harvard doctoral student tries impress Minnie Driver’s character then he gets showed up by Will. I mean, I suppose Clinton was the rational choice to them – but that could be just be putting words in their mouths.

    • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

      Tutu. William James has this to say about “rationality.”

      “OUR judgments concerning the worth of things, big or little, depend on the *feelings* the things arouse in us. Where we judge a thing to be precious in consequence of the *idea* we frame of it, this is only because the idea is itself associated already with a feeling. If we were radically feelingless, and if ideas were the only things our mind could entertain, we should lose all our likes and dislikes at a stroke, and be unable to point to any one situation or experience in life more valuable or significant than any other.”


  • Rafterman

    “And Trump—who has business experience with for-profit universities and the problems that can accompany them—may move to change the way the Education Department treats such entities.”

    Is one of the problems having to pay a $25 million settlement for fraud? Also, you do know that Trump University was in no way a university? Right?