Last week, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education in an underwhelming victory. Following hours of contentious debate, two Republican senators voted against her confirmation, leaving the vote tied at 50-50, and Mike Pence had to be brought in to cast the tie-breaking vote. He, of course, cast a ‘yea’ vote and Betsy was in.
Betsy did not have a good first week at school. In fact, I am questioning whether Betsy has even been to school before, as she seemed a bit … shall we say, disoriented. At the end of the day on Wednesday, her first full day on the job, she tweeted (it is rumoured that she has only 8 Twitter followers and has only tweeted 32 times in her life, so she is new at this … guess Trump will need to give her some lessons):
“Day 1 on the job is done, but we’re only getting started. Now where do I find the pencils? :)”
I imagine she was trying to be funny, but given that those in the education field already see her as a poor choice for the position and are concerned over her ideologies, as well as her lack of experience and qualifications, her comment set off a Twitter-storm. A few of the responses:
- @BetsyDeVos At the store. Something you should know: we teachers buy pencils and supplies for our classes with our OWN money.
- @BetsyDeVos you realize how NOT funny this is since most teachers buy their own supplies. But I bet you’re gonna pink slip them anyway.
- @BetsyDeVos He has them…
- @BetsyDeVos If YOU work in education, YOU buy the pencils, the paper, &, sometimes, a kid’s shoes. Spend a week in a school & GET A CLUE.
Then on Friday, Betsy decided to visit Jefferson Middle School Academy in D.C., but was met with a small (it looked like about 4) protestors, one carrying a cardboard sign and another shouting, “Go back! Shame, shame.” Rather than walk on by, Ms. DeVos sought an escort back to her vehicle … a move many believe will only encourage future protestors. She did finally enter and tour the school.
Then on Sunday morning, somebody under Betsy’s command at the Department of Education posted the following tweet:
“US Dept of Education ✔ @usedgov, Education must not simply teach work – it must teach life. – W.E.B. DeBois, 8:45 AM – 12 Feb 2017″
The problem, of course, is that W.E.B. Du Bois’ name is misspelled. Now granted, Betsy did not make this typo herself, but somebody in the Department of Education did, and then compounded it a few hours later with a correction and this tweet:
“Post updated – our deepest apologizes for the earlier typo. — US Dept of Education (@usedgov) February 12, 2017”
Our deepest “apologizes”??? Again, Twitter went nuts. It is almost a valid argument to say Betsy should not be mocked and ridiculed over this one, but she IS responsible for those under her and she IS responsible for any and all communiques that go out of the department. Ordinarily this would probably have gone largely unnoticed, however among educators and those of us concerned about the future of our educational system, frankly it is open season on Ms. DeVos, and she isn’t making it very hard, as evidenced by what she said only yesterday (Monday) morning.
“I was so excited to see the President’s approval rating hit forty. Just knowing that well more than half the country is with him gives us a great sense of confidence moving forward.To you critics out there who think you’re in the majority, I have some advice for you. Do the math.” Do. The. Math. Now, I haven’t taken a math class in decades, and while I am adequate at math, it is not my strongest suit. But I could have sworn that a majority is more than 50%. Yes, I have heard of “new math” and all that, but … has the definition of majority changed also? And if 40% constitutes a majority, then 39% would be the rest of the whole … which only adds up to 79% … so what happened to the other 21% of us??? No wonder I feel like I live in an alternate universe!!! I would almost feel sorry for Betsy if she just weren’t so damn arrogant and supercilious.
A couple of closing notes. It is almost too ridiculous to resist the temptation to mock, but in the grand scheme of things, it accomplishes little, if anything. My fondest hope where Ms. DeVos is concerned would be that she quickly comes to realize she is out of her element, is unqualified to perform this job, and steps down voluntarily. That being unlikely, my next best hope is that she has the integrity to start talking to groups like the National Education Association (NEA) and people within the Department of Education, and asks questions, listens to the answers, understands that others have more knowledge than she and that she can and must learn from them. If she does neither of the above and plunges headfirst into her own (and Trump’s) agenda, then we will all pay the price.