In the December 26th issue of Time, Betsy DeVos says something impressively honest.
I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. . . Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect some things in return.
In my mind, in this one sentence (the elided section is not part of the quotation), DeVos demonstrates a fundamental and disturbing misunderstanding of the notion of public service, one that should disqualify her from public service.
You may think it naive to say that money shouldn’t buy influence and you’re probably right. I mean, if you want to pay money to have your name put on a stadium, go to it. But the reason (as I understand it) that we keep certain things public is that we consider them to basic to everyone’s life that they must be safeguarded against private, often profit-making entities, who would / could sacrifice things like equity and safety in the name of profit.
Instead, we entrust these public goods to the government. And the government, while it may have botched things in the past and be mucking them up in the present in ways that will make things more difficult in the future, entrusts them to people with the expertise to address the needs. We wouldn’t want someone who just had a lot of money to be in charge of repairing our bridges and roads, would we? We expect training, education, experience – you know, credentials.
DuVos has none. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Trump has given the job to the highest bidder. It’s a problem that we in education often have. Lots of people think they know how to run a school because they’ve been to school. (I would argue that this is especially true for those of us who teach English. “I have an opinion about how to teach reading because, you know, I can read.” This is a topic for another day.) She went to private school. She sent her kids to private school. She has not taught. She has not been a principal. Her college work was in business adminstration and political science (both potentially useful).
Look. I’m willing to talk vouchers, charters, choice, unions, Common Core, whatever. But let me, let us talk to someone who knows what she’s talking about.