The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the 11th education secretary was, quite literally, divisive. Vice President Mike Pence became the first vice president to break a tie vote on a cabinet member’s appointment, swinging the vote in favor of DeVos’ confirmation after the nominee tied the congressional vote. The controversy surrounding her appointment has stemmed from reasonable grievances since DeVos has never been in any way connected to the public school system except in efforts that seem to try to dismantle it.
Her nomination was immediately criticized by teacher unions due to the fact that she demonstrated support for a charter school system. DeVos’ comments during her confirmation hearing became a media blitz on their own. When asked about her position on the availability of firearms on campuses in a protective capacity, DeVos responded that she felt guns were needed on school property in order to defend students from grizzly bears. It seems silly on the surface, but it is that very silliness that should be worrisome considering her position’s importance.
Having this kind of commentary coming from the woman who is slated to become education secretary should have been an immediate red flag and should have shutdown her nomination. However, these comments have now made their way into serious conversations about a broken educational system.
DeVos’ lack of a credible resume is not the only worry regarding her nomination, as the DeVos family has long been donating to the Republican Party. Therefore, the decision to select DeVos for such a position of power raises suspicion that she is just another payback to a family that is constantly currying the favors of the GOP.
This decision reflects on the possibility that President Donald Trump just wants to keep money flowing into the wrong hands. Questions are raised on whether or not Trump realizes precisely what he has done in selecting DeVos as education secretary.
DeVos’ problematic history even rustled the feathers of some Republicans, who felt their districts were going to suffer from potentially sloppy policymaking at the hands of a woman who once referred to schools as a potential way to spread the “word of God.”
DeVos represents a great deal of what people may usually fear from the government—a distant figure with no real understanding of what goes on below them. Unfortunately, DeVos is exactly what she represents and seems to heed no mind to that fact.
Nominating DeVos is akin to recommending someone who despises environmental policy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Ironically, that is exactly what has happened. It is a continuation of a pattern of nominations whose missions seem to be to destroy all progress made during under former President Barrack Obama’s administration.
Ideally, the vetting process for the new education secretary should have been as rigorous as Trump’s proposed vetting of new immigrants. The process, however, became less of an examination of her skill and more of a circus. It was all show with little substance, no matter how many videos of interrogation by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren made rounds across the internet. What ultimately mattered—the elimination of DeVos as a nominee for the position—became lost in the noise.
The current U.S. educational system is a system that allows college students to go into debt and suffer from a multitude of mental health issues. It is a system that has allowed for schools to remain effectively segregated based on neighborhood and socioeconomic class. It is a system that has become a joke to the rest of the world.
The U.S. educational system needs someone who understands the haggard state it is been put in by the administration of former President George W. Bush. DeVos is not that person and she does not care. If she did, her confirmation hearing would not have turned into a widely circulating meme that has continued to boost Saturday Night Live’s ratings.
The Trump administration continues to prove itself as one that cares far more about repaying its debts to the GOP as well as keeping the good graces of its major donors. The price for such a tradeoff is the nation’s stability—the United States is quickly being pushed into crippling financial circumstances along with a public educational system that is losing sight of the future of its students.
Reuven Glezer is a sophomore studying Literary Form and Writing. He is a frequent contributor to The Ticker and an editor for Refract Magazine.