This week, I begin a major step within my larger career goal – that is, I start my Student Teaching Practicum. In being a student teacher, I’m preparing myself to be a licensed educator within the state of Massachusetts, and have fought long and hard to get to where I am. As someone whose life is dedicated to education, I feel that I’m an informed individual, who can make solid judgments based of facts and experience.
One person, whose life is probably going to be dedicated to education and yet has no experience let alone qualifications for an up and coming career, is Betsy DeVos. As a southern Republican Party head, whose father own a large manufacturing company, DeVos has donated millions of dollars in the name of Donald Trump, and has therefore been chosen by him to be the next Secretary of Education – yeah, you heard right; she’s being chosen because she did something nice for Trump, and now he wants to do something nice for her, by giving her a position that she is not at ALL capable of handling. Why, you may ask, do I think this way? Well, here’s a list.
1. She has never been, or has sent her kids, to public schools.
During her Confirmation Hearing, Senator Elizabeth Warren questioned DeVos about her background with public education, managements, etc., and yet... got nothing. When asked if she had ever had to deal with Pell grants or the like, DeVos denied it, as well as stating that she, her kids nor anyone in her personal life has ever had to take out schools loans before. You may think that this is negligible, but if DeVos is supposed to be running a trillion dollar government program that helps people take out there loans, how the hell is she supposed to help them, if she has no clue what the process is like, let alone what challenges people face?
2. She, nor anyone she knows, has ever had to take out a loan for school.
“How?” you may wonder? Well, you see, DeVos comes from money – she has never been in debt her entire life, and has been able to whip up $50,000 for her kids to go to school, no problem. And yes, she inherited this money – she’s never worked for it, and has never had to work for her children’s futures, which rest within education.
3. She supports charter schools and private schools over public schools.
With this topic, I do understand that there is a legitimate debate over whether or not private / charter schools should be funded. In my opinion, I feel that while charter schools and private schools do offer legitimate and some of the time, worthwhile options for children to get a healthy education, this is not fixing the immediate problem. Nobody should be forced to pay for a basic education, and if our public school systems are shitty enough to the point where some parents don’t want their kids to go, that means we have to fix the existing problem, not create an alternative answer. As is, 90% of students in the US go to public schools – by making the public education system even shittier, not only are you forcing students to pay for education, but is punishable for those who can’t afford it in.
4. She has never managed large amounts of money
Yep. She has no experience in handling vast amounts of money, and has no experience in handling government (or personal, for that matter) loans at all. While she may be extremely well off, she has never had to worry about her money. I remember a conversation I had with my twin sister once – I told her that I wish I was like her, in that she’s responsible with her money. Her response? “Lol, I’m not responsible with money, I just have so much I don’t have to worry about it”. remind you of anyone?
5. She has never worked for the government
The only job (that I could find) that Betsy has ever had, is her being chairwoman of the Windquest Group, a privately held operating group that invests in technology and clean energy. While I do commend her for being part of the process that invests in wind power, this has absolutely nothing to do with our government, our schools or representative of her helping people in any way. If anything, DeVos has invested thousands of dollars in the name of multiple Evangelical and other Christian groups, still, none of which center around government workings.
6. She believes guns should be in schools
Yet, surprisingly, not to protect intruders or other students with guns, but as an NBC article stated –
“Pressed on whether she could say "definitively" if guns shouldn't be in schools, she referred to an earlier remark by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) who mentioned an elementary school in Wapiti, Wyoming, that had erected a fence to protect children from wildlife. "I think probably there, I would imagine that there's probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies," DeVos said.”
7. She has no idea what the job entails
DeVos has never worked in a school. she has no idea what the job entails, what different factors must be taken into account when deciding how to run our education system, and she refuses to use the resources at her disposal. When questioned by Sen. Warren, she said that she will “have to take a look” at the current programs and laws that we have in effect, probably thinking that she is going to be the “inspirational change” that our education system needs; and yet, we’ve spent dozens of years trying to improve our educational system, to which DeVos simply wants to throw everything out the window. This is not okay.
8. She will not stand up for students with disabilities
In a hearing with senator Kaine, as per what the Washington Post reports, “DeVos said: “I think that is a matter that is best left to the states.’” A solid answer that many automatically agree with – giving states the power to control their schools; but wait, let’s figure out from Sen. Kaine why this answer is wrong -
“Kaine responded: “So some states might be good to kids with disabilities and other states might not be so good and, what then, people can just move around the country if they don’t like how kids are being treated?”
“Devos repeated: “I think that’s an issue that’s best left to the states.”
“Kaine said: “What about the federal requirement? It’s a federal law, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act,” and he repeated his question.
“DeVos began speaking about a Florida voucher program for students with disabilities that requires students to sign away their IDEA due process rights.
Kaine interrupted her saying, “Just yes or no.” But she continued, saying many parents are happy with the program. Kaine persisted: “I think all schools that receive federal funding — public, public charter, private — should be required to meet the conditions” of IDEA. He asked if she agreed.
DeVos said: “I think that is certainly worth discussion.”
Kaine interrupted her saying, “So you cannot yet agree with me.”
9. She will not stand up for the rights of sexual assault victims or LBGT students.
“The Secretary of Education must have the interests of all students in mind, and everything we have seen from Betsy DeVos suggests that she will not,” Kiesling said. “The hundreds of thousands of transgender students around the nation deserve better than a Secretary of Education who has donated huge sums of money to organizations that have called transgender people ‘broken.’” Says Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality. If DeVos has such an extensive background on being anti-LGBT, how can we trust that her bias won’t come into play, in thinking that ALL students should feel safe and accepted at school?
On top of that, according to the New Yorker, "According to the Michigan L.G.B.T. publication PrideSource.com, DeVos and her husband led the successful campaign to pass an anti-gay-marriage ballot referendum in the state in 2004, contributing more than two hundred thousand dollars to the effort. Dick DeVos reportedly gave a hundred thousand dollars, in 2008, to an amendment that banned same-sex marriage in Florida. That year, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, Betsy DeVos’s mother, was a major contributor to the effort to pass Proposition 8, which made same-sex marriage illegal in California."
10. She thinks public school teachers make too much money
In March of 2015, DeVos gave an incredibly long speech about how messed up our government is, and then went on to point out all the bad things about it, without thinking how we came to certain predicaments that we are in now. In one example, DeVos said that-
“The Republicans don’t want to pay our best teachers enough, and the Democrats don’t want to reform tenure laws. It’s another partisan standoff. But I am willing to bet that every one of you had one or more teachers who made a big difference in your life, who opened your eyes to possibilities and to opportunities. You probably recall them in your mind’s eye right now.
And likewise, I am pretty sure that every one of you had one or more teachers who should not have been teaching. That doesn’t mean they were bad people, or maybe they were, but regardless, they weren’t any good at teaching. You are probably thinking of those teachers right now. And by the way, teaching is hard. It takes a lot of skill. Not everyone who tries can do it well. We need to admit that and act accordingly. We should reward and respect great teachers by paying them more, and we should stop rewarding seniority over effectiveness.”
So… as a future educator, let me help you pick this apart. Yes, DeVos is making a general point in that the good teachers should be rewarded, but what makes a good teacher? Ones who are kind and empowering? Well, let me tell you, all teachers are like that. You may shake your head, and think “oh, no, I hate my teacher because they’re lazy and don’t care”. Well, while that may appear so, let me tell you how hard it is to be a teacher – you manage the grades AND wellbeing of roughly 50-200 kids a day, all while making sure that you act professional yet approachable to them, give them interest in every topic you teach, while making sure that you are grading them, testing them, and giving them activities that are useful and helpful to them understanding content, without pushing them too hard. In short – it’s HARD to be a teacher. You spend 9 hours a day IN SCHOOLS helping your students, and then you go home and prepare for the next day. You’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taking a communitive of 8 hours’ worth of testing, 70 hours’ worth of observation hours in classrooms, 300 hours of student teaching AND are probably $50,000 in the hole, in order to get their Bachelor’s degrees, where they still have to get a Master’s degree to continue teaching.
If you have a sucky teacher, you need to rethink your opinion – teachers are teachers, because they want to be there, and they worked incredibly hard to be there. The people who may seem to not “have the skills” to be a teacher? Well, yeah, maybe they don’t have the acting skills at the moment, but it truly does require time to build your teacher repertoire, and figure out your teaching method. The teachers who do this, and are successful at this, deserve to be paid more, because they worked hard and long to get there (ie: effective seniority).
Is our education system, for the most part, faulty? Yes. Does it need reform in terms of regulations, funding and assessments? Yes. But the answer to this is not to take AWAY funding, not to maybe people pay for a good education for their children, or to make education a commodity, like we’ve made food and shelter. Education is a right, and we need to improve the system, fix the places where students are falling through the cracks, and take into account privileges that some students have over others. Betsy DeVos does not understand this – she would rather drop our entire system than try fixing it, and that’s the problem.