An educator’s view on why tonight’s debate really matters


Guest Writer: John Havlicek
La Crosse, WI, educator

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I am looking forward to tonight’s presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but for different reasons for each candidate. It is not a matter of choosing between them at this point, for me: I already know who I will be voting for President of the United States of America.

However, I am hoping to see some things from each candidate. I want to hear Sec. Clinton expand on her ideas regarding social services, education, jobs, and the economy. I think she has started well, but I hope the moderator gives her some time to get into the details.

As a teacher, I really want to hear her expand on her support for public education and how she plans to address the inequalities that exist along racial and economic lines in our society.

From Trump, I am hoping he will finally cast off his bullying, boorish behavior and set the example for my students that a serious candidate for president should set. When he calls Mrs. Clinton “crooked,” or when he referred to U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” he is being watched and heard by millions, and he is behaving in ways that I would not accept from my children.

WI educator John Havlicek

I hope he is going to talk about policies that he favors, so that voters have a clear understanding of the differences between the candidates. I hope he is pressed to go beyond cloaking language of “school choice,” and speaks at length about his support for the privatization of education, so that every teacher, parent, and student across the country will understand the consequences of their vote.

I hope that some dignity is restored to the electoral process tonight. I watched (and wrote about) the Republican debates a year ago, and was appalled. They were a vicious circus of attacks without much substance. This election cycle has been even worse.

When I heard Trump attack Mexicans, I shuddered as I thought about my Latino students. When I heard Trump attack a Muslim family, and threaten all Muslims and Mexicans with deportation or worse, I worried about my Muslim and Mexican students and how they and their families would hear this.

Clinton has demonstrated repeatedly that she is above such attacks. When students see her and listen to her, they see a strong woman who speaks directly, truthfully, yet kindly about others. When they see and hear Trump, they hear things like “dummy,” “zero,” “failure,” “spoiled brat”— and that is about his fellow Republicans!

In addition to serious policy talk, I hope the debate provides all those watching with a teachable moment in how to comport oneself with dignity, with tolerance, and with honesty, all things we try to instill in our students.

I am the optimist that all teachers are, so I will continue to give Trump yet another chance to do the things he should. He not only owes this to voters, but, more importantly, to my students, and children across the nation, who are looking, watching, and taking notes.

John Havlicek is a veteran educator with 19 years of classroom experience. He teaches Spanish in La Crosse, WI, and describes himself as a social justice and public education activist. Havlicek believes that public education is the greatest undertaking in the history of our country because it seeks to educate every person. 

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