Saturday, October 6, 2018

DeVos Secret Vist To View Koch Program

Betsy DeVos visited Wichita last Monday, but it was a very quiet visit. Her online schedule shows Monday an unscheduled day, and neither the Department of Education nor the group she visited issued any news release. It was a local source-- Suzanne Perez Tobias at the Wichita Eagle-- that picked up the story.

So what did DeVos travel to Wichita to see? She traveled to Koch Industries to meet a teacher and some students from the Youth Entrepreneurs, a group founded by Charles Koch and his wife Liz in 1991. It started out as an eight week course at a Wichita high school "designed to improve the professional potential of at risk students." That's not a shocker-- the Koch brothers have been pretty clear about preferring business solutions to educational problems, as well as their desire to have schools crank out useful meat widgets for the business leaders of America. According to their annual report, the program was in 126 schools with 182 teachers working with 3,487 students.

Their foundational values are unsurprising for a Koch venture. Responsibility-- "take responsibility for your own life." Be principled-- act with respect, integrity and toleration. Knowledge-- seek and use the best knowledge. None of that low-quality knowledge. Freedom-- "respect the rightgs of others and study the links between freedom, entrepreneurship, and societal well-being." Passion-- Find fulfillment by improving lives of others. That may not sound very Kochian, but the next one does. Opportunity-- "You make your own opportunities." Sound judgment-- by which we mean using "economic thinking to create the greatest benefit while using the least resources."(Yes, that's incorrect usage.) Win-win focus-- cooperation creates value for yourself and others. It's an interesting list, a portrayal of the conflicted shore where Christian do-unto-otheriness crashes in to Ayn Randian "take care of yourself and let everyone else rot," a neighborhood where the DeVos and Koch families have long lived. I'm glad this course is only an elective.

The program notes its differences from the Junior Achievement program. YE is a yearlong elective course taught by teachers who get YE training. The program offers students and program alums the chance to earn money for a business or continuing education.

No local superintendents were informed of DeVos visit ahead of time; the teacher involved, Zac Kliewer, e-mailed to let him know that the students would be meeting Betsy DeVos on Monday. Kliewer tweeted a photo of himself, the students, DeVos, and Liz Koch on Monday, When media picked that up, well... per the Wichita Eagle:

After a reporter contacted Kliewer seeking information about DeVos’s visit, “He got a call from somebody with the Kochs, and they said, ‘We would prefer not to have any media coverage,’” Burke said.

The visit to Wichita came two days before DeVos kicked off a four-state tour entitled "Rethink School."

It's not entirely clear why the visit needed to be hush hush, nor even whether DeVos wanted to avoid association with the Kochs or vice versa. Maybe everyone was just trying to avoid that unseemly spectacle in which journalists presume to bother their betters with questions. No word from the Wichita Eagle on whether or not DeVos was attended by her high-priced security detail.

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