Common Enemy

In rural Ohio, resistance to the DeVos brand of school reform—unregulated, profitable, hyper-partisan—isn’t hard to find…

Image result for devos weingarten van wertSince Betsy DeVos was tapped to be Secretary of Education, I’ve managed to pen close to 20,000 words about her. And now here she was, standing so close to me that I could make out the flat a’s of western Michigan in her voice. I’d made my way to tiny Van Wert, OH (pop. 10,718) so that I could be part of the long-awaited joint appearance by DeVos and American Federation of teachers President Randi Weingarten. I was expecting little in the way of drama; school visits are highly orchestrated affairs. It was dissonance I was after. DeVos’ brand of school reform—unregulated, profitable, hyper-partisan—has resistance here that extends well beyond the small group of protesters who’d gathered in the parking lot.

I’d caught up with the tour in time for what was intended to be the high point: a robotics showcase featuring students from 5th grade on up doing cool STEM-ish stuff. Members of the high school robotics team showed off their prize-winning creation, something that looked to this untrained eye, like an exercise ball with a bomb attached. Students who’d competed in the Believe in Ohio innovation competition were eager to demonstrate their inventions. A sophomore who’d come up with a screwdriver that never strips screws walked me through his design process, mentioning in passing that Believe in Ohio is being scaled back due to state budget cuts. I lurked around as DeVos talked to a group of tweens who were showing off mechanical drawings they’d designed. *We need to recruit more young ladies into STEM fields,* she told them. Here it was already: dissonance; her boss’ budget hacks away at STEM education. Continue reading →

Actions Speak Louder than Words

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos says she wants to empower teachers to make them great. Detroit teacher Stephanie Griffin isn’t buying it… 

By Stephanie Griffin
When teachers in Detroit organized sick-outs last year, we weren’t in *receive mode,* as Betsy DeVos would say, waiting to be told what to do. The protests came about because no one would listen: not the school district, not our union, not our political representatives, and not the state that has been running the Detroit Public Schools for nearly two decades, during which conditions for teachers and students have gotten progressively worse. And our protests weren’t *sponsored and carefully planned.* My school, Cass Tech, is one of the best schools in the city, but teachers here believe in solidarity, and we knew that our only hope of drawing attention to the plight of teachers and students in Detroit was to join the protests. So we joined in, along with teachers from 90 other schools, and we ended up getting national attention. Continue reading →

That Old School Spirit

I talk to Calvin College alumna Sara Moslener about why her letter in opposition to Betsy DeVos has struck such a chord among Calvin Knights (and Calvinites…)

Image result for calvin college mascotEduShyster: Your open letter to students and alumni of Calvin College, opposing the confirmation of fellow alumna Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, has now been signed by nearly 2,800 Calvin Knights. What prompted you to write the letter, and did you have any idea that it would provoke this kind of response?

Sara Moslener: Like a lot of people I’ve been feeling an urgency about becoming more directly involved in politics. To me that meant sending a letter to my two Senators here in Michigan about Betsy DeVos and her lack of concern with federal regulations, something she’s demonstrated in her previous work and at her confirmation hearing. Without those federal regulations, there’s no assurance that students with different kinds of learning needs will be served, which ends up reinforcing a social hierarchy. After I wrote the letter, I thought that maybe some other Calvin College graduates might like to sign it, and that if I could get 30, 40 or even 50 people to sign, well, that would really say something. By Monday night there were almost 1,000 signatures. Then the Calvin College newspaper got a hold of it and current students started signing on. Continue reading →

Betsy DeVos’ Alternative Facts

From Common Core to Neurocore, the right candidate for Trumpian times…

Image result for neurocore brain trainingAfter Betsy DeVos’ rocky confirmation hearing performance, she quickly became fodder for memes and late-night comic commentary. But what ya’ll are missing is that DeVos herself is in on the joke. As she prepares to take her spot in the *highest IQ cabinet ever assembled,* she’s the only cabinet member who has a real stake in raising your IQ—by 12 points. DeVos knows that in this, the age of alternative facts, no one gives a hoot about the difference between *proficiency* and *growth.* The testimonial is where it’s at. So Neurocore, the biofeedback company that she won’t be giving up on, has no research behind it. Who cares??? Neurocore changed Charles C’s brain and changed his life, and it helped football player Kirk Cousins take his game to the next level. If the plural of anecdote is data, then the plural of testimonial is franchises. To the brain rooms, reader, we’ve got qEEG data to collect and a national expansion to plan. Continue reading →

The Red Queen

The ultimate target of Betsy DeVos’ agenda isn’t teachers unions, or even the *education establishment.* It’s the Democratic Party…

Image result for vintage playing cards red queenBy the measures that are supposed to matter, Betsy DeVos’ experiment in disrupting public education in Michigan has been a colossal failure. In its 2016 report on the state of the state’s schools, Education Trust Midwest painted a picture of an education system in freefall. *Michigan is witnessing systematic decline across the K-12 spectrum…White, black, brown, higher-income, low-income—it doesn’t matter who they are or where they live.* But as I heard repeatedly during the week I recently spent crisscrossing the state, speaking with dozens of Michiganders, including state and local officials, the radical experiment that’s playing out here has little to do with education, and even less to do with kids. The real goal of the DeVos family is to crush the state’s teachers unions as a means of undermining the Democratic party, weakening Michigan’s democratic structures along the way. And on this front, our likely next Secretary of Education has enjoyed measurable, even dazzling success.

This story goes back a long ways, so settle in. We could start in the 1840’s, when the first Dutch settlers began to arrive in Western Michigan, or in 1970, when the DeVoses made their first attempt to amend the state constitution so as to allow for public funding for private, religious schools. Another obvious starting point is 1993, when then Governor John Engler called the public schools in Michigan an *educational gulag* and a *monopoly of mediocrity,* lobbing the first fusillade in a war against the state’s teachers that has never ceased. For the sake of brevity, though, I’ll fast forward to the mid-oughts, when Betsy’s husband Dick DeVos ran for governor. It was the fourth time that the DeVoses had brought their crusade to give the market and the Maker more sway over the state’s schools to the voters, and each time Mitten staters had delivered a resounding *no thanks* in response. And so the DeVoses pivoted. If they couldn’t convince voters to enact their favored policies, they’d purchase the legislature instead. Continue reading →