The day to day of a high school democrat

By Maddie Lee
Hanover County High School Student

Every day I go to school and I am amazed by the number of people who vote and lobby against their own interests.  First, a bit of background information.  My school is redder than the necks of the Hanover County Tea Partiers.  My peers are so Republican that the day after Donald - “I’m a great business man even though I’ve filed for bankruptcy six times” - Trump got elected, I was greeted by giant American flags, Trump/Bush shirts, and overly patriotic shorts.  So, on top of my disillusionment with my country that it could make such a huge mistake, I was appalled that my friends could be brainwashed by the insane extremist Republican rhetoric.

I was told several times to “give him a chance.”  Not only did I find this argument to be unsubstantial, but also incredibly dangerous.  I, as well as my democratic counterparts, gave him a chance, but retracted our consideration when he managed to be sexist, racist, and religiously intolerant all at the same time. I do have to give him credit for being talented in some sense of the word.  Despite all of this I was still told to “give him a chance.”  Well, now all of his chances are gone. He has done one of the most horrific and appalling things that anyone could do.  He has waged war on education and proposed to reduce its funding by $9.2 billion dollars!

On May 23rd, the Trump administration released its proposed budget.  Its economic strategy is comparable to slash and burn agriculture.  His proposal provides huge tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals, and includes drastic spending cuts on government programs that working families need like environmental protection, community service programs, job training, health services, and, of course, education.  Trump’s education cuts target both K-12, CTE programs, and higher education.  These are the very programs my high school colleagues need but will not get from the representatives they enthusiastically support.

One of his attacks is being deployed on after-school programs that mainly serve low-income families.  These programs provide a safe environment for students in the afternoon where they receive extra instruction, and hands- on learning experiences that develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.  They also help build social skills through participation in group work.  The Trump administration claims there is no evidence to prove these programs help students.  However, I am curious to know how they are measuring this?  As a student, I am constantly frustrated by this country’s focus on standardized testing.  Yes, it may be able to measure our memorization skills and ability to use process of elimination.  But, beyond that, standardized tests measure almost nothing.  On the other hand, research shows that students who participate in after-school programs have better attendance and classroom behavior, and improved performance.  These attributes are invaluable, especially because our education has been plagued with an epidemic of children who have lost their curiosity and willingness to learn.  Trump’s administration argues that it is the responsibility of the private sector to provide these programs, but this viewpoint, in my opinion, is unbelievably ignorant.  How will low-income, working families afford after-school programs offered by a private company when they are unable to afford school lunch programs?  Who will open a childcare business in a poor rural community?  Maybe this administration is extremely optimistic in regards to the benevolence of human nature, but seeing the greed that radiates off of Mr. Trump himself, I prefer to take a more realistic approach to educating and supporting students.

Shockingly, Trump’s budget also proposes cuts to teacher recruiting and training programs.  America’s teachers are already undervalued and overworked.  It is commonsense that the quality of education will suffer.  In my own school I see teachers almost breaking under the weight of creating, assigning, delivering, and effectively grading assessments for over a hundred students, all while supporting their own families.  To even think of retracting funding from these hardworking professionals is unbelievable.  It’s quite simple really.  If our teachers are not supported, their students will not thrive.  Honestly, this has already happened in our very own Hanover County.  The quality of our education has drastically declined since teachers have been required to teach six of eight classes with little pay increase.  They don’t feel supported by the administration and are leaving in waves to counties that value them.  New, inexperienced teachers have been hired.  As a result, dozens of students, who were previously at the top of their class, have been almost failing pre-calculus because their teachers are struggling.  Many of our classes are nothing but busy work because teachers don’t have the time to grade assignments that require higher-level thinking. It’s not a complicated concept.  If teachers are overworked, ill-equipped, and unsupported, their students suffer.  It is hard to understand how my peers miss this elementary point.

Finally, Trump’s budget proposal also includes reducing financial aid for students seeking higher education. In today’s world an undergraduate degree is essentially equivalent to what a high school diploma was worth years ago.  A college degree is a necessity for many young people to pursue good paying careers.  Middle class families will be most affected by a reduction in pell grants and subsidized student loans at a time when the cost of college, including Virginia state colleges, has skyrocketed.  How will students stay in the middle class either without a college degree or while paying for it for decades?

It is time that the GOP stops targeting the families and communities that are already struggling the most.  It is crazy to me that many of my peers would support someone who is willing to sacrifice their education and make it harder for them to attend college.  However, I am optimistic.  With a lot of lobbying and perseverance I, along with my fellow young democrats, can, and will, take control and protect our education. While there are many changes that need to be made within the American education system, cutting funding is not an effective solution.  In the meantime, we will continue to try to inform the good ol’ people of Hanover County about who and what they are voting for.

*The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily the views of the Hanover Democratic Committee.