Of Typos and Twitter

Since we last left our hero, things haven’t really improved. DeVos, following in her boss’s footsteps, took to Twitter this week. It didn’t go well. She provided ample content which social media users and media outlets used to ridicule her.

The first episode of Twitter drama didn’t come from DeVos personally, but the US Department of Education account. The account tweeted, “Education must not simply tweet work – it must teach life. W.E.B. DeBois” misspelling the DuBois as DeBois.

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In an effort to correct themselves, the account then tweeted, “Post updated – our deepest apologizes for the earlier typo.” Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 11.21.47 AM

If you can’t spot the typo in that one, just stop reading.

Many used this gaffe to personally attack DeVos, but she gave them something even better.

Earlier in the week she tweeted: “Day 1 on the job is done, but we’re only getting started. Now where do I find the pencils? 🙂 ” with a dramatic black and white picture from behind of DeVos clad in a business professional sheath dress and sensible heels, walking into an elegant and studious office.

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You know that one friend in each friend group that everyone mercilessly makes fun of? So much so that they basically walk into scenarios that makes them the butt of a joke? We all know that guy. My last boyfriend was that guy. DeVos is that guy.

Out of context, her tweet is obviously supposed to be a mild-mannered joke. In context, this is further ammunition for critiques of DeVos who love to slam her for her lack of experience. (Hint: that’s pretty much everyone). The rhetoric surrounding the entirety of her confirmation process focused on her minimal involvement in public schools and her inability to answer basic questions about the current American education system. So to ask something as basic as “Where do I find the pencils?” further promotes the stigma. It’s a doe-eyed deer joke that mawkishly giggles, “look at me, the newbie! I have no idea what I’m doing! Hehe I’m so innocent hope I don’t mess up my first day on the job!” but that’s exactly how the public perceived DeVos. And she bought right into it.

I find it hard to believe DeVos has complete control over her social media accounts. First of all, shouldn’t she be too busy, I don’t know, developing policy? to be Tweeting. Second of all, social media is a huge weapon, today’s braindead megaphone, and should not be in the hands of those who cannot handle its power. With great power, comes great responsibility, as wise Uncle Ben said, and that tweet was less than responsible.

Given that, I believe it was fully intentional. I’ve watched enough political dramas to know politicians spend millions of dollars and many midnight hours on campaign strategists who devote their lives specifically to this sort of thing. And if I, a 22 year old college student with no political science experience, can figure out what a faux pas that was, there’s no way it slipped by some of the most powerful DC minds.

So that leads us to the question of why? Why say something that plays right into the hands of the media? Why say something that will rile up journalists and Tweeters everywhere? Why make yourself the butt of an SNL skit?

For the same reason, I think, as the friend everyone makes fun of. Attention. Sure, it’s negative attention, but still…who are people talking about? And what are they talking about? Betsy DeVos, educational secretary, on her first day on the job. Despite all the criticism thrown at her, the dramatic day of selection, the down to the wire historic vote, the petitions and protests, there she still is, , walking into her Washington D.C. office. She still got the job. She still won. And people are still talking about her.

 

 

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Decided: DeVos

As I write this, the interwebs are exploding with opinions on the newly confirmed Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. Most are negative. Words like afraid, angry, sickend and saddened litter the blue and white screen of Facebook and Twitter. It’s not unlike the day after election day. I, personally, only know bits and pieces of DeVos’s planned policy, and I want to know more.

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DeVos is confirmed. Image from cnn.com

As of 9:29pm on Tuesday, February 7th, I’ve read articles on DeVos’ confirmation from BBC, The New York Times, NPR, Fox News, The Atlantic, and The Boston Globe. Here’s what I’ve gleaned:

  • The media criticizes Devos for 3 major things: her stance on charter schools, her poor performance during her confirmation hearing, and her grizzly bear comment. Most all of this stems from her lack of experience with public schools. Every article noted how she, herself, did not attend public school, nor did she send her children to public school. She’s never worked as an educator. But, it was all about the spin. Some news sources noted that as a politician, she didn’t need to work in the education system. Others noted that her lack of hands-on experience doesn’t qualify her as someone to be in charge.
  • Federal funds are a minimal percentage of educational funding. I didn’t know this before. So, it doesn’t seem like DeVos will have much influence regarding funding – unless it’s through policy change.
  • Her wealth and how she used it was called into question. She has donated a lot to Republican candidates and Republican agendas. She also spent a lot on her lobbying efforts to expand charter schools in Michigan, a campaign that was not well received and seemed to have no ultimate long term effects.
  • SNL sketches do more than just make us laugh.
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Devos’s pre-confirmation hearing. Image from politico.com

My take:

I was surprised that no article mentioned her own education, aside from noting she didn’t attend a public school. Not one article mentioned how well she did in school, where she went to college, what she studied, etc. It was also difficult to figure out what her position on education is – perhaps because she, herself, is flaky on her actual position or because the news sources only focused on specific statements of hers. Just becuase someone didn’t go to public school or send her kids to public school, doesn’t mean she is opposed to public school as an institution and wants to shut them down completely. It seems like some overarching conclusions are being drawn.

While there are obvious concerns about DeVos and the statements she has made, I think some good can come from this. First, the public is actually paying attention to education. I couldn’t tell you any of the previous Education Secretaries. People are actively and forcefully voicing their concerns over education in America, an area in desperate need of attention that it rarely receives. It’s a little saddening to me that it takes such a controversial and perhaps unqualified candidate for people to pay attention to the issues with education in America.

It’s hard to draw any conclusions or form an opinions when each news outlet clearly has its own agenda. Despite what anyone thinks about DeVos and whether or not she is qualified for the job, it’s concerning to me that someone so many people doubt, won by 51 to an opposing 50. As someone who spent her life working in education, I hope she realizes that 51% is still a failing grade.

I hope during these next few weeks to explore look closely at some of DeVos’s intended policy and to continue observe society’s opinion of her.