Yes, Betsy DeVos has cited protection against grizzly bears as justification for guns in schools. Yes, DeVos has said that she would support Trump should he seek to ban gun-free schools. Yes, our angel mother Elizabeth Warren essentially wiped the floor with her at a Senate confirmation hearing on January 17th. No, DeVos does not understand the difference between proficiency and mastery. Nor does she understand the workings of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Or the importance of a secular, public education. Or accountability. Or the necessity of upholding the Department of Education’s 2011 guidance on protection against sexual assault in schools. In short: of course, DeVos is dangerous. Yet despite the intense and near-constant media and public outcries that condemn her — and her confirmation as Education Secretary — the heart of DeVos' offensiveness still seems objectively more benign than that of Trump’s other cabinet secretaries.
This is to say that her department has objectively less power than others now headed by other cabinet newcomers; the federal government affords less than 9 percent of all spending to education. Regarding DeVos’ plan for a “private-voucher subsidy system,” costing $20 billion annually, New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait argues, “... Republicans are unlikely to finance a costly new scheme like that — they prefer tax cuts — and even if they did, it would still be a drop in the national education bucket. Education is overwhelmingly controlled and financed at the state and local level.”
And according to Chait, Republicans favor local control over education; upper middle-class suburban parents typically reject reforms that jeopardize property-based school systems, which allow them to select for more exclusive school districts by living in more expensive, highly-taxed areas. So although the notion of DeVos as particularly dangerous is perpetuated by influential liberals like Sen. Charles Schumer and Vanity Fair film critic Richard Lawson (among many others), perhaps it is time for focus to fall on the likes of Rick Perry, Ben Carson, Rex Tillerson, Tom Price, Steve Mnuchin, Jeff Sessions, Andrew Pudzer, or Scott Pruitt.
DeVos’ threats on public education are simplistic in their ideology and difficult to achieve. Though her confirmation is discouraging, it is time for middle-class Democrats to mobilize against Sessions, who attacks minority rights, chaired Trump’s national security advisory committee, and continues to fight even legal immigration; Price, who leads the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare and separate over 20 million Americans from their insurance; Pudzer, who doesn’t seem to even want to sell his holdings in privately-owned CKE restaurants; or Pruitt, Trump’s EPA pick, who is already corresponding with fossil fuel backers.
The allocation of liberal opposition of Trump’s cabinet picks to Betsy DeVos suggests that while Democrats prioritize the growth and protection of their children, Americans may also still fear a woman in power. DeVos’ cluelessness soars to egregious, almost unbelievable levels, yet the motivation for such an intense liberal reaction against her may be rooted in DeVos’ taunting manifestation of the conservative notion that women are incompetent leaders.
Top Photo: salon.com
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Olivia Loperfido is an English and psychology major at New York University's College of Arts and Sciences, and the junior editor of NYU's Mercer Street (2017-'18). She enjoys spending time with her dogs and tortoise, watching RuPaul's Drag Race, and contacting her state representatives. Follow her on Instagram here and contact her via email here.