By Nick Amon —
The senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as the new secretary of education on Feb. 7. Though the process of her confirmation is now complete, her nomination has been under a bombardment of criticism since early January, with her confirmation requiring an unprecedented tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.
Who is DeVos? The first thing you’ll hear about DeVos are her abundant donations to Republicans and her husband’s web of business ties, but this isn’t where DeVos’ roots lie. DeVos is the daughter of Edgar Prince, a billionaire industrialist who founded a successful auto parts manufacturing company in the early 70’s. DeVos was born into money just like the man behind her nomination.
Being born into money isn’t something that should totally be frowned upon, but it is a notable point to consider when diving into DeVos’ character. If DeVos expects to be a champion of our nation’s educational system, it’s important for her to be able to connect to those who come from different socio-economic backgrounds and those who will arguably never have the same upbringings. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2013, over half of public high school students come from low-income backgrounds – something DeVos has yet to take into consideration, although she’s gladly criticized the performance of the schools these kids attend.
What’s interesting about DeVos is the lack of alternatives and solutions she provides to solve these performance issues. Simply advocating for charter schools and private schools doesn’t help the aforementioned low-income families who can’t afford to send their kids there in the first place, and it only dodges the problem of public school performance. What makes the matter even worse – DeVos has never actually attended a public school in her life. Neither have her children.
Let’s talk about her stance on higher-education issues. For instance, student loan debt? According to DeVos’ comments during her confirmation hearing, student loan debt has ballooned over “980 percent over the last eight years” – which is disastrously false. According to Federal Reserve data, student loan debt has only increased roughly 100 percent over that time span. Is student loan debt something that still needs to be addressed and solved? Of course. Should we find it troubling that the person hired for the job to solve this issue can’t even get their math straight regarding the issue? Again, of course.
Sadly, DeVos has also vowed to dismantle many parts of Obama’s legacy in terms of higher-education. This includes some of Obama’s notable efforts in terms of denying federal student aid money to for-profit colleges whose graduates underperform in terms of job acquirement, along with his crack down on investigating sexual assault claims on campus – two huge problems college students and graduates face.
Regardless of DeVos’ issues and shortcomings (which there are too many to mention), she’s our new secretary of education. Although she dodges important questions on issues such as whether or not she believes guns should be in schools by referencing hypothetical grizzly bear attacks in Wapiti, Wyoming, she still won her cabinet seat.
When you start to come to grips with the situation of DeVos and the rest of Trump’s controversial cabinet picks, it’s hard not to become apathetic towards the whole situation. Yet as citizens underneath such a painstakingly unprecedented and recklessly aimed administration, apathy is no longer a choice. At this point, bygones are bygones and it’s our job to hold these people accountable, regardless of how simple-minded and unqualified they may be.