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Does President Trump Care About Higher Ed?

The State of the Union address last week seems so distant now, doesn’t it?

Since then, the country’s been put on the path toward a constitutional crisis as debate rages on about the memo released a few days later by the House Intelligence Committee. The government is going paycheck to paycheck with another need for a continuing budget resolution in days. And hanging in the balance is the fate of 1.8 million undocumented people in our country, including nearly 800,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program recipients, also known as “dreamers.”

So, who needs to talk about education in a State of the Union address when the state of the union is in chaos?

Just the way Trump likes it.

Trump’s address did take the time to educate us in his own xenophobic way about MS-13, the violent international criminal gang, with some members who have come to this country from Mexico. Trump took more time on that than he did on how to educate a growing and diverse nation. Oh, and those dreamers? Trump was clear about his feelings when he said “Americans are dreamers, too.”

That’s even though many DACA recipients are tax-paying residents of this country, not to mention those enrolled in our colleges and universities preparing to make their mark in our country.

And even with a number of dreamers in the audience as guests, Trump purposefully and shamelessly zeroed in on victims of MS-13 gang violence.

Why not talk about furthering educational opportunities to make newcomers feel welcome so that gang life is no longer a better option?

That would certainly have added some heft to his sop to higher ed when he spoke of vocational education and conflated the term and the mission to our nation’s junior colleges.

Instead, Trump, the self-proclaimed “very stable genius” who is “like, really smart,” took care of education with one broad brush.

“We can lift our citizens from welfare to work, from dependence to independence, and from poverty to prosperity,” Trump said. “Let us invest in workforce development and job training. Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential.”

It’s a block phrase that’s meaningless rhetoric. And all made conditional by talking about “citizens” and not “people,” as in “we the people” of this great nation.

Why not talk about improving programs for non-English speakers in our country instead of using rhetoric intending to make us fear and hate those from other countries?

For Trump, the equation goes something like this: Immigrants equal criminals.

And then, after you kick everyone out and you’re left with just the “good ones,” why deem them fit for anything but vocational schools?

I was a poor kid on the free lunch program from an immigrant family, and I’m proud to say I went to a better Ivy League school than The Donald.

Were Trump’s education ideas in vogue when I was young, I would have been herded into something other than the best America had to offer.

Later in the week, Trump clarified to Republicans what he meant.

“When I was growing up, we had vocational schools,” Trump said during a speech to a Republican congressional retreat in West Virginia. He spoke of a classmate who had a “different kind of talent” and wasn’t the “greatest student” but was skilled at auto repair.

“You learn mechanical, you learn bricklaying and carpentry. We don’t have those things anymore,” Trump said. “I think vocation is a much better word in a lot of cases than community college. A lot of people don’t know what community college means or represents.”

The president could use a little more education on what higher ed is all about.

But what should we expect? This is the man who settled the Trump University fraud lawsuit for $25 million. He appointed voucher queen Betsy DeVos to be his secretary of education.

Does he care about higher ed?

He’s got other things on his mind. Like self-preservation. And the Russia probe.

Education policy? Disparities? Who can focus on that when he’s created a new controversy by declassifying a memo that doesn’t add to what is publicly known about Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation of his presidential campaign and possible connections to Russia.

The officially “leaked” memo is just an example of Republican propaganda intended to cast doubt on the investigation and protect Trump’s presidency.

Misleading the populace is more urgent to Trump than educating the populace.

It’s the Trump way.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He writes for the civil rights organization AALDEF at

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