Growing up in Baltimore, I was treated to an excellent education in the city’s public schools: elementary, junior high and high school. Many of my teachers and the lessons I learned from them remain with me late in life. I can still see the faces and recall the names of all but a few of them. These dedicated people prepared me well for a higher education experience and two enjoyable and productive careers, one in newspaper journalism and another as a faculty member at a respected university. Along the way, I studied side by side with people of other incomes, faiths, nationalities, skin colors, languages and cultures, beautiful experiences that prepared me for and enriched my appreciation of life in a world that is real and diverse.
Today, the public schools of my hometown have declined in quality, but they aren’t as bad as those in Detroit, not yet. I bring this up because Donald Trump, our president-elect, has his eye on Betsy DeVos, of all people, as his probable choice for secretary of education for our nation. Of all of the questionable cabinet choices Trump’s transition team is considering, this one is by far the worst. The quality of a nation’s public education system is a crucial measure of its economic health and standing in the world. What could be more important?
Yet Republicans in public office have worked hard to undermine public education for many years, at the federal, state and local levels, preferring to cater to the wishes of the privileged. A favorite way is the encouragement of charter schools, paid for by our taxes yet with limited accountability. Another is by issuing vouchers, essentially free tickets to private and religious schools, but also paid for by our taxes.
Now comes Betsy DeVos, who pushes vouchers and charters and who served on the team whose school “reforms” in Detroit were a dismal failure. Detroit’s schools now rank as the lowest of the nation’s lowest-performing schools. Betsy DeVos in charge of our nation’s education?
What’s wrong with this picture?