By Coral Nafziger
School kind of sucks.
After teaching for about a decade, I got tired of the suckiness. That’s why I’m in community college in my 30s pursuing a new career — I love teaching, but wasn’t able to find a way to function in America’s ridiculous educational system.
We are on our way to a new president, and with that comes a new Secretary of Education. President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Betsy DeVos for this role. She is all about education reform, which is wonderful because our school system is a mess, and has a lot that needs to be changed.
Right now, students, teachers and administrators spend so much time jumping through hoops that actually learning stuff has become less and less of a priority.
In my short teaching career, there were three different sets of standards teachers had to work with. We devoted an obnoxious amount of time learning to use each set of standards and revising lessons to meet them. Very quickly, though, each set was revealed to be ineffective, they were scrapped, and the process started over with new standards.
The most recent set of standards are the Common Core, which are pretty much garbage. You might think a Google search for a vocabulary word that yields zero results indicates that the vocabulary word is too obscure to be required — you’d be wrong, according to the people who put together the Common Core.
DeVos tweeted about the Common Core, “I am not a supporter — period.”
I am glad we will have a Secretary of Education who is acknowledging a couple of big problems. However, it would be way better if she had some clue about how to fix them — which DeVos doesn’t.
According to a recent New York Times opinion piece by Tulane University professor, Douglas N. Harris, “As one of the architect of Detroit’s charter school system, she is partly responsible for what even charter advocates acknowledge is the biggest school reform disaster in the country.”
DeVos champions charter schools and voucher systems, which allow her to say wonderful things, such as when she told Philanthropy magazine in 2013 that success for her will be when, “All parents, regardless of their zip code, have had the opportunity to choose the best educational setting for their children.”
Another way to look at it, though, is that she is supporting programs that take funds from already struggling public schools, and puts them into charter schools, which sometimes work, but sometimes do worse than their public counterparts. Add on to that one of the factors linked with failing charter schools is lack of oversight, which was a characteristic of DeVos’ disaster in Detroit.
The charter schools and vouchers DeVos proposes would be great if there were a guarantee that everyone involved would be looking out for our kiddos. But we have a billionaire president-elect — who declared bankruptcy to avoid taxes — appointing another billionaire who plans to take money from public schools and wants for us to have faith that the people she gives it to will use it to benefit our society rather than their own bottom line.
It sounds to me like some reverse Robin Hood B.S. of the rich robbing the poor.
Trump, DeVos and the rest of the new cabinet seem to think that our status quo is broken, and the best way to fix it is to completely destroy it and then create a new, privatized version. If they are able to accomplish this with our public school system, it will end up benefitting people who are already rich to the detriment of everyone else, especially children.
A small part of me wants to go back into education and try to fight from the inside. Much more than that, though, I want to to be as far away from schools as possible when DeVos comes in like a wrecking ball.