Just when you thought Trump’s cabinet picks couldn’t get any worse, we have Betsy DeVos shoved down our collective craw as the new Secretary of Education. What a sadistic joke. “Who is she?” you may well ask. She’s the billionaire Trump supporter whose father-in-law is the co-founder of Amway, a rich woman who has time and again worked toward defunding public schools. She and her family are the founders and financial supporters of The Action Institute, a right-wing group dedicated to ending public education. They are not only pushing vouchers and for-profit education in place of public schools, both of which have resulted in dismal failures wherever they’ve been tried, but they are promoting the repeal of child labor laws. Can you imagine?
Their blog is revealing, to say the least. Joseph Sunde, who writes for them, recently wrote, “Let us not just teach our children to play hard and study well, shuffling them through a long line of hobbies and electives and educational activities. A long day’s work and a load of sweat have plenty to teach as well.” Well, yes, it will certainly teach our children that we have just turned back the clock to an era once reviled, remembered with horror as the subject of Dickens’ novels, when poor children were nothing more than little drones to be sacrificed on the altar of commerce, dying young and living miserable, sickly lives. Is this what we’re aspiring to as a nation? Is this what any of us want for our children?
DeVos herself has said that “mining would be an exciting life for poor children.” Really? Then why did her children attend swanky private schools? Shouldn’t her children have been given the opportunity to work in coal dust hundreds of feet below ground in one of of the most dangerous jobs on the planet? Working in mines is something one might use to threaten criminals, not entice children. Just ask historians about the estimated millions of native people who died as slaves in the silver mines of South America making the Spanish conquistadores wealthy, or the families of miners lost in explosions and collapses in England and here at home in coal country. Well, then, perhaps we should just turn the kids out with a short hoe in the heat of the summer for a refreshing 14 hour day of strawberry cultivation, or let them discover the joys of picking cotton in the full sun.
Betsy DeVos has called for the reinstatement of child labor, calling it “a gift our children can handle.” Tell you what, Betsy. You let your children handle it. Our kids are going to attend public schools where they can still study all the regular curriculum they need to get into a good college while enjoying the discovery the joys of art and music and sports. Our children will have time to play and dream and learn, not work up “a long day’s workout and load of sweat” unless it’s running for a ball or riding a bike. The promise this nation makes to its children is measured in the opportunity provided for every child to live up to his or her full potential. Being born poor doesn’t mean that one must stay poor. Education erases class distinctions, allows each individual to rise to her highest level of ability. Perhaps that’s what people such as the DeVos family and Donald Trump fear most, that from the ranks of the poor will come the great minds and achievers of the future, and many of them may not be white or wealthy males.
This is as stunning an appointment as any we’ve heard, and we’ve heard some real doozies this week. This cabinet seem to have been picked in each case because the new heads are antithetical to the very agency which they are to lead. Certainly Betsy DeVos fits this description, and then some. We must resist this woman’s appointment and her Dickensian agenda with everything we have at our disposal. Our children deserve better, and it’s up to us to see that they get it. Resist!