DeVos is at a Loss

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DeVos is at a Loss

Dana Lee, Social Media/Photo Editor

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While many of President Donald Trump’s selections for his cabinet were considered controversial, no choice was as controversial as the United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. DeVos is by far the most hated cabinet member, and many people believe that she is not qualified enough for her position. In her Senate confirmation hearing on February 7, 2017, DeVos somehow managed to convince the members of Congress that she was fit to be in charge of the nation’s education, despite having little to no experience with public schools. Ever since the meeting, DeVos has intentionally avoided interviews. However, that is exactly the reason that a recent unexpected interview that she had on “60 Minutes” has quickly grabbed the attention of the media.
Betsy DeVos initially agreed to do this interview because she is now the head in the president’s new committee to find solutions to gun violence, which would favor a boost in public opinion for DeVos. This interview would have been the perfect opportunity to convince the media that she is not an out of touch millionaire, as many believe her to be. Unfortunately, this interview revealed her true depth of her incompetence, through her vague non-answers to questions about important topics such as gun control, school choice, and sexual assault on campus.
Many critics claimed that this interview, which was conducted with veteran journalist Lesley Stahl, was even worse than the confirmation hearing. DeVos struggled to answer Stahl’s questions, contradicted her own views, and claimed that she did not know enough about certain issues. When asked about what she thought about the Stoneman Douglas High School students’s demands of the government after a shooting at the school, she vaguely answered, “I give a lot of credit to the [Stoneman Douglas] students there for really raising their voices, and I think that they are not going to let this moment go by.” Stahl pressed the issue further by stating “They want gun control,” but DeVos simply replied “They want a variety of things. They want solutions.” Although the students of Stoneman Douglas High School have been very clear about wanting restrictions on guns, from the interview, it is evident that DeVos refuses to acknowledge their wishes at all. She did claim that she wanted to meet with the students of Stoneman Douglas High School in person to discuss what they wanted her to do. Her promise came true on March 7, 2018, when she briefly visited Parkland, Florida. However, many of the students claimed that her visit was only a publicity stunt, and that they did not get a chance to speak with her at all.
Another topic brought up during the “60 Minutes” interview was Betsy DeVos’ opinions on school choice, a cause that she has been advocating for the majority of her career. School choice is a program where the government funds different types of schools, not just public schools, to best fit the needs of each individual student. According to the Washington Post, supporters of school choice seek to “expand alternatives to traditional public schools for children who have poor educational options in their neighborhoods” and “give parents a choice in their children’s education.” In states that support school choice, parents can choose between public schools, private schools, charter schools, or even home school.ing. For years, Betsy DeVos has been an integral part of the education system in her home state of Michigan. She has worked tirelessly to privatize public education, and she is the sole reason for the spread of charter schools in Michigan. However, when Leslie Stahl asks her “Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?” DeVos only answers her by stating “I don’t know. Overall, I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.” DeVos does not seem to know whether her own policies on school choice have actually improved the schools in Michigan. Stahl, who at this point is visibly exasperated, then claims, “The whole state is not doing well. The public schools here are doing worse than they did.” DeVos struggles to answer her, and ends up stating “Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where the students are doing well… Michigan schools need to do better. There is no doubt about it.” In this argument, Stahl is most definitely correct. Even though DeVos’ school choice policies have increased the quantity of charter schools in Michigan, many of the schools are still lacking in quality. Most of the new charter schools have recorded student tests in reading and math that were below the state average, with some schools even ranked in the first percentile, the absolute worst in academic performance. One of the worst parts of the interview is when Stahl asks DeVos, “Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they’re doing?” DeVos answers, “I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.” Stahl then firmly states “Maybe you should,” which prompts DeVos to reply, “Maybe I should. Yes.” This is the worst part of the whole interview because not only does DeVos reveal that she has not even thought about visiting underperforming schools, she also admits that she does not know what she is doing.
Nothing seemed better when DeVos was asked about sexual assault. She asks DeVos, “Are you in any way, do you think, suggesting that the number of false accusations are as high as the number of actual rapes or assaults?” DeVos answers, “Well, one sexual assault is one too many, and one falsely accused individual is one too many,” which prompts Stahl to ask, “Yeah, but are they the same?” Tragically, DeVos chooses to reply “I don’t know. I don’t know.” Because she is now the secretary of education, DeVos should have a stance on whether sexual assault and false accusations are one and the same. Her lack of an opinion shows that she has not even thought about integral issues in schools, such as sexual assault on campus, at all.
From beginning to end, this interview was painful for viewers to watch. Betsy DeVos’ answers to Lesley Stahl’s questions were as vague and non-specific as humanly possible. It is very worrisome that she does not have solid opinions on subjects that she is in charge of as Secretary of Education. Almost immediately after this interview was released, the internet had a field day of criticizing DeVos, and she further cemented her place as the least popular Cabinet secretary. Contrary to her belief that she is “more misunderstood than anything,” reveals herself to be largely out of touch with the problems within the education in this country.