Teachers, unions and education experts nationwide have taken a stand against Betsy DeVos, the new administration’s pick for Secretary of Education. The reasons for this are numerous, chief among them that she has no experience in public education. A college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and political science, DeVos has not taken a single class on the subject of education and has never been licensed to teach anywhere. Ms. DeVos never even attended a public school.
The natural question has to be asked- why her? A person with nothing other than an uninformed opinion does not seem qualified to be the logical choice for the role of educating the next generation. She, like most of Trump’s unusual picks, seems only peripherally involved in her field of choice, in a slovenly mountebank sort of way. DeVos is on the board of a pseudo-scientific, quack organization which holds think tanks dedicated to privatizing public education. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, which teams with for profit corporations to promote cyber schooling, a known disaster that has consistently produced dismally poor test scores, is an example.
Betsy DeVos believes in the use of education to advance a Christian agenda. She is also a chief investor and stockholder in Neurocore Brain Performance Centers, a company started in nearby Grand Rapids, whose website declares that,
“Holland Center offers testing and drug-free, science-based treatment options for a number of conditions. These include depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, autism and sleep disorders.”
Like the belief that diverting public funds to private interests is good for public education, there is no evidence at all to suggest that the claims by the Holland Centers are true.
The DeVos nomination for Secretary of Education led to the revelation of her financial interest in Neurocare. The New York Times examined Neurocore’s scientific credibility finding no psychological literature verifying or even mentioning Neurocore. Where on Earth are we headed with all this? Have we returned to the days of snake-oil salesmen? What has happened to the Western disdain for pseudoscience and quackery? And beyond all else, why are we being asked to turn the future of our children over to the likes of this?
The answer, as with all else relating to the new President, seems to boil down to money. The DeVos family is one of Michigan’s wealthiest. Betsy DeVos and her husband, Richard Marvin “Dick” DeVos, Jr., is the multi-billionaire heir to the Amway fortune, who ran Amway’s parent company, Alticor, from 1993 to 2002. Both are deeply devoted to Christianity. The DeVos family is also a major donor to conservative political campaigns and social causes, and that’s what this is really all about.
The DeVos family are ardent conservatives known across America as top political fundraisers. According to federal campaign finance reports, during the Republican primaries, Richard DeVos gave $250,000 to a political action committee that supported Marco Rubio. Back then, the DeVos family was not particularly thrilled with this President. The new President needed to bring this sort of old money family into his fold, and the DeVos’ family has now become become enthusiastic supporters. Perhaps the DeVos family and the President worked out a deal for participating in the new administration, appealing to the scientific pretensions of Ms. DeVos and to the Republican base.
Betsy DeVos joins Steve Bannon and others, in the hideous cast of characters the new President seems to have pulled out of his red make America great again hat. Thus far, five fat cat business leaders, two generals, and four career Republican politicians have been appointed to the cabinet. All but two are white, all but two are men, and only one has run a federal agency before. America has never before seen a cabinet like this.
A parallel exists in history. Adolf Hitler, in 1934, selected Bernhard Rust as Minister of Education. Rust was a combination of high school principal and overzealous National Socialist, who went about his job by issuing bizarre decrees at every level of the German educational system, to immerse German youth in the National Socialist philosophy. That’s what is being done here.
This President, now being directed by Steven Bannon, the White Supremacist, Leninist, top advisor to the President, has a dangerous and reactionary vision for the future, dressed up in brand names and given the trappings of a reality TV show. He needs people around him who are even sillier than he is, in order to make it all possible. Arthur W. Schlesinger, Jr. wrote in The Crisis of the Old Order, 1919-1933 that President Franklin Roosevelt knew the very rich, not to be villains, but to often to be ignorant and foolish. Betsy DeVos would oversee teaching our children to be ignorant and foolish. We, as loyal Americans, have a civic duty to do everything possible to try to prevent DeVos from being approved by the Senate as our next Secretary of Education.