At the change of classes just before 1 o’clock yesterday, there was a collective wailing and gnashing of teeth at the public school in which I teach. Teachers gathered outside their rooms to bemoan the death of the education system, and plan for what they are all going to do when they lose their jobs. This was, of course, because Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Education Secretary by the Senate. Loud, angry comments rang throughout the hallways. Teachers told their students to “say goodbye to your education kids, welcome to Trump’s America.” In addition to being despicable and untrue, this kind of hysteria is the same kind you hear from postal employees every time a conservative dares to suggest that maybe we should look into privatizing mail delivery in our country. What is playing out in front of our eyes in these Cabinet confirmations is a microcosm of what the last Presidential election was all about. People are tired of the government not using their money to serve the people. They are tired of nothing ever changing, year after year. The mere suggestion that we should even consider some other ideas in this country is met with derision, animosity, demonization, and outright character assassination. This is why a majority of Americans have an underlying feeling that we never actually progress in this country. This is why we are hopelessly mired in failed programs that once played a necessary role in society, but whose well-intended objectives have either not come to fruition, or simply have just run their course. No business would continue to run an advertising program for a product that was no longer wanted or needed. That would be insanity. Not to mention immoral to waste money that could otherwise go toward growing said business that hundreds, or thousands, of employees are depending on to feed their families.
The American public education system in its present form is only about 150 years old. To even suggest that we could possibly have perfected it after such a short time, to the point where suggesting any further changes are tantamount to sacrilege, borders on complete stupidity. That is especially true when you factor in the drastic changes to our society which have occurred over that short time period. Over the years we have put many Band-Aids on it to hold it together, but the world for which the public education system was created has moved on. Band-Aids are no longer working. Is it completely broken? No, of course it isn’t. But why can’t we even talk about making some changes to it? Liberals always accuse Conservatives of holding onto the past, and not moving forward with the times. Perhaps they are even correct about that in some circumstances. However, on this issue, it is Liberals who are desperately holding onto the past, burying their heads in the sand, and refusing to even consider that perhaps there could be a better way. Shame on you, Liberals. You need to stop posturing that you are “for children” if you’re unwilling to even consider some substantial changes that will benefit them.
The people who lament and bewail this country’s lagging test scores, decry America’s place in world education standings, and who march in droves all across the country any time a Conservative talks about injecting some accountability into the education system, will in the very same breath be completely outraged by a person who tries to do anything to try and fix the problem. Do you know who does NOT go out there and march against ideas like charter schools, vouchers, and ending teacher tenure? The parents of children who are in failing schools, that’s who. When a new charter school is opened, those parents are beating down the door to get their children in. I teach in a great school. In a perfect situation, the current education system can function quite adequately. But, in those situations where there is poverty, drugs, crime, and high birth rates paired with low marriage rates, the current education system does not cut it. It’s as simple as that. Teachers show up heavily at those protest marches. Union leaders and sympathizers show up at those marches. Wealthy people whose children are in an awesome school with awesome facilities and lots of other awesome happy wealthy kids frolicking around them, they are at those marches too. The single mother in Detroit, Atlanta, or Chicago is not there. And frankly, we should be ashamed of ourselves for putting the needs of people who might suffer some inconveniences or even need to re-think their career choice over the needs of the children of this country. How dare we tell parents of children in failing public schools that the needs of their teachers and unions are more important than the needs of their children? That is why Betsy DeVos is the right person for Education Secretary. Because she is not part of the system. The system is struggling precisely for the reason that everyone who is in charge of fixing it has an investment in keeping it the way it is. All of the insiders depend on its status quo being maintained. DeVos has no investment in the system. She has no experience in public education. Most of the reasons that liberals are so outraged by her confirmation are the very reasons that she belongs in this position. If you are going to reform something, an outsider is the perfect person to do it. It is not unreasonable to suggest that things like vouchers, charter schools, and changes in tenure should be considered as possibilities to help our nation’s education system. It is not hateful to talk about those things, it is not racist, and it is not intolerant of LGBT rights. Do you know what is hateful, racist, and intolerant? To willfully and fervently act to prevent our most vulnerable children (poor, minorities, and legal immigrants) from participating in the same American opportunities that wealthy children have. If your child is in a good school, that’s great. Guess what? That school is not going to change. Your school is not going to suddenly get worse. No one in their right mind believes that every single school in the country is broken. However, if your child is in a failing school, and those failing policies are being protected by powerful unions, that school is the one that will be targeted for change and re-tooling. As it should be.
If there is one thing we as Americans should be able to come together around, and throw out our petty partisan squabbles over, it’s our children’s future. If you are an unnecessary bureaucrat in the bloated Education Department and may lose your job, I’m sorry. If you are a teacher who may lose some of your perks and benefits, I’m sorry. If you are a teacher who may lose your job, and need to relocate or find a new career, I’m sorry for you as well. If you are an administrator who spends your day dreaming up new ways not to hurt our children’s feelings, I’m even sorry for you. Yes, bad, incompetent, or just plain ole lazy teaches should be nervous. You can all go ahead and march till you are blue in the face. The rest of you should get the hell on board, and let’s try to work together to fix this problem. The education system in America is not broken, but it is old and outdated. For the love of God, the reason we all go to school from September to June is so kids can be available during harvest time to work on the farm. How many of our poor, under-performing, can’t-string-a-series-of-words-together-to-create-a-coherent-sentence inner city kids are spending their summers harvesting corn and okra?
All we are asking for is the privilege of being allowed to simply consider other options. We know that not all of them are perfect solutions. Some of those options may even bring financial hardship to people currently in the education system. As I said, I am one of those people. So be it. The farmer who stayed mired in the past and did not move forward technologically faced financial hardship. The car manufacturer who did not seek to satisfy its customer’s needs faced financial hardship. The self-employed photographer who did not upgrade to digital format faced financial hardship. That’s how it is. Liberals love to call themselves “progressives.” The very definition of progress requires some things to be left in the past. There is nothing at all “progressive” about the Liberal stance on education. It is a stance of preserving the status quo, preserving their union affiliations, and preserving their own power. In fact, it’s “regressive.” In a follow up article, I will be addressing each of the three mentioned “radical changes” Devos’s confirmation is a good step towards, as well as why they are so important for the children we claim to care about.
Put your money where your mouth is Liberals. Stop demonizing anyone with ideas that challenges a system that is failing millions of your so-called “base.” Stand up for the people who you claim need you to protect them. Tell them that union bosses, inflated salaries, unnecessary bureaucrats, and an antiquated system guaranteeing a job for life does not take precedence over the lives of their children. Do it, and do it now, or this will have been the first of many elections where the country rises up and denounces you and your policies… On second thought, just sit there and continue to spit on the less fortunate in our society by refusing to move forward in an honest dialogue. Dig your own graves. We’ll take it from here.
Step Into The Right’s Managing Editor remains anonymous for professional purposes. He is working towards his PhD in American History, and is a professor of History, Government, and Economics.