Home > Uncategorized > Jeff Bryant’s Assessment of Betsy DeVos’ 60 Minutes Interview Underscores Her True Agenda: Politics Trumps Education

Jeff Bryant’s Assessment of Betsy DeVos’ 60 Minutes Interview Underscores Her True Agenda: Politics Trumps Education

March 15, 2018

In Jeff Bryant’s op ed column that appeared in yesterday’s Common Dreams, he captures Betsy DeVos’ world view in one sentence:

Many critics of DeVos understand her animosity toward public education, and accordingly challenge her grasp of facts, question her leadership abilities, lampoon her gaffes, and take issue with her education agenda.

The problem is, DeVos does not have an education agenda. She has a political agenda.

After observing Ms. DeVos in action over the past year, I fear that her lack of depth in public education leads many to underestimate Ms. DeVos’ political instincts. Like many politicians, it appears that Ms. DeVos knows how to carefully frame the answer to questions posed by interviewers. Mr. Bryant for example, calls her on her oft quoted “gaffe” in the 60 Minutes interview:

In the much-written-about 60 Minutes interview of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos by CBS reporter Lesley Stahl there was a telling exchange when Stahl queried DeVos on whether she had visited any “bad schools.” DeVos replied, “I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.” But DeVos has visited an underperforming school—only she called it a “a shining example.”

The school, which will be closed at the end of the school year due to poor academic performance, was the Excel Academy Public Charter School, an all-girls charter in Washington, D.C. First Lady Melania Trump and Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan accompanied DeVos on the visit in 2016. Trump called the charter school “an exceptional example.”

Unlike most pundits who overlooked this un-intentional visit to a failing school, Mr. Bryant flags it and uses it as evidence that Ms. DeVos doesn’t care about failing schools at all:

D.C. is chock full of charter schools, and DeVos, a big advocate for charters, could have cherry picked a better performing one. Obviously, she didn’t know about the school’s academic performance then, and doesn’t know about it now. I would also contend she doesn’t care.

I’m not so sure that Ms. DeVos doesn’t know about the school’s failure NOW, because when I read the of her use of the word “intentionally” it seemed like a studied phrase. Unlike many who criticize Ms. DeVos, I don’t doubt Ms. DeVos intellect any more than I doubt her blind faith in the power of the marketplace. Like many true believers, though, Ms. DeVos is unwilling to accept any information that contradicts the narrative she adheres to as part of her faith. She is not unintelligent, she is ignorant in the true sense of the word: she ignores any and all information that contradicts her political world view. In that respect, she is no different than any of the “reformers” who believe in the magic of the marketplace, the magic of technology, the magic of grit, and the magic of a meritocracy. Her agenda is driven by politics… but, even worse, it is driven by blind faith in the “invisible hand” of unregulated capitalism… and that blind faith requires that she not care about facts that contradict her belief.

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