By Greg Drobny
“Sometimes the most vulnerable child needs a little help. Not just from a loving teacher or a loving parent, but that there is a government that stands behind her and says, ‘you matter!'”
These were the words of SEN Cory Booker from New Jersey last night during the filibuster/protest over the nomination of Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education. The filibuster represents an interesting level of opposition for a cabinet position that rarely attracts much attention. The political left has, for good or ill, come together in their insistence that DeVos is basically the worst thing that could ever happen to the world of education.
You know what? I don’t have an opinion on her one way or another. I’ll be completely honest and state that I haven’t put much research into whether or not she’s the imbecile that many are claiming (except that I did note her “grizzly bear” comment was taken wildly out of context by the media–so much for being worried about fake news, eh?). So I’m not here to convince you one way or another about her.
But what I find fascinating about all of this is how blatantly misguided much of her opposition seems to be, which appears to result from a failure to answer the real questions about education. Although I don’t know a lot about DeVos, I do know a fair bit about that subject.
Take, as an example, the quote at the top of the page from SEN Booker. That and the other statements from Senate Democrats imply a desperate need for a strong and heavy-handed government presence in the field of education. But is there any evidence whatsoever that this is a correct line of thought?
Short answer: no.
Long answer: no, with graphs, charts, and economic analysis.
For those not wanting to click on a link, here’s the short version: “progress” in education essentially flat-lined years ago. We are dumping more and more federal and state tax dollars into it every year and the results of this increase in spending is very, very clear.
Which brings us to the question that seems to be lurking underneath this protest of DeVos: why do we want to keep doing what we’re doing? Maybe she’s never been a teacher, maybe she doesn’t understand the intricacies of public schooling, and maybe she isn’t the best person for the job; but do we need another individual doing the same things they’ve been doing since 1979 when it’s not working?
Look at it this way. Let’s imagine there’s a hospital and it is run by nothing but doctors, all the way to the top. The CEO is a surgeon. But now imagine that this hospital is failing to save lives and, in the process, hemorrhaging money. Do you, A) find another surgeon after the last 10 have done the same thing, or B) maybe find someone with some expertise in business instead of medicine?
Again, it’s important to note here that I’m not defending DeVos at all. She may very well be a complete rube; I really don’t know. But what I do know is that the Department of Education is a giant sucking black hole of tax dollars that fails at the most fundamental tasks it is designed for. So maybe it’s time for something radically different?