February 10, 2017

Why we need to give Betsy DeVos a Chance.

*Editor’s note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal views of the authors, and can not possibly reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.

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My Facebook feed has been on fire.

I am overwhelmed. The parade of politics, one-sided viewpoints, and the depressing remarks about the future of my four public-schooled children really made me think: What can I do about it? What is the truth behind all the negativity?

Truth: Betsy DeVos is now the Secretary of Education for the United States of America after a 50/50 split and a winning vote cast from the Vice President.

Truth: The title is hers despite never being a public school student, faculty member, or trained in the field of education.

Truth: Around 90 percent of American students attend public schools.

Truth: Betsy DeVos has been actively involved in the charter school movement.

Truth: During DeVos’ televised committee hearing for the job, her answers rocked the nation. She was unaware of a key federal law involving students with disabilities.

However, is there another side to the story worth exploration and discussion?

Possibly. Enter “Ed Evolution.”

Betsy DeVos introduced revolutionizing education the SWSXedu convention on March 11, 2015 in Austin, Texas when she compared our current education system to a Model T in the era of Tesla. “This is not a battle of Left vs. Right, or Democrat vs. Republican. It’s a battle of Industrial Age vs. The Digital Age.”

This caught my attention. If this is true, could it be that Betsy DeVos is straddling party lines and out for the greater good?

Billionaire Betsy DeVos is a generous supporter of “school choice,” which is a wide array of programs offering alternatives to publicly provided schools. DeVos’ advocates exclaim that federal control over education policy is unacceptable.

What exactly do they mean?

Betsy DeVos would like the education dollars to freely follow each child, instead of forcing the child to follow the dollars to their assigned public schools. Our country would go from a closed system to an open system that encourages variety and innovation.

Sound appealing?

The opposition foretells that her words are in reference to Christian schools exclusively, like those from her Christian Reformed background. Yet in her hometown, the non-denominational charter West Michigan Aviation Academy thrives at the International Ford Airport in Grand Rapids, thanks to the Devos’ involvement. Their tag line is, “a high school where attitude meets altitude.” Students focus exclusively on STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as English, history, and other core subjects. The school proudly displays a long list of awards on its website.

With Betsy DeVos at the helm, federal dollars would funnel toward successful schools just like that one.

Other possible positives for Ed Evolution are:

>> Solving the crisis in Native American and Hispanic communities. Students will no longer be stuck in underachieving public schools.
>> Raising the pay of deserving teachers, not just those with seniority.
>> Providing variety: traditional public schools, public schools of choice, charter schools, virtual schools and online learning, private and parochial schools, home school, course choice, and a mixture of the former are laced in her vision for the future.
>> Inventing new approaches to learning that have yet to be developed.

“If you claim you are for freedom…if you claim to be an innovator or you value innovation…if you claim to be an entrepreneur…if you claim to believe in equal opportunity…if you claim to embrace social justice…then you have to embrace educational choice, and you have to embrace opening up our closed education delivery system,” she professed. 

Still don’t buy it?

Please, re-introduce yourself. Judging a person from snippets from the news or the parody on Saturday Night Live, then shaming or ranting on Facebook and twitter will not change a thing.

Reach out and communicate in a mindful way your heartfelt suggestions, solutions, and resolutions. Send her and your representatives your concerns and questions. Stay engaged in your state’s policies with a productive purpose. Organize others in your state who are like-minded. Encourage everyone to speak up.

Leave the harassment and hostility at home.

In fact, let that go entirely. Release the wrinkles in your worried gaze. Look at her words from that speech. Hold her accountable. Use those thoughts to speak or write to uphold that common ground and good she suggested.

As activist Maggie Kuhn reminded us, “Speak your mind even if your voice shakes.”

Have a different side of this story? Submit an article to elephant journal. We’d like to hear from you.

 

Author: Kate Fleming
Image: Ted Eytan/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman

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