CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.



ICYMI: Post Turkey Edition (11/27)

Posted: 27 Nov 2016 06:57 AM PST

I briefly toyed with the idea of collecting all the articles that explain how awful Betsy DeVos will be as Secretary of Education, but it just made my computer sad, so I just picked a couple and selected some other pieces to help us all remember that there are other things to pay attention to.

Higher Education in Pennsylvania 101
William Boggs in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explains what some legislators don’t seem to understand about higher educationm

A Story That No One Will Print
Maybe this is moot now, but still worth a read. John Merrow reprints the story about She Who Will Not Be Named that nobody wanted to run. A reminder of just how awful she was.

The Data Delusion

 Okay, this actually takes us back to 2013. But it’s a good read about the ways in which education “data” leads us to believe things that just aren’t so.

Polls Convinced Me That Hillary Clinton Wouldn’t Lose: As An Education Researcher The Result Was a Wake-Up Call

 The mishandling of election data leads this education data guru to reconsider the meaning of educational data

End School Privatization

 Jamaal Bowman with a short, clear call for the end of school privatization

Michigan House’s Detroit School Bills Are Pure Garbage

 Stephen Henderson has some passionate and reality-based reactions to the Michigan legislature’s latest move to screw over the schools of Detroit. Remember– if you want to see the future of education under DeVos, just look at Michigan.

What We Can Learn About Betsy DeVos from Her Husband’s Charter School

 MarkWeber (Jersey Jazzman) takes a look at Mr. DevOs’s little side project.

Bad News Betsy

Emily Talmadge with another angle of the bad news about DeVos’s selection

Heavens to Betsy 

 Finally, Russ Walsh includes a variety of links and recommendations so that if you do want to read even more, you can. But you could also do something about this terrible idea.
How Bad Is DeVos? So Bad…

Posted: 27 Nov 2016 07:06 AM PST

 The nomination of Betsy DeVos to the post of Secretary of Education is such a bad choice that we don’t even have to talk about actual policy ideas to understand how unsuited she is for the position. Consider–

John King was a terrible choice for Secretary of Education. But John King has worked in a classroom with students and run a school, even if the classroom and school were charters. John King has held a statewide post in government as head of education in New York State. He doesn’t appear to have been very good at any of these jobs– but he has at least been exposed to what happens on all three levels so that he has at least a vague working knowledge of what goes on in those areas. He even attended public school as a child.

Betsy DeVos has none of those qualifications. She has never been a public school students and never worked as a teacher, administrator or state level education bureaucrat. Betsy DeVos is less qualified than John King.

Arne Duncan was a terrible choice for Secretary of Education. But Arne Duncan had been responsible for a major urban school system, so he had at least some vague notion of what happens in a public school system. He had political connections not because he had money to throw around, but because he was a good and loyal friend to people with bigger political profiles. Hell, he was a good basketball player, meaning he was at least exposed to the concept of teamwork and the idea of working hard to achieve a goal.

Betsy DeVos has never run an organization as sprawling and varied as an urban school district, and has no experience with any such educational system. Betsy DeVos is less qualified than Arne Duncan.

Eva Moskowitz was a terrible choice for Secretary of Education. But Eva Moskowitz built a school-flavored business from the ground up, so she has at least some vague notion of the many moving parts involved in making a school work. And while Moskowitz is by no means wealth-impaired, she has showed political savvy and an ability to make friends in high places to get her own way.

Betsy DeVos has no experience in the inner workings of a school or a business, and certainly not an organization that wants to be both. And she only knows one way to build political connections– writing checks. Betsy DeVos is less qualified than Eva Moskowitz.

She Who Will Not Be Named (ex-DC chancellor) was an unspeakably awful choice for Secretary of Education. But like Duncan, she has been in charge of a major urban school district. She has stood in a classroom and tried to teach. And She is experienced at getting other people to invest in her vision and displayed a real gift for generating positive PR, even when she doesn’t deserve any of it.

Betsy DeVos has never run a school district. She has never taught. And she has never had to convince anyone to back her idea, because she can bankroll it all herself. Nor has she ever displayed any talent for being the public PR-friendly face of anything.

All four of the above terrible, terrible choices for Secretary of Education worked their way up from a poor or middle class background, learning how to sell themselves, start an enterprise, make friends, gather influence, and just generally make their way in the world. Professionally, they have had to learn how to work other people to get what they want.

Betsy DeVos was born rich, married rich, and has never had to build influence or make a case for her own views by any method other than exercising her bank account (a bank account that she never did a lick of work to fill up in the first place). A Secretary of Education has to build influence, make a case, sell an idea, and do the political work to push across policies. DeVos has never had to do any of these things; and a Secretary of Education cannot build political clout or support by flexing her personal wealth. DeVos has ideas about education, but she has never done any of the legwork or built understanding about how to implement her ideas beyond writing a check or hiring some people to astroturf support for ideas. She has simply bought allies and bankrolled compliance; there is no reason to believe that she knows how to win agreement and cooperation from people who are not financially beholden to her. If DeVos had not been born rich, if she had not married rich, we would not be having this conversation, and she would not be a person of influence in education. DeVos is one of those masks that money puts on when it wants to walk around and do stuff; without the money, she’s an empty sack with no more importance or influence than a regular citizen, or a teacher.

The four candidates listed above are all terrible, terrible choices for the post, and yet all of them have qualifications that DeVos lacks. In fact, before we even start to discuss just how terrible and destructive her ideas about public education are, we should be talking about her complete lack of qualifications to run a federal department. She is not familiar with how schools work. She is not familiar with how large metropolitan or state systems for education work. She is not familiar with how to work with people who are not on her personal payroll.

Bottom line– even if you think that Betsy DeVos is bang-on correct in her education ideas* there is no reason at all to believe that she has any of the tools necessary to succeed as head of the US Department of Education.

Betsy DeVos is supremely unqualified, the most terrible of the terrible choices for Secretary of Education.

*in which case you are seriously deluded, but let’s skip past that for the moment