I think Betsy DeVos is just really bad at answering questions.
If we look at much of the criticism surrounding her, a lot of it stems from her confirmation hearing. (See: students need guns to protect themselves from grizzly bears.) Perhaps there is some warranted caution about her lack of experience in public school, but you can read more of my thoughts on that in my first blog post.
The reason I say she’s really bad at answering questions is because of the Q&A page on her website.
The first question reads: What are five things we might not know about you?
DeVos’s first answer is that she’s a grandmother. How sweet. Not really a “fun-fact” or anything earth-shatteringly unexpected, but nice. Makes us feel warm and cozy.
Next she tells us she’s a lifelong resident of Michigan. Also, not particularly wild, but slightly more exciting than the Grandma trivia.
The next three items are aspects of Devos that are plastered all over her website.
She tells us she’s an advocate for children, an activist, and an entrepreneur. If you look at the other tabs of her website, they are: education, policy and involvement. Education = children; policy = activist; involvement = entrepreneur. I didn’t actually have to read or even skim another page of her website to know that about her. Not to mention the opening page of her website explicitly uses the words “advocate,” “politics,” “innovator,” and “education.”
The only possible explanation for her silly answers it that she simply did not compute the question. More than half of the list were things we already knew about her. Something got lost in translation.
According to this video Hypeline News put out and The Libertarian Republican published, college students actually agree with DeVos’s policy when her name isn’t attatched. In the opening few minutes, the interviewer asks random college students what they think of DeVos — to which they respond with the usual answers: she’s unqualified, doesn’t know what she’s doing, anyone or no one would be better for the job than her. However, when the interviewer asks them their opinion on policy ideas, like offering vouchers to low income families so they can chose a school for their kid, the college students agree. They also like DeVos’s slogan that “a zip code shouldn’t determine an education.” Some were shocked to learn that she founded multiple organizations which promoted educational equality for all children (so maybe that fun fact actually was warranted then…)
While there are obviously some debatable elements of this video (of course everyone is going to agree when asked if they think poor kids should get to go to school), I think a lot of the negative association that follows DeVos around is from her inability to market herself well. The core of her values are not as ridiculous, dumb, or laughable as she presents herself. Whether we want someone with the inability to answer questions in charge of our education system is a whole other conversation.