Tuesday night, because they didn’t have the votes to sink her nomination, Democrats decided to stay up all night protesting Betsy DeVos’s likely 51-50 confirmation as U.S. education secretary.
Now, there are many legitimate tough questions senators in neither party have asked DeVos to answer about this potential position of public trust. They chose instead to run her nomination according to a false but predictable storyline: The people protesting DeVos just hate her because she’s anti-union. Only far lefties oppose her.
In fact, a bipartisan coalition of grassroots Common Core analysts and activists has raised many legitimate questions about her as well, that no senator has seen fit to raise on their behalf. That would complicate the education policy narrative of both parties, in which everyone agrees on federal micromanagement of public schools and that the purpose of public education is to create a planned economy. That’s what Common Core is, and both Republicans and Democrats support it because it matches their governing philosophy.
The ruling class just quibbles over the details of who does this better. They prefer to alternately feature ridiculous misstatements of DeVos’s comments about grizzly bears or pillory those misstatements than consider or ask her about the major and crucial education policy disagreements between those running education in our country and those living under their rule and paying for their constant mismanagement. As President Trump has thundered, “For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.”
Although President Trump promised us he’d end Common Core and bring something new to the table with federal education policy, the people he and his staff have been moving into office while DeVos’s nomination has pended would fit right in with a Jeb Bush presidency, Obama presidency, or George W. Bush presidency. They are Common Core supporters and career bureaucrats, ruling class technocrats, not game-changers, not people who are likely to fulfill Trump’s inauguration promise that “the people [will become] the rulers of this nation again.”
Democrats are going ape on DeVos after confirming a far more controversial Rex Tillerson because, while she is far more mainstream and in touch with Americans than they are on education policy (school choice is widely supported), if they lose their grip on the minds of American children and the billions taxpayers are forced to pay for an education system that does not serve us, their party and political coalition are in serious trouble.
Leftist control over education, from preschool through college and all the entry points thereto such as teacher credentialing and advancement, is a prime contributor to leading Republicans’ inability to think through education policy. Republican leaders themselves have almost all attended progressive education institutions and thus been acculturated to be comfortable with bureaucracy and central planning. Their minds are held captive to their ideological opponents. As Angelo Codevilla pointed out in 2010, well before the Trump train hit, “The ruling class of both parties was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits.”
School choice offers parents the possibility to opt their children out of a system of education that, while it is remarkably substandard at producing contributing citizens, is remarkably adept at producing activist drones for progressive causes, and forcibly redirecting millions in public dollars towards unnecessary and even counterproductive public employees who reliably vote and agitate Left, and to unions and other leftist organizations that funnel that money directly back into the Democratic Party.
Monopoly-style public education is a direct contributor to the prevalence of ineffective teaching methods and dumbed-down, anti-American curricula, because a monopoly frees organizations from having to perform objectively and visibly well to earn their pay. Uneducated people fuel big government because they cannot govern themselves. This is a basic realization the American founders considered foundational to the distinct way of life they bequeathed us. It’s because DeVos represents this opportunity to destabilize their ideological grip on the nation that Democrats have made her the first prominent target of their ire.
Now, DeVos, like many of the “education reform” types she has spent her adult life listening to and funding, may be prone to a dangerous feature of school choice: using it to convert independent schools and modes of schooling into versions of the regulation-strangled schools choice exists to provide parents an alternative to. This would happen by getting private schools, homeschoolers, and independent providers such as charters and course choice operators hooked on government funds, then using those funds to shoehorn increasing regulations into their unique models until these alternative arrangements are nothing other than public schools: sclerotic, bureaucratic, ineffective, politicized, monopoly-run education. In other words, it would take the small ecosystem of self-governing education options and convert it into yet more dependent, monopolized outposts of central planners.
The fastest way to make this happen would be to create a federal voucher program, because that would create a highway towards fully nationalizing American schools. Talk about monopoly. There ends any opportunity to reverse America’s transition from republic to empire.
We don’t know where DeVos comes down on this policy issue or any other, because our representatives failed to represent our interests by asking her for details when she was up for pre-confirmation grilling. I can’t decide which of these leading indicators is more indicative of her proclivities, then: The Bush clones moving into the White House, or the fact that unions hate her. I tend to lean on the former, since unions will hate anybody. And it burns me up to realize that not one of the Republican senators on the education committee cared enough about this crucial issue to clarify her position.