Generally, when education secretary Betsy DeVos makes a public appearance, you get a rehash of the same old talking points. But put her in front of a friendly, like-minded audience, and she may just let her hair down and let 'er rip, giving us all a clearer picture of what she's really got going on upstairs.
That just happened this week as DeVos made an appearance at Hillsdale College. Hillsdale College, a super-conservative, uber-Christianish, Euro-centric college in Michigan, known for its strong resistance to federal anything and special treatment for any non-white non-traditional folks. They love Jesus and the free market with notable zeal. They have ties to both the Macinac Center and the Heartland Institute. They have a Charter School Initiative with a whole raft of charter schools (mostly "classical"), and a teacher prep program. In short, these are Betsy DeVos's people.
DeVos's prepared remarks open with nods to Hillsdale's history of awesomeness, with special attention to how smart they've been to avoid getting help from the feds. And that lets her pivot to her current fave point--that the Covid crisis has "laid bare" all the Bad Stuff of US public education.
"Sadly," she continues, "too many politicians heed the shrill voices of the education lobby and ignore the voices of children, parents, teachers and health experts who are begging to get our students back to learning." Not Betsy-- she's a fighter, fighting for students and parents and against anyone who wants the government to be "parents to everyone."
Now she pivots to world history, and a chapter that is actually new--and revealing.
DeVos wants to talk about a guy long associated with her beliefs, named Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper was a 19th century Dutch theologian/politician who also founded his own newspaper. He was a staunch opponent of modernism in theology, aka the idea that the interpretation of scripture should take modern science, knowledge and ideas into account. He's the granddaddy of Dutch Reformed Church. In the Netherlands, he put together a Christian political party, and pushed the idea of "common grace," the idea that Christian faith should permeate every aspect of daily life. The State, he asserted, must take into account the Bible. Christ should be the Lord over nations, not just the church. And the government should not discriminate between funding secular institutions and religious ones. I am seriously short-handing the work of a guy who was an extraordinarily prodigious writer, but you see why DeVos is a fan.
DeVos, like others, sees Kuyper as a guy who stood up to those modern ideas that came out of the French Revolution (sometimes we call them the Enlightenment). There's some debate about whether or not we can lump Kuyper in with the Dominionists, the folks who think Christians are supposed to take charge of society's institutions until Christ returns, but here's what DeVos says to the Hillsdale crowd:Kuyper asserted that the way forward was to separate education from partisan politics. He said that “the family, the business, science, art, and so forth are all social spheres which do not owe their existence to the state and which do not derive the law of their life from the state.” And so, Kuyper argued, “the state cannot intrude [into these spheres] and has nothing to command in their domain.”
The “Washington knows best” crowd really loses their minds over that. They seem to think that the people’s money doesn’t belong to the people. That it instead belongs to “the public,” or rather, what they really mean—government.
Tragically, it’s because no one has taught them differently. And worse, some have been indoctrinated to believe not in themselves, but in government.
And now, DeVos is going to go Full Trump-- They're coming for you!!
That’s taken right from the old Marxist playbook. It admits the goal is to “[do] away with private property and [educate] children on a communal basis, and in this way [remove] the two bases of traditional marriage.”
Even Marxists know the family is it. The family is at the center of our economy, of education, of culture—and it’s under attack today.
Let’s begin by reasserting this fundamental truth: the family is the “first school.” If we recognize that, then we must also reorder everything about education around what the family wants and what the family needs.