Every day in every way our next President seems to be showing his utter and complete contempt for the America that he has been elected to lead. Nowhere is Trump's desire to tear down our nation's traditional values more evident, however, than in his cabinet and close advisor selections. The "team" that Donald Trump is assembling is a mishmash of crackpots, zealots, conspiracy theorists, billionaires, Wall Street insiders, and malcontent military leaders. In what is beginning to look like an exceptionally bad reality television show, Trump's inner-circle just keeps getting more and more bizarre.
Over the next few weeks I plan to look more closely as a few of these individuals, the ones whom I feel have the greatest potential to negatively impact our society. First up, Betsy Devos, Trump's pick to be Secretary of Education.
According to Jerry Falwell, Jr., he was actually Donald Trump's first choice for Secretary of Education. Consideration of both Falwell and Devos to head our nation's educational efforts show that Donald Trump, a man who was not educated in public schools, has no serious interest in strengthening free public education - nor perhaps even maintaining it.
Betsy Devos grew us as Betsy Prince in a very rich household in Holland, Michigan. She is a sister to Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater - the private mercenary company that Bush and Cheney relied on to carry out black ops in their Middle Eastern wars. The Prince family made its money in auto parts, and Betsy expanded her fortune by marrying into the Devos (Amway) family. Betsy and her billionaire family reportedly made donations to the Trump campaign in the seven-to-eight figure range, and they have long been financial supporters of the political shenanigans of Charles and David Koch.
Betsy Devos, whose entire education took place in private schools, seems to have trouble relating to or accepting the notion of universal public education. As an education activist in Michigan, she has championed the concepts of "charter schools," "school choice," and "educational vouchers," notions that would re-direct public money away from public schools and into private (primarily religious) schools. She is on the record as saying that education reform is "a way to advance God's kingdom," and she has noted that school choice would lead to "greater kingdom gain."
As a result of lobbying the Michigan state government and the piling on of legislative campaign donations, Michigan has one of the biggest and most loosely run charter school programs in America - schools that, in theory, give families a choice of where and how their students will be educated. In many ways it is a "white flight" program that pulls certain children out of the inner-city schools while effectively segregating lower-income students (read: students of color) into the poorer schools. But even with this overt stacking of the deck to favor children with means, the new charter schools in Michigan are performing below the levels of the public schools. Every time the state tries to pass legislation to make the new schools more accountable, people like Betsy Devos and her ilk start writing campaign donation checks to hold the true reformers at bay.
Obviously by putting Betsy Devos in charge of the U.S. Department of Education, she will have a mighty forum from which to tinker with the futures of our children through schemes to defund public (secular) education and re-direct all of that public money into schools which would expand God's kingdom. And what of the poor children left behind? Why they could go back to working in the factories, as God intended - or peddling Amway.
Universal public education is the backbone of democracy - and it must be preserved!
The United States Senate needs to stand tall in defense of public education and deny Mr. Trump his nominee to be Secretary of Education. Betsy Devos may be stinking rich, but she is totally unqualified to direct the education of America's children.