The Future of Education: Clinton’s Stunningly Boring Promises of Vacuous Reform

Holly Wood
Dec 21, 2015 · 5 min read

No one watched the Democratic Debates last night because the DNC scheduled a Democratic Debate on the Saturday night before Christmas.

But I, reigning high as a haughty hermit queen, of course watched the debate, as I do every debate, to make sure I don’t miss any good jokes.

After the debate, I tried to watch some hottakes on what I just witnessed and came away bored by the obvious. I then read two pundit “report cards” on this debate in disgust because how full of yourself do you have to be to do that?

Whatever is passing for Democratic punditry right now is the equivalent of soft rock DJs incapable of offending with their soft rock opinion.

So here’s my punditry on the debate: Bernie won. Don’t kid yourselves.

I’ll explain by telling you why O’Malley and Clinton lost.

O’Malley lost because O’Malley doesn’t know who the fuck he is.

Clinton lost because Clinton can’t promise a future. If you wrote it down and dissected it, every Clinton answer is literally a bland concession to the status quo.

America, we are an open wound.

One in 5 children lives in poverty. The youth unemployment rate is pretty much the same. We are the most productive nation on the planet and yet most of every dollar earned in America goes to only a handful of people. The planet is on its way to looking like some shit straight out of Mad Max and we are coming up short on every index the civilized world uses to assess which nations are worth living in.

Clinton has been running for President for 10 years. Clinton has been studying this wound for 10 years and the best solution she can come up with to stop the bleeding is to sew up some reform patches so that in 20 years, her daughter can run and promise to change the bandages.

We can have $12, but not $15. We can have nicer insurers, but we can’t have healthcare recognized as a human right like every other civilized nation on the planet. No, we can get bandaids but not solutions.

And then she said some shit like this:

I don’t believe in free tuition for everybody. I believe we should focus on middle-class families, working families and poor kids who have the ambition and the talent to go to college and get ahead.”

So first off, that’s just an outright dismissal of a very normal idea most other civilized countries take for granted as part of the civilization process. (Suspiciously similar to how in 2012, Clinton still didn’t believe in gay marriage.)

But my favorite part was the “get ahead” part of this answer. Because, to me, it demonstrates how Clinton — as a Presidential candidate — thinks about public education in America. Education is a scarce resource that helps some poor kids individually “get ahead,” but only if they demonstrate talent and ambition. Educating the poor is not a thing Clinton believes benefits the nation, it’s just a thing that individual kids can do to enrich themselves.

Compare this to Bernie Sanders who said:

We should look at college today the way high school was looked at 60 years ago. All young people who have the ability should be able to get a college education.”

Why is this a different answer? Here, I actually think Sanders is old enough to make the mistake of assuming Americans know what his statement actually implies. Millennials are too young to know what it would actually feel like to live under a regime where public university education is considered a public asset that enriches the nation and is not just a booze-soaked machine for legitimizing systemic inequality.

Because sixty years ago, both sides of the aisle considered financing public education an issue of national security.

That’s what people never appreciate about the Cold War and American history. America wasn’t operating on market principles during the Cold War because America was responding to Russia during the Cold War. And Russia wasn’t operating on market principles because Russia was too busy fast-forwarding its own future at 16x.

The civic objective of the Soviet Union was turning a continent of disconnected peasants and serfs into a first-world hegemon. It achieved this in less than the span of a single lifetime. I’m not saying the ends justified the means or that Russia today is the land of the free, but you cannot deny how fast it happened.

If not for all the horrific proxy wars fought between America and the USSR that are still going on constantly, the Cold War was wonderful for lighting a fire under our asses politically. Every level of government was genuinely preoccupied with the objective of graduating as many kids as possible from high school and sending them to college — and paying for most of it for almost everyone. Before Reagan would spend his entire administration trying to abolish the Department of Education, America was obsessed with education was our domestic proxy war.

My God! What a gorgeous time to be an educator! To know that you were on a mission to save the free world with every child you managed to teach algebra. To know that every teacher is on the front lines, training the future. What a time to be alive!

We are not living in such a gorgeous time right now. Right now, politicians spend more time listening to lobbyists about education policy than they do sitting with teachers. People who somehow make millions of dollars investing in charter schools are shaping the future of educational policy, but the rest of us never get to talk about it.

It’s so rarely made an issue of democratic contention.

Not even Bernie is making it clear that the American taxpayer should be invested in the public enterprise of educating our kids. I think this is a mistake. Education should not be a prize we give out only to the talented poor. Nor should it be a luxury we allow to be monopolized by wealthy.

But rich people think about education the way Hillary Clinton does, like how she raised Chelsea to think of education as a long, expensive way for rich kids to get a job in finance, an industry fairly hellbent on destroying our nation.

But for me, I think education is an issue of statecraft, as the only legitimate means of making a nation great.

And I think Bernie is right: we need to think about education the way we thought about it during the Cold War. Cold War America didn’t hoard opportunity for the Chelseas of America. Cold War America had plans.

Cold War America was obsessed with the idea that every child should be see themselves as a vehicle for American greatness.

Cold War America believed that the only way we would beat the Reds was to turn every American kid into a thinker, a builder, a dreamer and a doer.

If we don’t have our kids to believe in, then what the hell are we doing this for?

So, if vacuous bandaids are the only vision Hillary has got for us, then I can see why she sounds so fucking bored talking about the future.

Holly Wood

Written by

Documentarian of the absurd.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade