Conversations About Betsy DeVos

About Tracie Happel

Ms. Happel has been teaching for 25 years, specializing in special education/deaf and hard of hearing students and students with specific learning disabilities. She has also worked with regular education students at the elementary level. Ms. Happel worked for three years as a governor-appointed education commissioner, bringing the most pressing and recent research in national education to state stakeholders. When not working hard to inspire and educate her students, or collaborate closely with colleagues, Ms. Happel trains for and races in Ironman triathlons. She has two beautiful children who are beginning their lives as young adults in college, and in mission work. Ms. Happel is available for consultation services and presentations on a variety of educational topics. She can be contacted at traciehappel@gmail.com.

As one of the writers for The Educator’s Room, I participate with all the authors in regular conversations. We share ideas, talk about pedagogy, discuss writing topics, and sometimes even debate politics. That has been especially true in our newly politically-charged world that is so prevalent lately. Our current political discussion (a proper word since well-adjusted adults do not “argue,” we “discuss,” right??) surrounds the appointment of Betsy DeVos to Secretary of Education.  Just prior to the weekend, someone posted a montage of teachers speaking out against Betsy’s appointment, and expressing their concerns about her professionalism. In that discussion, I offered up the following challenge to the teachers in the video, as well as the writers of TER:

I challenge every one of those teachers to thoroughly review her professional history. Research and read sources they find on all media sites…MSM, alternative, print, and video. Then, I would challenge them to review the last two or three SOEs backgrounds and tenure in office.

My fellow writer, Ruben Brosbe then one-upped me and offered to share three anti-Betsy articles, if I shared three pro-Betsy articles. I agreed, only if he were willing to write about his experience and opinion of the articles and share it on the TER website. Obviously, we agreed, hence this article! His response was published earlier this week.

For the record, from the beginning, I have not been shouting from the rooftops, “Hurray!!! Betsy is appointed!! The world is GREAT! Let’s CELEBRATE!!”  I’ve been clear in my support of her, yet portray some skepticism. I get it…she’s got some questionable history. In my professional opinion, as a 25-year public school teacher, I am very concerned about her connection to Jeb Bush’s Common Core committees. I cannot stand the CCSS and am worried she will push it. I know, I know. She said she has since changed her mind, and I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt on that. So, being a reasonably-minded person, and understanding that true open-mindedness means you are willing to consider new information and possibly change your mind, I would like to extend an opportunity for her to prove she’s changed her mind. I will keep a close eye on her actions toward CCSS and see what happens.

My biggest cheers for her are her desires to dismantle the Department of Education, and to offer school choice to every student in America. I also like her attitude that her office is the Department of Education. That means, all education. Public, private, religious, charter, and homeschool. There are a lot of arms to education. I am thrilled she recognizes all of them. And I am especially happy she is not part of the “swamp.” She is not an educator. Perfect. For almost 100 years, we have had educators controlling our schools. Look where that has gotten us. Declining math, reading, and science scores. The standardization of pedagogy. Teacher autonomy removed. Altered cut scores to make it look like our students are succeeding, when in fact, they are not (see my first statement in this thought). We NEED someone to turn education on its side. Will Betsy do a great job? I don’t know. Hell, if I knew that, I’d run out and get a lottery ticket, too. All I know is she deserves a chance because she has done some good stuff for education. Her family has given over $100 million to education-related causes. She has dedicated her life to offering varied educational options to thousands of at-risk students. Everyone has their flaws, but as teachers, we are trained and ready to look past flaws and see potential in our students. I’d like to see us unite and extend that same grace to Mrs. DeVos.

Now, the articles. Ruben shared three of them. They definitely made me think. Please take a moment to read them. I’ll post the article link, a summary, and my position on each.

The Conservative Case Against Betsy DeVos: The article portrayed a variety of politicians and political commentators concerns about appointing Betsy DeVos to the White house. While I appreciate everyone has a right to their opinion, this article served as only a litany of conservative offices sharing their concerns. As a I mentioned earlier, I like to give everyone a chance. It’s what we do as educators. While the people in the article are not educators, and are politicians, it worries me they are so negative about something vitally important as education.

What Would Appointing Betsy DeVos Mean for the Office of Civil Rights? The article billed itself as “A guide to Obama-era civil rights stances that will be at the mercy of the next Department of Education.” What really bothered me about this article is, even as it stated, “Though DeVos…has not voiced clear stances on each specific policy, the Trump team has previously taken aim at OCR.” The authors went on to offer several OCR topics and outlined DeVos’ stance on each. Oh wait, no they didn’t. Because she has none on race-based admissions, “…DeVos called the policy unfair, but said it was [essentially good and created more opportunities for minority students].” She also does not have a position on transgender rights. While DeVos has not publicly declared a position, her family has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Biblically-based organization which is opposed to transgender rights, but also promotes family values, church organizations, and other God-centered beliefs. So, because her family has donated money to them, means they believe in everything about that organization? Doubt it. Disability protections: “…it is unclear…” Okay. Again, no stance. And last, Sexual Assault and Harassment. While she has donated hundreds of thousands to one organization and millions to a variety of others, her family gave $10,000 to an organization that has tried to overturn Obama’s policy on this topic. Millions…compared to a few thousand. I’m not entirely convinced she wants to see people harassed and sexually assaulted.

DeVos dodges toughest questions about public school plans. This is a video of DeVos’ confirmation hearings. It’s essentially a montage of her “dodging” questions.  I’ve seen this video a number of times, and each time the title makes me literally shake my head. There is no way she “dodged” the questions. She answered them. Perhaps not in detail, or the way the questioners obviously wanted her to answer them, but she answered them. Telling someone, “Yes” is an answer. Disagreeing about the statistics with Senator Franken is not “dodging” the question. Not having to had to deal directly with student loans, is not “dodging” the question. The question was directed at her, personally. She answered it, personally. And guns. The ever-evil gun debate. Don’t even get me started. And no, her answer was not about bears. It was about protection.

I enjoyed the discourse Ruben and I had, as well as the discussions we have at TER about education. We are all adults, professionals, and individuals. It is a real treat to be able to talk rationally and fairly about our positions on each topic. Ruben and I hope sharing our story will help you share yours in the same manner with your friends and colleagues.

 

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By | 2017-02-14T14:23:04+00:00 February 14th, 2017|Common Core, Current Events in Education, Educational Reform, Featured|4 Comments

About the Author:

Ms. Happel has been teaching for 25 years, specializing in special education/deaf and hard of hearing students and students with specific learning disabilities. She has also worked with regular education students at the elementary level. Ms. Happel worked for three years as a governor-appointed education commissioner, bringing the most pressing and recent research in national education to state stakeholders. When not working hard to inspire and educate her students, or collaborate closely with colleagues, Ms. Happel trains for and races in Ironman triathlons. She has two beautiful children who are beginning their lives as young adults in college, and in mission work. Ms. Happel is available for consultation services and presentations on a variety of educational topics. She can be contacted at traciehappel@gmail.com.

4 Comments

  1. Duane February 15, 2017 at 9:11 am - Reply

    Is this posting meant to be sarcastic, ironical or sardonic?

    • Tracie Happel February 16, 2017 at 5:54 pm - Reply

      Nope.

  2. Duane February 15, 2017 at 9:17 am - Reply

    Intolerant christo-fascists like DeVos have no business in being in a pluralistic society’s government. How does society tolerate those whose faith-beliefs are so intolerant? We, as a society allow them to live how they see fit but that does not include them attempting to foist their intolerant faith based views on others as a member of the government. It’s called a separation of church and state.

    • Tracie Happel February 16, 2017 at 5:56 pm - Reply

      What does your comment mean in relation to the article? Because she is a Christian, she is a “christo-fascist?” How do you possibly make that leap?

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