What's Donald Trump's Plan for American Education?

If his history with Trump University is any measure, the future doesn't look bright.

Photo Credit: a katz /

Other than legal problems with the so-called Trump University, very little attention is being paid to The Donald’s views on education. But the operation of Trump U gives some insight into how the wheeler-dealer-in-chief would address public education in this country if he ever becomes President.

The Donald likes to brand his last name. It is on casinos, skyscrapers, golf courses, hotels, men’s clothing, wine, magazines, fragrances, spring water, and steaks. In 2005, he put his name on a so-called university, so-called because it never received any official accreditation and offered certificates, not degrees.

When the New York State Department of Education demanded that it stop calling itself a university, it changed its name to Trump Entrepreneur Initiative. Although as many as 7,000 people bought the Trump sales pitch and paid an estimated $40 million to enroll in classes, the program went defunct in 2011. Since 2013 New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been suing the company as a “classic bait-and-switch scheme.” According to Schneiderman, “It was a scam, starting with the fact that it was not a university.” There are also two pending class action suits against Trump U in California.

One thing many conservatives and liberals agree on in this Presidential campaign is that Trump’s claims for the university probably constitute fraud. The National Review, a leading conservative magazine, calls Trump University a “massive scam.“ On the left, Mother Jones reported, “Trump U’s ‘handpicked’ instructors didn’t know anything about real estate,” “The Donald was a no-show,” and that “Trump netted about $5 million in profit” from the school. In response to campaign critics, Trump cites positive student reviews as proof that his “school” provided promised services, but in New York Times interviews former students claimed they were pressured to give the positive reviews.

Trump’s campaign website “Trump: Make America Great Again!” offers no positions on issues facing education in the United States. However the website “On the Issues” has put together Trump positions taken from his books and media coverage starting with threats to cut the federal Department of Education. He also opposes Common Core, believes in something called “comprehensive education,” and in teaching citizenship. However, citizenship education will not be offered to everyone in Trump World. In campaign speeches Trump calls for deporting undocumented immigrants and their American born children.

In The America We Deserve, published in 2000, Trump spelled out what passes for an education philosophy. According to The Donald, “Our schools aren’t safe. On top of that, our kids aren’t learning. Too many are dropping out of school and into the street life-and too many of those who do graduate are getting diplomas that have been devalued into ‘certificates of attendance’ by a dumbed-down curriculum that asks little of teachers and less of students. Schools are crime-ridden and they don’t teach.” Trump also blamed the people running our schools for watering down education out of concern about damaging a student’s self-esteem.

More specifically, Trump demanded we look at public education as a business and promote school competition, school choice, charter schools, and vouchers. He called this formula “the American way.” He also wants to stop the teacher unions from interfering with his agenda.

Bottom line, Trump as President promises to eliminate any opposition like teacher organizations and open up public education for private investors like himself. Voters can only assume that Trump University represents his model for the “American Way.”

Alan Singer is a social studies educator, Hofstra University. Follow him on Twitter @ReecesPieces8

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Election 2018