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.

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