Tonight Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will take the stage for their first presidential debate.
And while science topics aren’t likely to get much airtime during the back-and-forth, the website ScienceDebate.org has given us a preview of where the candidates stand on a variety of science-related issues.
ScienceDebate.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, backed by a long list of science organizations, business representatives, and Nobel Laureates, that has been advocating since the 2008 election for a presidential debate devoted entirely to science topics. That hasn’t happened yet, but this year the candidates agreed to answer 20 questions about science, health, technology, and environmental policy for the website.
You can find all of the answers, including those from independent candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, here. But here’s a quick recap of how Clinton and Trump compare on three K-12-relevant topics—science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, climate change, and space exploration.
On how they would work to ensure all students, including women and minorities, get an adequate STEM education and are prepared to address 21st-century challenges:
Clinton: “Every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science by the time they graduate high school. I support the Obama administration’s ‘Computer Science for All’ initiative. And I will take steps to increase investment and scale instruction and lesson programs that help improve student achievement or increase college enrollment and completion in computer science fields. ... At the same time, we need to expand the pool of computer science teachers so that we train an additional 50,000 CS teachers in the next decade.
“Strong STEM programming in every public school is critical to our nation’s success and to reducing economic and social inequality. But today, less than 40 percent of high school graduates have taken a physics course, and the lack of STEM programming is even more pronounced in schools with high concentrations of students of color. We will support states, cities, and charters in developing innovative schools, like Denver’s School of Science and Technology and the Science Leadership Academy of Philadelphia, which have demonstrated success at engaging underrepresented populations in science and technology.”
Trump: “There are a host of STEM programs already in existence. What the federal government should do is to make sure that educational opportunities are available for everyone. This means we must allow market influences to bring better, higher quality educational circumstances to more children. Our cities are a case study in what not to do in that we do not have choice options for those who need access to better educational situations. Our top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to education is failing and is actually damaging educational outcomes for our children. ... The management of our public education institutions should be done at the state and local level, not at the Department of Education.”
On their views about climate change and how their administration would act:
Clinton: “When it comes to climate change, the science is crystal clear. Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time and its impacts are already being felt at home and around the world.
“I will set three goals that we will achieve within 10 years of taking office and which will make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century:
- Generate half of our electricity from clean sources, with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of my first term.
- Cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals, and offices by a third and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world.
- Reduce American oil consumption by a third through cleaner fuels and more efficient cars, boilers, ships, and trucks.
“To get there, my administration will implement and build on the range of pollution and efficiency standards and clean energy tax incentives that have made the United States a global leader in the battle against climate change.”
Trump: “There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of ‘climate change.’ Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be in dealing with making sure that every person in the world has clean water. Perhaps we should focus on eliminating lingering diseases around the world like malaria. Perhaps we should focus on efforts to increase food production to keep pace with an ever-growing world population. Perhaps we should be focused on developing energy sources and power production that alleviate the need for dependence on fossil fuels. We must decide on how best to proceed so that we can make lives better, safer, and more prosperous.”
On space exploration and inspiring young students:
Clinton: “As a young girl, I was so inspired by America’s leadership and accomplishments in space that I wrote to NASA about becoming an astronaut. As president, I will help inspire the next generation of young Americans and do what I can to ensure that we have the world’s most exciting and advanced space program, one that meets our highest human aspirations in a world where the sky is no longer the limit.”
Trump: “A strong space program will encourage our children to seek STEM educational outcomes and will bring millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in investment to this country. The cascading effects of a vibrant space program are legion and can have a positive, constructive impact on the pride and direction of this country.”
See the rest of their answers about science, including research, innovation, biodiversity, water, energy, and other topics, here. And follow my colleagues’ detailed coverage of the election on the Politics K-12 blog.
Image: Associated Press
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.