Betsy DeVos, the new Secretary of State for EducationBetsy DeVos, the new Secretary of State for Education

Betsy DeVos has been causing quite a stir as of late. Why? Because she has been confirmed as the new Secretary of Education under Trump’s administration, which is flabbergasting for a number of reasons. First, I would like to point out the hilarious first tweet that was sent from the American department for education: “Education must not simply teach work – it must teach life. W.E.B. DeBois.” This glaring spelling error was not the best of starts. Granted, this tweet was probably not penned by DeVos herself, but it does shed light on the incompetency brought in with her appointment, and the fact that she may not be bothered to check what her department is doing.

The billionaire DeVos says that she is “devoted to education” yet has never worked in any educational sector to back this up. One just has to look at Trump to know that in America you do not have to be qualified for the job (as long as one has enough money). Nor has she attained a fundamental understanding of the debates that surround education. I was horrified watching her interviews with the Senate and the lack of depth  and understanding she shows on the most basic of issues. For example, when questioned on the debate of ‘proficiency verses growth’ in education by Sen. Al Franken. For the record, growth is the evolution of each child: proficiency is about how many ‘good’ grades the student achieves.

Frighteningly, she wrote an essay about her political donations, saying she “had decided to stop taking offense at the fact that we are buying influence.” Then she continued: “now I simply concede the point. They are right.” What does mean for American education? Well, if one takes DeVos’s logic, it would be okay to buy grades, or to influence examiners and interviewee panels for jobs, thereby denying the right to a more legitimately qualified candidate. All this comes from a person that, when asked directly by Sen. Bernie Sanders, “if she thought that she would be sat in front of them [the Senate] if her family had not donated over two hundred million dollars to the Republican Party?” to which she replied: “I think that I would, yes.” This is hardly likely, as she would not have been able to buy the influence. As someone that has no experience in education, or how the education sector works, she would have most likely not even have been taken seriously.

“DeVos will be catastrophic in the secretary of education role, denying thousands possibly millions of people access to education”

Comparing DeVos to the Secretaries of Education that Obama appointed in his last years in office, Arne Duncan and John King, one sees a shocking comparison. Both held a wealth of experience in the education sector: Duncan was responsible for the schools in Chicago and King implemented the No Child Left Behind Act, not to mention that he was a teacher, too. Having just pointed out that just the last two education secretaries had ample work in the field, it seems to be the case that DeVos may have bitten off more that she can chew. Nevertheless, this did not stop the Senate, after a tie vote, ruling in her favour. Interestingly, there are some reports that a suggest a number of the Senate members (that voted in her favour) received sizeable donations directly from DeVos ranging from $1,000 to $115,000. One thing that I will say about DeVos is that she sticks to what she knows. Even if it is profoundly wrong.

The area that disturbs me the most, though, are her values. These are values that she wishes to enforce in education, and has made this clear. Values such as: all schools should be paid for directly; they should all teach Christian values; and she has – for several years now – been the vice president of an anti-LGBTQ group. Granted, the last point she and Trump say is a clerical error. However, I am far from convinced. It lines up neatly with her conservative, Christian values. She would be for the paying of schools, yet coincidentally her and her husband have sizeable investments in a student debt collection agency. One begins to see the need for her to get this role at all costs. The more people who pay, the more money that she will get. This is the strategy of a selfish business woman who is seeing education as a cash cow, and not what it should be: a powerhouse for the acquisition of knowledge and personal development.

In short, DeVos will be catastrophic in the secretary of education role, denying thousands possibly millions of people access to education because of financial limitations, religious beliefs or sexual orientation and consequently destroying years of possible prosperity for many capable people. Education is not a business, nor should it be run like one. DeVos encapsulates what an education secretary should not be. Education is not about the attainment of capital and the growth of the wallet. It is about the attainment of knowledge and the growth of the self.