And there’s my colleagues.
Last week a group of 16 fellow teachers met across the street during lunch to protest the Senate confirmation of Betsey DeVos, nominee to be Secretary of Education. There are two reasons I didn’t jump into the melodrama behind DeVos’ confirmation.
First, I don’t like the idea of bringing politics of individual teachers into the classroom. I can get political here, on Facebook, and on Twitter but the classroom is a location where influential adults are trying to get young kids to critically think. That becomes problematic when teachers preach elements of their political ideology as the normal social narrative. Students start believing rhetoric and developing their own paradigms around the emotional logic of the instructor instead of looking at facts and, when dealing with government, actual laws. My first 15 minutes of every class, every day is reeling in the concept of saying “that’s unconstitutional” is the solution for everything and trying to calm the nerves of 17 year olds that have been told the concentration camps are right around the corner. But social justice and activism is sexy while providing a massive amount of signaling for like minded groups that seek change within society in Mendocino Country. I’ll pass. I don’t like the idea of being hypocritical; of cloaking critical thinking under a veil of activism while espousing emotional safety for those that only agree with a teacher’s view of the world.
Second, federal involvement in education and the power of the Secretary of Education has been massively overblown. The comments that DeVos would destroy public education, especially in the State of California, are wildly over exaggerated. So she kills Common Core, enforces state’s rights to education, and dabs into voucher programs. Meh. I don’t like it very much but it’s not putting public education on the brink of Armageddon. Would I actively protest a government action? If I was really, really passionate about it, yes. But it’s going to have to be a whole lot more than the Secretary of Education’s Senate Committee Confirmation Hearing.
Now, I did engage in my little symbolic anti-DeVos moment of fighting-the-power. On the ‘Wear Red for Ed” day of protest I wore a nice red tie and kindly answered that I was not going to protest across the street at lunch (for the record, nobody asked about the tie color). So if I just explained why Betsy wasn’t that big of a deal, why the little protest?
1) She’s has no experience in public education. It really helps to have knowledge in the area that you will be overseeing and DeVos has zero. That’s not necessarily terrible if she worked towards acquiring a strong foundation in preparation for her job except that…..
2) She still had no idea during her confirmation hearing. I spent an entire course in college about students with special needs and I’m fairly sure I know more about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act than DeVos.
Now, that alone should be enough to disqualify her from office and this is coming from someone who things the system needs to be strongly changed because the system is clearly failing a lot of students. The one lifeline she has is her charter school experiment in Michigan. Wait…
3) Her Michigan Charter School experiment was a total failure. Bringing in a controversial failure to fix systemic issues in public education, a system she has no knowledge of, is probably a bad idea.
4) Betsy DeVos donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups that advocated gay conversion therapy.
Enough already. Make her go away.