DeVos: The Anti-Education Secretary

There I was, using 20 minutes out of my 56-minute period on Jan. 20 showing my mostly non-native English speaking students democracy in action, the inauguration of a new president, when I felt slapped in the face from Donald Trump who said, “An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.”

As he seems to do with so many issues, Trump took the low road with a clichéd type of sentence that connects extremes—lots of money with nothing to show for it—that reflects his deprivation of knowledge about education.

It’s one thing when the public makes comments about schools without researching the facts.  It is quite another when the man holding the highest office in the nation makes such a remark, then appoints a person to head the department of education who may actually know a little less than he does about schools.

Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos has never attended a public school, never taught school, and it is doubtful that her children attended one either.

DeVos is a billionaire, Forbes estimating her family’s wealth at $5 billion.  And she and her husband, son of Amway’s co-founder, aren’t interested in making schools better, but in promoting school vouchers which takes money away from public schools and gives it to parents to spend on charter, private or religious schools.

In other words, taxpayer dollars end up funding private companies and religious organizations.   That runs counter to the separation of church and state edict of this country.

Yet Trump is entrusting her with the highest position in education to do what’s best for America’s public schools.   Does that make sense?

At her confirmation hearing, she exhibited, to borrow Trump’s language, a “deprivation of knowledge” about the federal law that funds special education which has been on the books for nearly three decades.   She also could not explain the difference between the terms “proficiency” and “growth assessment,” a distinction even an average-skilled teacher can clarify.

DeVos also argued against gun-free school zones saying that some schools like those near Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming should be able to arm themselves especially “to protect from potential grizzlies.”   Thus far, there have never been reports of grizzly bears attacking school children.  Besides, most experts agree that bear repellent is more effective than firearms.

I have long felt it inherently wrong for people who lack teaching experience to hold powerful positions in education, telling teachers how to teach.  Unfortunately, DeVos has company.

Since the Department of Education was created in 1979, there have been 10 secretaries.

Only Terrel Bell, Rod Paige and John King, Jr. were public school teachers before serving their post.  That means 70 percent of the U.S. Secretaries of Education had no first-hand experience of public schools, the institution for which they were setting policy and implementing mandates.

Since Trump thrives on having the biggest, the best, the largest, he has succeeded with DeVos in appointing the most unqualified individual as education secretary.

In fact, she is the anti-education secretary.

As Stephen Henderson wrote in the Detroit Free Press, “She’s not an expert in pedagogy or curriculum or school governance.”

Until her nomination, she was chairman of the American Federation for Children, a pro-school choice advocacy group whose website refers to DeVos as a “national education reform pioneer.”

In a speech given at the South by Southwest education conference in 2015, DeVos listed “government really sucks” as an “inconvenient truth” about public education.  Nice language coming from the soon-to-be top “educator” in the land.

Some senators requested a second hearing on DeVos, but the request was turned down.

Her confirmation is expected to happen this Tuesday.  If only that were fake news.



Anti-Americanism of Donald Trump

Words can inspire or they can injure.

Donald J. Trump’s words do the latter.  He gets the loudest ovations for using the most hurtful words.   If someone was deliberately trying not to be a role model, Trump has succeeded.

He mocks immigrants, the disabled, and women.  It’s as if Don Rickles is running for president, except that Trump isn’t that funny, his act isn’t in Vegas, and the audience isn’t in on the joke.

I understand the Mt. Everest-like aversion some have to Hillary Clinton.  As an independent voter with no political party affiliation, it is a shame that both the Democrat and Republican parties nominated candidates this election cycle who have high unfavorable ratings.

However, how much anger must you have within yourself to get behind such a despicable person as Trump?

Parents used to encourage their children to pursue their dreams, that one day maybe they could become president of the United States.   What parents would want their child to grow up emulating Donald Trump?

In the debates, it appeared that Trump was saying the first thing that came to mind, often interrupting Clinton with a childish “no, you’re wrong” rebuke.

While people continue arguing whether Donald Trump had ever sexually assaulted women or if it was just “locker room talk,” it doesn’t matter.

Words matter.

In order to talk that way, you have to think that way which is even more disturbing.

If Trump was that comfortable using slang for parts of a woman’s anatomy to a man he barely knew, that means he speaks that way to those intimate with him.

A student of mine told me that her 9-year-old brother heard the Trump tape and asked what some of the words meant.

If a videotape were released with Trump murdering someone, would people still support him?

Even elected Republicans struggle doing the right thing:  coming straight out and without reservation rebuking the nominee of their party.  It makes one wonder if there are any clear thinking people left out there where a sense of duty to one’s country overrides party loyalty.

When a twitter hashtag “#repealthe19th” surfaced referencing the constitutional amendment allowing women the right to vote, it is clear the one thing Trump does well:  bringing out the worst in people.

Like lifting a rock in a backyard to discover bugs underneath, Trump’s hateful messages that receive widespread play in the media he says opposes him have unleashed below the surface racism.

The irony is that Republicans, who view themselves as the family values party, support a candidate who has awful morals.

And this is why I do not belong to any political party.   Too many people ignore the character of a person running for office, focusing on the parenthetical letter that comes after a candidate’s name when casting their vote.

It wasn’t that long ago when Republicans and Democrats would work with one another respectfully.

A letter from former President George H. W. Bush written to his successor Bill Clinton on the day of his inauguration on January 20, 1993 has received renewed attention due to Bush’s civility in losing the election and wishing Clinton “great happiness” as “our President” and that “your success now is our country’s success.”

He finishes the handwritten note with “I am rooting hard for you.”  Apparently for Bush, “a kinder, gentler nation” was not just rhetoric.

Can you picture Trump using such non-locker room talk in a concession speech?

Instead, Trump threatens to jail his opponent if he wins, and not abide by the will of the American voting public if he loses.

If Trump wants to “make America great again,” he first needs to act as an American.


Trump Trash-talking Coarsens Society

Last week I took my son to see the animated film “Zootopia” and saw a trailer for “The Angry Birds Movie” which included a 15-second scene of an American Bald Eagle character urinating in front of other birds. While the action was not shown, the sound of it was in full Dolby sound. This is what passes as family entertainment these days.

Of course, this pales in comparison to presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio mocking the size of one’s manhood.

The incredulous campaign of Trump that has captured America’s attention this election season has done more than bring out new voters to the polls and new viewers to Fox News. It has lowered the bar in campaign protocol and human discourse.

How many of us would extol a person who uses profanity in a public speech, mocks a female journalist’s menstruation, insults people who are not white or Christian, and interrupts others who try to question him?   Trump is not trying out material in a comedy club—he’s running for President of the United States.

Just so you know, I am not registered with any political party. Over the years I have voted for both Democrats and Republicans.

I get the anti-establishment appeal of a Trump or a Bernie Sanders.   We should not ignore the concerns of those who vote for these candidates.

However, we want leaders to inspire people. Instead, we have someone whose no-filter, impromptu remarks is bringing out the ugliness in Americans.

Two weeks ago a disturbing event took place at a high school basketball game in Indiana.   Students from Andrean High taunted Bishop Noll students, a school with a significant Latino population, holding up giant Donald Trump heads and chanting “build that wall.” A similar incident occurred earlier in Iowa.

Impressionable young people are picking up on how Trump’s vitriolic language is garnering loud ovations. If it is okay for grown-ups to mock immigrants, it’s okay for them to do it as well.

Trump is tapping the anti-politically correct core that has remained dormant. He is not pushing people’s buttons, he is unleashing demons like a bad horror movie.

In the world of 2016, we don’t need someone antagonizing world leaders.

Part of the reason for Trump’s rise is the amount of media attention he has received. Have you noticed how the debates seem to occur once a week? It’s as if they are a regularly scheduled show.

Here we are in mid-March and the GOP has already held 12 debates. The Democrats have had eight, including two this week within four days of one another. And this does not include the phony baloney town hall meetings that CNN televises.

At the very least, stop inviting audiences to debates. It wasn’t that long ago when people attended debates respectfully, reserving applause until the end. Today audiences chant “USA, USA” as if watching a UFC match. Such a mob reaction encourages Trump to say even more outlandish things.

Also, why do the news networks insist on covering Trump’s complete speech on election nights since it lengthens into a pseudo-press conference ensuring extended free TV time for him to pontificate and proliferate his views?

Electing the most powerful person in the free world should not be an entertainment alternative to “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

A colleague told me long ago that teachers need to be careful of what they say in front of students since one never knows how certain words will affect young people.   Too bad our political leaders don’t follow that same advice. To borrow from Cole Porter, today anything goes.