by Kelsey Dass ’18
In order to be an educator in the United States of America, one must have an undergraduate degree, pass teacher certification exams for the specific state they are interested in teaching in, and receive a master’s degree in order for the certification to remain valid.
Some would say that educators jump through hoops in order to work in this profession, and I would have to agree, for good reason. It is essential for the future of our country to have educators that are both qualified and experienced, so that in turn, they help improve the education of our children. Seems simple, doesn’t it?
However, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, appears to lack background and knowledge in the field of education.
DeVos was recently nominated by President Trump for the position of Education Secretary. She has a vast wealth, which she has used to advance ideas important to her. She is also a member of the Republican Party and, when it comes to education, she is known for her support on the matter of school choice.
From what she has publically displayed, it is evident that she advocates for children and is interested in making changes that help better the education of children. In regards to the business of education, we certainly need someone strong to lead in that regard.
DeVos demonstrates an ability to lead the business side of education, which is important. Yet, she lacks the ability to grasp the mission of education, which is to educate. She has no experience, background, or knowledge in education, and I find this quite concerning.
In the Senate confirmation hearing that was held on Tuesday, January 17, DeVos failed to represent her understanding of the education system, including the specific details that come along with it. When Senator Franken asked DeVos to discuss her views on proficiency versus growth, meaning, giving students assessments, and using those assessments to either focus on measuring proficiency or growth, she did not appear to understand how to answer this question and failed to express her viewpoint.
Personally, in watching the hearing myself, the controversial topic between proficiency and growth did not seem to even be on DeVos’ radar of knowledge. Senator Franken comments to her directly that, “It surprises me that you don’t know this issue,” making clear his disappointment with the candidate’s lack of knowledge.
Sadly, this was not the only unfortunate event of the hearing. When Senator Tim Kaine questioned DeVos on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the candidate explained that she thinks, “That’s an issue that’s best left to the states,” which is just not a logical answer, considering that IDEA is a federal law.
In saying this, she suggested by her answer that she was willing to ignore the federal requirement by giving this issue to the states.
When the question on IDEA came back to her again from Senator Maggie Hassan, she attempted to explain why she failed to comprehend the question regarding IDEA the first time by mentioning that she “may have gotten confused.”
I do not accept “confusion” as a worthy answer considering the high caliber of this job. There were other instances during the hearing in which DeVos remained unclear, such as her views on whether or not guns should play a role in or around schools.
The issues discussed are critical to the educational system of the United States. DeVos’ inability to understand and evaluate these issues demonstrates a disapointing lack of intellectual ability and passion.
Unfortunately, I have little confidence in DeVos’s ability to provide leadership as the secretary of education. Yet, I am hopeful for the future. Many educators in this country continue to strive every day in order to provide a quality education for their students. My hope is that their experience, knowledge, and passion for teaching students will exceed the lack of leadership above them.