January 19th: An Uneducated Educator

In recent months, Americans have been obsessed with identifying the problems of our country. Financial challenges, social conflicts, and political clashes clamor for attention, replaced immediately by another problem, one after another.Solutions, on the other hand, are fewer and farther between. It often feels that the challenges are so complicated and interwoven that it will take decades to fully revitalize. How are we ever going to figure out the fine balance of cuts and stimulus to various projects and programs in order to help most or all Americans?

I have always believed that education is the best place to start. We may not be able to fix all of the world’s problems quickly, which means it is up to the future generations to be prepared to learn and, then, work for the betterment of society. Thus, if we want a strong future for all Americans, we need to invest in the future through ensuring all Americans get the chance to learn in schools that will educate and train them for their place in American society.

That all being said, you would think the Secretary of Education would be a highly educated, highly qualified individual. You would be wrong. Trump’s pick, Betsy DeVos, has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Political Science. She had precious little experience in the administration of school systems or loan structures.

What DeVos does have are strong beliefs regarding the opening of the education system to a free market, essentially creating an educational industry, which would hope that competition and choice would force all schools to remain “competitive” in a market of options. This makes sound business sense for many in certain class brackets, but leaves huge swaths of the population in low-income and impoverished areas susceptible to being forgotten by the system.

During DeVos’ Senate hearing, a few issues came to light. First, DeVos indicated she was unaware of the distinction between growth and proficiency. The average American may not either, but THEY aren’t trying to take control of national education regulation. Growth evaluates a single student’s ability to advance personally, to have learned more over a period of time. Proficiency, meanwhile, evaluates all students by their ability to clear common hurdles. The distinction is essentially for those with more nuanced educational circumstances, whether it be learning disabilities or those coming into the school system with varying educational foundations.

DeVos also hedged on a question regarding guns in schools. She said that she was unwilling to say that guns have no place in a school, using fending of a grizzly bear as her primary example of a helpful time to have a weapon in the classroom. This is, fundamentally, a cop out. If she had a strong belief in the need for guns in schools, the American public needs to hear why. A half-baked excuse only works to make her look thoughtless and ignorant of the situation.

Education is the foundation of the future of our country. If we want to establish a strong future, we have to ensure that the person leading the system is not only aware of where we hope to go, but also has some knowledge of the system that is currently in place. Betsy DeVos has a singular focus on installing choice and competition into the world of education, and has neither the ability nor the interest to fix the other elements of the institution that are so desperately in need of repair. How ironic it is that the one who hopes to be responsible for education is so ignorant about its administration. 

We, as a country, can’t afford to place all of our eggs in that one questionable basket. And Betsy DeVos certainly hasn’t proven she has the knowledge nor the willingness to shepherd the educational system into a brighter future.

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