DeVos’ latest interview validates her critics

Sam Rosenblatt, Opinions Editor

The White House seems to act as a revolving door of new faces exiting as quickly as they entered. Flynn, Bannon, Priebus, Spicer. Price, Porter, Hicks, Tillerson. The list goes on and on. Despite this seemingly incessant turnover, perhaps the most controversial official remains in office.

Earlier this month, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appeared on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” Her interview did little to quell her out-of-touch image. In fact, the interview may have enlarged this perception.

DeVos’ main platform is school choice, arguing that families should have access to a variety of options for their children’s education rather than the district’s public schools. Many take issue with this policy, because it suggests diverting children from failing public schools rather than addressing the problems within such schools. That neither DeVos nor her children have ever attended or worked in a public school feeds the perception that she is merely a plutocrat with little knowledge of public education.

In her interview with “60 Minutes” anchor Leslie Stahl, DeVos struggled to answer basic questions about the progress of the education system since she took office. For instance, Stahl asked DeVos whether public schools in Michigan (DeVos’ home state) had improved after she had cited that school choice programs led to the improvement of public schools in other states. “I don’t know,” DeVos said. “Overall, I can’t say that they have all gotten better.”

Following this vague response, Stahl pressed DeVos on whether she had visited some of the struggling schools in Michigan or elsewhere to determine what could be improved upon. “I have not… I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming” DeVos said.

“Maybe you should,” Stahl said in response.

“Maybe I should. Yes,” Devos said.

Much of the interview followed a similar script. DeVos gave ambiguous answers to questions about prevalent issues such as gun control in relation to Parkland students, and how to treat sexual assault accusations. She did little to increase public confidence in her ability to do her job.

Plain and simple, Betsy DeVos should not have a cabinet level position. Her “60 Minutes” interview confirms this point.

Though DeVos has only served as of Secretary of Education for a little over a year, her constant public gaffes and lack of understanding of the public education system or its progress should disqualify her for the job.

One could argue that the media tries to trap her with difficult questions that make her look uninformed, or that she has good ideas but is not a good public speaker. However, both serve as inadequate explanations for her poor public image. In regards to the former, DeVos has not just appeared uninformed to the media, she also has done so in front of the United States Senate. During her 2017 confirmation hearings, she struggled to answer basic questions about her understanding of the public education system. Among many memorable moments from this hearing, DeVos gave a tone-deaf answer to Senator Chris Murphy (who represents the Sandy Hook victims in Newtown, Connecticut) about carrying guns in schools. DeVos failed her test in front of the Senate, a body far more important than any media outlet.

To the latter argument, if DeVos isn’t good at public speaking in general, then she should not have entered public service. Being able to address the public and answer relevant questions about her area of responsibility is within her job description. DeVos has held her post for over a year. By now, she should have figured out an effective way to spread her message without appearing out-of-touch and incompetent.

It’s important to remember that while the federal government has an important say in public education, states also have a lot of control over policy, which explains the large discrepancies in school performance among states. Nevertheless, DeVos has the power to implement sweeping changes. She already rescinded former President Barack Obama’s controversial policy that allowed transgender students to use bathrooms of the gender with which they identify. She has also reshaped education debates to focus on the potential impacts of school choice, which could be the first step in implementing her vision of education policy.

Although I disagree with her school choice platform, I am open to hearing arguments that support the success of such programs. Still, I do not trust DeVos in the cabinet, because she has consistently demonstrated a lack of expertise in a job that requires it. Until DeVos can provide tangible results or communicate a better understanding of our education system, we should be wary of her leadership.

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