This article was written by Adam Hatch - UC Berkeley graduate, son of a teacher, brother of a teacher, and a teacher himself. Adam started a unique English school in Taipei, Taiwan, where kids learn to research and write articles in English. The articles are published on the first ever English newspaper written by kids in Taiwan, called theTaipei Teen Tribune.
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*This article was written by a guest author. It has not been vetted or endorsed by Bored Teachers' editorial staff.*
Teachers everywhere have plenty to worry about with the new Secretary of Education. DeVos is the new head of the federal Department of Education, and due to her lack of political experience she is relatively unknown both in political circles and the world of academia. However, a cursory look at her background and ideas will show why she was only barely confirmed for the job.
1. She actively supports programs that undermine public education
Betsy DeVos is a leading advocate of “school choice,” code for promoting the use of public money for private schools. In other words, her biggest goal is to tear money away from the already underfunded educational system and give it to businesspeople who “own” schools, with very little oversight. In DeVos’s ideal educational system, someone would be making money off of students.
It isn’t simply “school choice” that she’s such a strong advocate of. DeVos supports charter schools and vouchers, which are the vehicles anti-education legislators use to erode the American public school system. While there are certainly good examples of private and charter schools out there, the problem with them is that they allow government officials to take money away from the public system, which is already in dire need, and divert it somewhere with no democratic oversight. This is a real threat to American democracy, and it will only hurt needy and low-income communities.
2. Her interests are those of billionaires, not students
Betsy herself stands to inherit, along with her husband, 5.1 billion dollars. Her father in-law, Richard DeVos, is the co-founder of Amway, a multi-billion dollar company that specializes in pyramid schemes. Her husband ran unsuccessfully for governor of Michigan in 2006, funded by other billionaires. Her brother is the once-Navy SEAL founder of Blackwater, a private and for-profit security force responsible for massacres in Iraq. These are not the kind of people who care about quality education for all.
Furthermore, DeVos and her husband have donated literally hundreds of millions of dollars to the campaigns of exclusively Republican politicians, many of whom are diametrically opposed to the Department of Education. And this money isn’t given to do with as the candidates please. As Betsy DeVos said herself, “We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.” If that’s not code for an anti-progressive educational agenda, I don’t know what is.
3. Betsy DeVos is anti-science
DeVos seems to be open to science alternatives in public school curriculum. As ProPublica reports, DeVos “responded to a question about whether she would promote ‘junk science’ by saying she supports science teaching that ‘allows students to exercise critical thinking.’” While all teachers are clearly in support of critical thinking, again DeVos seems to be speaking in code. In this instance what she means is skepticism towards teaching evolution. Evolution may be a theory, but by that standard so is gravity.
Also, DeVos is a little too cozy with religious ideas and the religious right seeping into public education. While we support DeVos’s right to express her religious sentiments, the United States is a diverse, multi-religious society. Not only will Christian teaching in schools be offensive to the millions of students who practice other faiths or philosophies, but it will also lead to millions of dollars in waste due to conflict and legal showdowns. Let’s keep God at church and teachers in the classroom.
4. She doesn’t care about the Department of Education
According to the Washington Post, DeVos would not mind if the Department of Education were completely shut down. Any reasonable person should generally be against ending federal oversight of the nation’s education system, but to have the leader of that system shrug it off is profoundly disturbing.
If that weren’t enough, remember that the Department of Education sets standards and oversees public education across the country, in conjunction with state and local oversight systems. DeVos supports “market-based educational reform” (read: privatized). As such, her goal as head of the Department will not be to make it better, but to harm it. This will harm schools around the country, and therefore students.
5. Betsy DeVos has very little political experience
Betsy has been an active advocate of vouchers and school choice for years, but advocacy is very different from actual experience running a governmental organization. She has served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, but again, we’re comparing apples and oranges.
Hopefully DeVos’s lack of experience makes her less capable of dismantling the DoE, but a combination of malicious goals and a lack of competence can be a scary combination.
6. Betsy DeVos has never been a teacher
Perhaps most importantly, Betsy DeVos has never stood in front of a class, day after day, and developed young minds. She does not understand or care for your profession. She has worked to undermine teacher unions in Michigan, and would rather teacher salaries and positions be decided by arbitrary market forces rather than judged on the hard work and social good produced by educators. As head of the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos is an enemy of all teachers.