On Ms. DeVos and Mr. Trump

Some of the biggest news in the realm of education policy this week is Trump’s appointment for Education Secretary, Ms. Betsy DeVos. I would be lying if I said I knew much about Ms. DeVos before yesterday, but I spent some time today reading about her, as well as reading more deeply about some of Trump’s supposed stances on education. Here are my brief thoughts on both of these topics, with links to some articles I enjoyed reading.

On Ms. DeVos

One of the most alarming things that I read over and over again was Ms. DeVos’ lack of teaching and classroom experience. I feel like I can stop the argument here. How can you justify being in a role with absolutely zero experience? The idea of a lack of experience, one of my biggest critiques of many large charter schools and their leadership models, simply would not fly in any other position of this caliber. Would you ever appoint an attorney general who is not an attorney? Or a surgeon general who was not a doctor? No way. So how can there be an education secretary who has no teaching experience or educational leadership experience whatsoever?

Ms. DeVos also has a vast history of supporting school-choice initiatives, investing millions of her own dollars to do so. In an attempt to be unbiased (though I’m not), I’ll try to find some common ground. Ms. DeVos has stated her belief that ZIP code should not confine children to failing schools. I, as I hypothesize that anyone in the world of education would, agree with this statement with all of my being. But that’s about the only sentiment that Ms. DeVos and I share. In my humble opinion, ZIP code should not impact educational quality because education quality should be consistent regardless of location. By supporting a school choice program where families can select schools, one is suggesting that all schools are not created equal and that some schools are better than others.

Every child should have access to a great education, and every school should provide a great education. Allowing students school choice is not the long-term solution. While families should be free to send their kids to a private or religious school at their choosing, this choice should not be one of necessity. All schools should be equal, and that means providing support (financial and otherwise) to those schools that most need it.

On The [President-Elect] Donald

Oh boy, lots could be said here, but we’ll stick to education. Here’s a nice little summary I came across that outlines some of Trump’s ideas. My focus was primarily on those actions that would impact K-12 education, particularly K-5 education, as that is my niche.

Trump’s selection for Education Secretary made clear his stance on school-choice, so just see above for my thoughts on that. Surprisingly enough, though, Trump’s wishes to dismantle the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) aren’t terribly far from my own. While I am not entirely opposed to CCSS in theory, the way they have been rolled out left a bad taste in my mouth and think they could use some heavy editing. Many of the standards seemed developmentally inappropriate, especially those standards in early education. In particular, I disliked the standards that required such early reading, forcing all students to read in kindergarten before some of them are developmentally ready to do so.

As I said earlier, in theory I can support CCSS and can support the idea of a nationwide set of standards to ensure even academic expectations across the country, but they need to be developmentally appropriate and need to be introduced better in schools. I am sure that Mr. Trump’s reasons for wanting to dismantle CCSS (if he has any) are very different from mine, but hey – I’m trying to find some common ground.

Last Thoughts

Needless to say, it’s an interesting time for education, and the future of what education will look like in the United States is unknown. I would love to see the public-school system not undermined but supported, thus making this appointment a bit unnerving. I would love to see the teaching profession become more respected. And I would love to see an education system where students, regardless of where they attend school, know they are loved and safe and where they are pushed each day to be creative, thoughtful, kind, and curious.

My hope is that Mr. Trump, Ms. DeVos, and the team that the two of them assemble can remember that the students should be the only thing that matter. I hope that the two can recognize that each child is unique and valuable. I hope that the two can create policies that emphasize these two things. Maybe wishful thinking, but I’ve gotta have some hope.

Articles

Here are some of the articles I found interesting on these topics:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/23/us/politics/betsy-devos-trumps-education-pick-has-steered-money-from-public-schools.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Feducation

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/trump-picks-billionaire-betsy-devos-school-voucher-advocate-as-education-secretary/2016/11/23/c3d66b94-af96-11e6-840f-e3ebab6bcdd3_story.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/11/23/trump-terrifies-public-school-advocates-with-education-secretary-pick/?tid=pm_local_pop

http://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2016/11/24/trumps-education-secretary-choice-is-a-blow-to-our-nations-science-health/#bd0d09053382

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