Recap of Second Presidential Debate: Light on Education; Heavy on Character

Last night’s second presidential debate was more about the character of the two candidates than it was about the issues they would attempt to solve in office. After a weekend filled with coverage of Trump’s lewd comments about women, which caused several prominent establishment Republicans to drop support for the candidate, it’s not overly surprising the debate got personal, fast.

The few policy-focused questions asked of the candidates covered health care, taxes, national security, and climate change. Moderators Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper didn’t ask any specific questions related to education nor did members of the audience, who were tasked with asking questions in the town-hall style debate. (For a list of questions Bellwether team members hoped would be asked, click here.)

Tweets from the education community during the debate bemoaned the lack of education coverage:

Andre Perry

sara and josh

In a debate largely focused on character, Clinton took several opportunities to question Trump and his ability to set a good example for children: “You know, children listen to what is being said […] And there’s a lot of fear — in fact, teachers and parents are calling it the Trump effect. Bullying is up. A lot of people are feeling, you know, uneasy. A lot of kids are expressing their concerns.”

Clinton was likely referring to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center blaming the Trump campaign for producing fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom. While it’s too early to spot signs of a statistical uptick in bullying in schools due to Trump’s rhetoric, education circles and blogs throughout the campaign have certainly insinuated it. My colleague, Allison Crean Davis, wrote a comprehensive post for The 74 on how to talk to students about character when Trump keeps rewriting the rules for socially acceptable behavior.

The third and final presidential debate takes place Wednesday October 19 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This will be the last chance for voters to hear how the candidates plan to improve our nation’s schools.