Betsy DeVos and the politics of fear: A not-so-fond farewell to Trump’s education secretary

DeVos was terrible at her job and knew nothing about public schools. That was exactly what the far right wanted


Salon: Even Betsy DeVos — one of the longest-serving of Donald Trump’s revolving-door cabinet secretaries — finally reached what she called an “inflection point” with the former president’s open call for violent insurrection, resigning slightly before he left office. Amid the chaotic Trump administration, DeVos was in many ways the perfect choice for education secretary. She showed an astounding lack of knowledge about public education. She seemed at best uninterested and at worst downright hostile to America’s public schools.

DeVos’ tenure leaves us with unanswered questions: How is it possible that the leader of the Education Department could be so indifferent to public education itself? Why wouldn’t she learn the basics about her own department?

Scholars and pundits have offered answers. For one thing, DeVos did not care about her department because she thought her department should not exist. Like conservatives ever since the Reagan administration, DeVos yearned to dismantle her own department from within. DeVos, in this analysis, was never the guardian of public education but rather the “wolf at the schoolhouse door.”

That explanation is true and important. For decades, conservative leaders have threatened to eliminate the Education Department entirely. Even when Rick Perry could not remember all three of the federal departments he planned to eliminate back in 2011, he remembered that one of them was Education.

But that explanation can only get us so far. There is another reason why conservatives like DeVos often show a stunning ignorance about public schools. After all, even if she only planned to undermine public schools, it would make sense for her to learn a little something about them. Secretary DeVos never did.



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  1. The church competes with the state for domination of teaching methods, and neither are fit for the job. By their nature, both are opposed to change or any form of unbiased education.
    Massive numbers of people, have inherent skillsets that are ignored and never developed, because they do not fit the religious or capitalist models. Our skill assessment mechanisms, are worse now than some that have been around for thousands of years. Instead of identifying and nurturing an individuals unique skills, church and state fight to plug them into the self perpetuating system, that has already proven itself unsustainable. Both groups are viciously conservative and self protective. We foot the bill for their argument while our children are ground like beef through their machine. Graduates have no civics nor can grow their own food.

  2. The problem is Americans let these people get off so easily – she (I think) must be held accountable for what she’s done and why she did it.

  3. “But they have won — and often won big — by fighting against imaginary schools, schools in which students are threatened by sneaking subversive teachers and corrosive anti-American textbooks. In a nutshell, conservative education policy has often been a non-starter, but conservative scare tactics have dominated schools.”

    It’s all about religion. And then mix religion and guns and you get what we’re looking at.

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