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Betsy DeVos
Betsy DeVos
Betsy DeVos
Elisabeth Dee "Betsy" DeVos, born January 8, 1958, is an American businesswoman, philanthropist, and politician who is currently serving as the 11th United States Secretary of Education under the Trump Administration. DeVos is a member of the Republican Party known for her advocacy of school choice, school voucher programs, charter schools, and ties to the Reformed Christian community. | Betsy Devos, Secretary Of Education, Politician, Blackwater, Erik Prince, Republican, Businesswoman,

A breath of fresh air in a stale system

I grant you DeVos was an interesting choice for Secretary of Education. But consider this. It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. It's also interesting that in politics, we think we want something different, but we vote for the same politics, just with a different label, election after election. Do we not? And then we wonder why, or get angry because, nothing changes. Enter 2016. Full stop. We the people got fed up enough to elect someone who is most definitively not a politician. In fact, President Trump is a consummate businessman. He's probably the most human man to step foot in the Oval in years, possibly in my lifetime, which is at the same time scary and intriguing. Trump is very good at getting things done, at saying then doing, which is new to many of us. Does he move too fast sometimes? Yes, but he made promises to the American people and, shocker of shockers, he's keeping many of them. Personally, I like that, even if I don't necessarily agree with every choice. So, when it came to his nominating one Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, many heads turned. Teachers and teachers unions were apoplectic...what the what?! Among the arguments against her, she's never been a teacher, an educator, she's never written an IEP, she's never done a lesson plan, she doesn't know the fine details of this Title or that rule. Consider this for just a moment...what if she's not meant to?? What if that's OK?

I don't know anyone, on the right or the left, who thinks things are fine in the realm of American education, specifically public education. In fact, most people, be they parents, educators, politicians, or observers, agree that we have a mess on our hands. You can't fix a problem til you admit it exists, yes? What if DeVos's role is to fix that in a most unconventional way?

As I've said in previous pieces I've written, I'm approaching things from a curious point-of-view. Trump is our president. Whether we like it or not is irrelevant. Even if you impeach him, Mrs. Clinton is nowhere in the line of succession so, onward. Let's discuss why Ms. DeVos is an excellent, if unconventional choice, to lead the Department of Education.

Decentralization

What if, instead of doing what we've always done, we do, Ms. DeVos does, something different? What if she scrutinizes what's under the federal umbrella and puts what can go back to the states, back in the hands of each state? What if only what must be federal stays federal? Federal education grants, for example. What if the states get to be trusted with more when it comes to educating their students? I'd rather have education choices, plans, how to teach children, be they mine or anyone else's, in local hands. After all, don't parents and teachers know best how their students learn? Policy ought not be made by bureaucrats in D.C. but by those on the front line. The less government involvement in education, the better. And, if DeVos' confirmation as Secretary of Education is what it took to wake up sleeping communities, educators, and parents, good on it! Ms. DeVos has promised to shrink the governmental impact on our nation's schools and it's past time that happen!

Rewarding Effectiveness NOT Seniority

Way too many teachers are teaching because they have seniority and tenure, as opposed to because they're excellent, effective teachers. I happen to agree with Ms. DeVos who was quoted as saying, "Teaching is hard. It takes a lot of skill. Not everyone who tries can do it well. We need to admit that and act accordingly. We should reward and respect great teachers by paying them more, and we should stop rewarding seniority over effectiveness." I remember back in 2011, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis, being asked by a reporter about protecting teachers who can't teach, which at the time was something around 35% of CTU teachers. Her response was that the union stands with all of their teachers...I would argue that you can't be for the children and the teachers in the same breath. I know many teachers, including my sister, and all are without a question, there for their students. In no other profession are bad performers as protected as teachers, who are on the front lines of educating our children! That must change!

Money Follows the Student

I'm in favor of every student getting the very best education possible for them. What if a parent would love to send their children to a private, charter, or virtual school but it's out of their budget? Do we say "tough luck!" and force education that doesn't work for them on them, or do we open up possibilities for that child, encourage innovation and create choice?

What Works for the Student

I am open to the possibility that I'm wrong, but the way I see it, the more options the better in education. The question should be, "what is the best option available to me and my child?" followed closely, or possibly superseded by, "what method or space would be best suited to my child's learning?" Ms. DeVos believes in an open system that includes traditional public schools, virtual and online schools, home schooling and charter schools, among other options. Isn't it interesting that we embrace change and innovation, up to and including 3D printing and getting people up and into physical therapy within 24 hours of major surgery in the medical field, for example, but we seem to be terrified of anything that grows, challenges, innovates or uplifts in the field of education. Why is that? Our education system needs to re-focus on what works for the students it serves, which Ms. DeVos seems committed to.

New Ways of Learning

Why don't we encourage innovations in learning and teaching? Why don't we teach to the student instead of the test? Why don't we ask teachers for their input on evaluating them? I talk to many teachers and the common threads are too many meetings, not enough freedom to teach, great teachers are not recognized while substandard ones are kept and important, underlying issues like poverty are swept under the rug. What if we talked about those things? What if we, for real, asked 'what is the biggest impediment to your being able to give your kids the best education possible?' Are we afraid of the answers?

Say what you want about Donald Trump, he's not afraid to take risks, and he's certainly not seeking yours or my approval. I think that's a good thing, actually. Innovation happens when people take risks and think "I might fail, but at least I tried right?" We've stopped trying in education. I would argue that the choice of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education is in itself innovative. Fresh eyes, fresh perspective, a lack of book experience, fresh air in a very important but stalled, stale sector of our society are just what's needed, and not a moment too soon. We ought be brave enough to dig into education, see where we can innovate and uplift. What can we eliminate? I feel like innovation is hailed everywhere but in education. Even in smaller cities, police use technology to meet so they don't have to come into a central point by car and then go back out to their assigned areas. The medical profession sees advancements in technology and innovation daily. We can communicate and work via the internet with colleagues from around the world. We find out about just about everything as it's happening, as if we were there. So why are we scared of innovation in education? Why? Betsy DeVos isn't afraid to ask questions, upset the apple cart, and I believe that makes her an excellent, if unconventional choice, for Secretary of Education.

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Updated Apr 24, 2017 7:34 AM EDT | More details

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