A Thought For Betsy DeVos & Friends

One of the most controversial of Trump’s nominees was his appointment of ultra conservative, anti-public education, billionaire supporter of all things right-wing, Betsy DeVos. DeVos got through the confirmation process in spite of massive criticism from the public, teachers, teacher unions, and this old retired history teacher.

In one of her first actions she attempted to visit a public school in DC and was turned away by a crowd of protesters. She must have eventually sneaked in the back door because she reported having met with some of the teachers. The following is from her subsequent news release. 

While I will always question her sincerity I’ll thank her for the kind words she spoke. What bothered me, however, is what she said about those teachers “waiting to be told” what to do. She says that teachers must be “empowered” to be great.

Well no shit Sherlock! Since the 1980s teachers have been increasingly complaining about losing empowerment. That’s about the time that politicians and state education boards decided professionally trained and experienced teachers could no longer decided what was best for students or how to best teach them. This was the moment when teachers became less of an educator and more of a test proctor. The year following my retirement I personally heard the superintendent of schools order his staff to, teach the test. His exact words were, “You have no higher objective than to teach to the test.”

Thirty years later mandatory testing is deeply entrenched in public education and it hasn’t been the panacea the hoped for. Betsy DeVos isn’t wrong, teachers need to be empowered. Teachers also need to have the power and input of politicians, state departments of education, federal departments of education, and totally untrained and inexperienced Secretaries of Education greatly diminished.

If you really want to improve education quit screwing around with it so much. Instead screen harder for potential teachers, greatly increase teacher pay and benefits, pick the best of college students, not the bottom, take a very critical look at the quality of teacher training, empower teachers, give them respect, give them the credibility you do other professions. Let them do the damned job they were trained for.

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