Q: How can liberals prevent Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos from destroying public education by being confirmed?
A: They can’t. Americans don’t give a rat’s ass about education policy as demonstrated by Ms. DeVos’ confirmation. Once elevated to Secretary of Education, DeVos can build upon the destruction wrought by Gates, Broad, and the Walton family and finish off public education once and for all.
So, what should be done? What can be done?
Liberals only have one choice. They need to join conservative Republicans and agree to scrap the federal Department of Education. That’s right exorcise the Department before it is inhabited by another demon.
The federal Department of Education is not an ancient governmental agency. It only dates back to 1980. Republicans beginning with Ronald Reagan have called for the end of the Department since less than a year after its inception. It is time for liberals to commit an act of political jujitsu and join the GOP in dismantling the Department of Education.
The liberal case for dismantling the Department of Education
Scholars like Linda Darling-Hammond document that the Black/White achievement gap narrowed to its smallest point around 1977, a few years before the creation of the US Department of Education. This success followed a decade or more of civil rights law and enforcement, desegregation efforts, bussing, and public sector jobs, including the CETA program. Kids were healthier, their parents had jobs, and government engaged in overt desegregation efforts.
Ever since the US Department of Education was created, public confidence in public education has eroded (and in the minds of some, schools have gotten worse). It is impossible to prove a correlation here, but the trouble began when Ronald Reagan said, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem, government IS the problem.”
Liberals and progressive educators have long argued that educational success is dependent on “wrap-around services” are required to adequately educate all children. Well, if we believe that poverty is a powerful determinate of educational success and are committed to providing nutrition, medical, dental, job, and housing services within the school system, perhaps it is time to return education to its predecessor agency, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Why not view childhood and education holistically?
I truly understand and appreciate that Title IX, Title I, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, IDEA, Title II of the ADA, and Federal financial aid are important. (thanks to Audrey Watters for the list). Most of these critical laws are established and now enforced by the Courts. Surely, these and other important civil rights could be maintained in another federal agency. The Justice Department under Jefferson Beauregard Sessions isn’t likely to enforce civil rights anyway. So, why not reach “bipartisan consensus” and exorcise the Department of Education?
Unqualified is not unprecedented
Betsy DeVos may be evil and will profit from education policies, but she is just as unqualified as most of her predecessors, a veritable Who’s Who of Who’s That?
Let’s review… (in reverse chronological order)
- John King, Jr. – Mr. King was so unpopular and toxic that President Obama needed to install him via a recess appointment. In his previous job as New York State Education Commissioner, the state teachers union voted a historic, nearly unanimous, no-confidence vote against him. (more)
- Arne Duncan – failed point guard for the Launceston Ocelots. Gave us Race to the Top and presided over era of rampant private higher education fraud.
- Margaret Spellings – boring and unqualified. Now runs the University of North Carolina.
- Coach Rod Paige – perpetrated the fraud of the “Houston Miracle” that was the model for No Child Left Behind. Champion of the obedience school chain, KIPP.
- Richard Riley – (eight years, few accomplishments)
- Lamar Alexander – presided over the Betsy DeVos confirmation.
- Ted Sanders (acting) – four months in office
- Lauro Cavazos – don’t remember him.
- William Bennett – Third Education Secretary. First to call for the destruction of the Department. Right-wing talk radio demagogue. Founder of corrupt and mediocre “online charter school,” K12.com.
- Terrell Bell – convicted Reagan to create A Nation at Risk. Believed that the problem with education is motivation.
- Shirley Hufstedler – esteemed lawyer, judge, and public servant.
I often point out that in today’s anti-institution/public school bashing culture, unqualified is the new qualified.
Sadly, Americans don’t give a damn about education policy. If we want to mitigate the potential damage done by DeVos and Trump, perhaps we should engage in some jui jitsu and agree with the Republicans about the Department of Education. It’s funding levels are approximately 7% and its negative impact is a whole lot greater.
Need convincing? Read today’s articles about Secretary DeVos.
Welcome To The Private Evangelical School Of Betsy DeVos’ Dreams – Teachers sign a statement of faith and kids learn about creationism and the Bible. It’s also the education secretary’s inspiration.
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.