Protesters Were Wrong to Block Betsy DeVos From School

About Jake Miller

Mr. Jake Miller teaches 7th grade American history teacher near Harrisburg, PA. He is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a 2017 NEA Teacher of Excellence. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, and several other periodicals, but Miller has called TER home since 2012.

One of the continuing traditions of my classroom is to display 100’s of inspirational and thought provoking quotes. And one of the quotes I have on that border is by famed Chicago journalist Sydney J. Harris, who says, “The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.”

While I’ve had more than my fair share of opposition to now-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, I have continually viewed my classroom – and all of America’s classrooms – as a window to our democracy, to our culture, and to our nation’s future. Without hesitation, we educators teach all the students that are placed on our roster or enter our room. We are the Statue of Liberty personified. We take the “tired, poor, huddled masses;” the same statement Emma Lazarus embossed at the bottom of the Lady’s beacon.

It does not matter what the children are like or who they are. They could be refugees or Native Americans. First-generation or Fiftieth. Inner-city or dairy farmer. Male, female, or transgender. Gay or straight. White, black, or any shade in between. Poor or rich. Adept or adapted. Loving or lost. Hopeless or hope-filled. Gang member or game-changer. The youngest child or a new mom. Blind, deaf, handicapped, or a Gold Medalist in the Olympic games. Eager to be in our class or eager to leave. A kid who brings us an apple, or the kid that is the entrepreneur of the next Apple.

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So for protesters to block Betsy DeVos’s first visit to an American public school as the Secretary of Education is wrong on all accounts. It is improper because it is counter to our cause, our principles, and our reason for becoming teachers. Indeed, public schools are open to all, not least of which is the Secretary of Education. And not any less because she’s thinking about shutting the doors of public schools in favor of opening those of charter and private facilities. In fact, they should be even more open for that reason.

You see, to be obtuse and opaque about public education is to be not only disingenuous, but undemocratic. Every community has a public school. And in those public schools are students who want to learn. And in those schools are teachers who entered this profession because they want to make it happen. They themselves embody that perpetual motion of change. They are writing a new Emma Lazarus poem each day with each student, showing them the light of their dreams.

I don’t know who those D.C. protesters were. I don’t know why they were protesting. I do know that is their right, even if I don’t agree with it.

But the next time Secretary DeVos visits a public school, I hope those teachers welcome her with open arms. That they line up outside the school even. And that they bring her into their classroom, to show her the great things we do with students – of all walks of life – every day. And to show the Secretary how we are, indeed, “turning mirrors into windows.”

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About the Author:

Mr. Jake Miller teaches 7th grade American history teacher near Harrisburg, PA. He is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a 2017 NEA Teacher of Excellence. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, and several other periodicals, but Miller has called TER home since 2012.

2 Comments

  1. Jeremy Eugene February 11, 2017 at 5:21 am - Reply

    Lol this is pathetic

  2. Jon Bryan February 11, 2017 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Dear Mr. Miller,

    I respectfully disagree with your opinion about the protesters. From what I could see from the video, the protesters were angry parents who wanted to bar DeVos from their school. With her lack of experience and inept answers at the confirmation hearing (yes, I watched it in its entirety), I believe that the protesters were trying to protect their school and their teachers from a person who intends to harm public education. As a veteran teacher myself, we know that our profession is transparent and we are thrilled to show off the incredible things that are going on in our classrooms…the question is: does this billionaire truly care what she sees or does she have her own agenda. I truly feel it’s the latter and all our positions are on the line.

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