Friday, January 13, 2017

More Baloney in Support of DeVos

This week, it's often looking as if the postponement of Betsy DeVos's confirmation hearing was so that she could round up a few more supporters.

So here comes former Michigan Governor John Engler, the guy who helped start the process of busting up public education in Michigan.

Engler opens with a nifty observation:

America doesn't need any more fights around education.

Yeah, I'm looking better every day, amiright?

By which I can only assume that he means, "Y'all need to shut up, sit down, and do as your told. Fall in line and stop stirring up trouble." What other reason can the need for less fighting lead one to conclude that a good choice for Educhief is someone who has dealt with disagreement by threatening and stomping on those who disagree with her? But then, Engler's current job as president of the Business Roundtable gives him a particular perspective on these issues:

Business leaders are intently focused on promoting creative approaches that will raise the performance of our K-12 students — making them and the entire U.S. economy more competitive for decades to come. 

Baloney. Business leaders have often been spectacularly dim about the purpose of public education (spoiler alert: it is not to manufacture a deep pool of meat widgets to serve corporate needs or desires).

Thankfully, as a businesswoman and entrepreneur, Ms. DeVos has been singularly focused on accountability and results — exactly what our education system needs.

When has Betsy DeVos ever been a businesswoman? Her father was a businessman. Her brother was an entrepreneur. Her father-in-law was a businessman, of sorts. But what business has Betsy ever run? Entrepreneur? What new business has she ever started? What new business idea  did she launch? DeVos is a billionaire heiress who married a billionaire heir, and together they have leveraged their fortune into political clout by setting up lobbying groups and buying (and threatening) legislators. (For a detailed and disturbing account of all of this, read this hot-off-the-internet piece from Jennifer Berkshire, and see what a family of rich folk can do to turn an entire state into a one-party fiefdom.)

Engler has other slabs of baloney to share. The false assertion that Detroit's charters have been successful. The odd notion that DeVos, who spent millions defeating accountability measures, is somehow an accountability hawk. And Engler is going to repeat that DeVos is out to serve all students without providing any actual evidence.

Jeb! Bush wants to speak up for her as well. Unsurprising, because they are also old reformy buddies, fans both of privatizing schools for fun and profit as well as trying to crush teachers unions the better to cripple the Democratic party in their state.

Bush wants us to know that DeVos is a "champion of families, not instistutions." He feels that DeVos is a victim of two "false narratives" about school choice.

Bush says that one falsehood is that charters are hostile to pubic schools, but that's not so. Which is... fanciful indeed. Rather "the choice movement seeks flexibility for putting children m the right learning environment, embracing all high-quality providers." So our new marketing slogan is that charters provide flexibility, not a "rescue" from the "failing public schools"? Bush may want to clue some of his chartery brethren in to this so they can stop reading from the old marketing script.

The other alleged falsehood is that charters weaken public school, but hey-- in Florida, public schools have gotten way more awesome since charters started opening up-- an absolutely insupportable assertion since any number of factors could explain the 'improvement" in Florida schools. And really-- why talk about Florida when we can talk about Michigan, the state where DeVos mostly got her way and disaster ensued?

But if you don't believe Jeb, well, here's his mom. Yes, Barbara Bush has also come out in support of DeVos.

Bush is a big fan of literacy, and she wants to toss out that old correlation about third grade reading and later success, only like most everyone who trots that out, she doesn't get the difference between correlation and causation, so she's going to praise DeVos for Michigan's stupid third grade reading retention law which says that students can't advance to fourth grade until they pass the Big Standardized reading test.

Betsy DeVos has helped pass reforms to drive gains in literacy.  

Sure. Call it that. I call it bullying eight year olds. Also note that we're applauding a private citizen for getting legislation through a state government, as if that's a good thing. And Grandma Bush tosses out this old chestnut:

I also believe Mrs. DeVos has the right priorities on important issues such as school choice, early childhood development and accountability in education. I have worked with Mrs. DeVos’ advocacy organizations for years and I know that her commitment to children runs deep. She believes passionately that children should have access to high performing schools regardless of their race, income or zip code. That is why she has fought valiantly to give parents of at-risk children the right to send their kids to charter and private schools when the public school system is letting them down.

All children should NOT have "access" to high performing schools. Every passenger on the Titanic had "access" to a lifeboat, but only a few got to ride in one (or on a door). All children should have a good school. All children should be in a good school. Why the hell is the formulation always, "We think this school si failing, and that's unfair to the students in it, so we're going to rescue 5% of those children and do nothing to help the rest, including doing nothing to improve the school we're leaving them in." How is that a solution??!!

There are no, says Ma Bush, quick easy one-size-fits all solutions to school issues (except, I guess, charters and choice, which fix everything magically). But DeVos will send stacks of money out to the states where magical advances will be made, somehow. And then dear, sweet, steely-eyed, grey-haired Ma Bush let's go with this line--

I believe Mrs. DeVos is an educator at heart. 

No. No, she is not. Not at all. Do you know how I know? Because people who are educators at heart go out and become actual educators! They get the training and then they become actual teachers, in actual schools. That's what people who are educators at heart do. But hey-- if I tell you that I'm really a doctor at heart, will you let me operate on you or become surgeon general?

Bush wraps up with some vague nonsense about the "powerful forces resistant to change" and go back and read Berkshire's piece again if you want to see what powerful forces resistant to change  look like,  because mostly they look like unelected billionaires who buy up all the machineryu of government and stomp on anyone who tries to change the path that those plutocrats laid out for the entire state.

I suppose over the next few days we'll get more of this. It's odd because, truthfully, I don't think there's much chance that DeVos won't be confirmed. Mind you, she is spectacularly unqualified in every conceivable way, from her lack of organizational and administrative experience to her complete ignorance of public education to her spirited embrace of an armful of failed and foolish policies. Really, nobody deserves to be Secretary of Education less than Betsy DeVos. But this is Trumpistan, and the Senate hardly ever chases away cabinet nominees, and Being Unqualified is the new black, so I expect she'll be accepted. I just don't want it to be cheap or easy.

So by all means, DeVos supporters-- keep popping up to say foolish things, because a DeVos USED will cost US education tremendously for the foreseeable future, and you might as well be on the record when the bill comes due.


  1. Typical Republican lies stated as facts, and "you have to believe me because I'm an Important Person, and an Important Person wouldn't lie to you, right?" SOP starting with Bush/Cheney.

  2. (Sorry, but Arne isn't looking any better. There's no perspective that can make bad reach the status of better.)