by Dr. Julianne Malveaux
Betsy “Devoid” (of good sense), also known as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is an aberration, an abomination, an abscess on the complexion of educational policy and equity. She has been so egregious that at least two members of Congress, Katherine Clark (D-Ma) and Mark Pocan (D_WI) have called for her resignation because of her abject indifference to young people, especially those who are Black, Brown and poor. Additionally, Ronald. J. Mason, President of the University of the District of Columbia, has written an open letter to DeVoid, challenging her interpretation of meritocracy. The letter, published in a recent issue of Diverse Issues of Higher Education, suggests that education can be a bridge to maximize human potential, but only if we are open to the contributions of every human being and especially every young person who aspires to greatness.
Instead of supporting our young people, DeVoid has attacked them. There are alarming statistics that the Obama administration attempted to deal with. Black boys are three times as likely to be suspended as their white counterparts. More disturbingly, Black girls are twelve (TWELVE) times more likely to be suspended than white girls. Why? Because Black girls have no girlhood, no presumption of innocence. We are the recipients of Afro-phobia or the fear of Black people. President Obama didn’t do much for Black folks, but he did introduce civil rights division protections for these overly suspended students. DeVoid would roll them back.
That’s not the only thing she’d roll back. She wants to change the rules on campus enforcement of sexual harassment, giving the attacker the “presumption of innocence,” and more jarringly the right for a rapist to question his (usually, could be her) attacker. And she wants to protect for-profit colleges while President Obama said that students should be protected against these predators. Understand this. These for-profit colleges only exist to take people’s student loan money. They provide little in services and even less in educational support. But DeVoid, whose family seems to benefit from their involvement in the for-profit college space, is protecting her own interest. That’s not unusual in an administration where the Presidential daughter has garnered patents with China, perhaps influencing our nation’s foreign policy.
DeVoid’s ignorance was most recently exhibited when she attempted to defend budget cuts that would affect the differently abled, including cuts to the Special Olympics, our nation’s only deaf-focused university, Gallaudet, and to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Really, DeVoid? Don’t you understand that those who are differently abled transcend political party? Don’t you know that these are folks who need special services? Ms. DeVoid’s tepid response to aggressive questioning by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) among others exhibited her unpreparedness and unfitness. We know that the man who lives in the house that Enslaved People Built is sufficiently uneducated to be clueless about this, but even he had to back up and acknowledge that cuts to the Special Olympics sent the wrong signal.
DeVoid favors charter schools over public schools and would put money into charter schools, taking it away from public schools. DeVoid is someplace past wrong on this, but that woman is doing the work she was sent to do – her job is to dismantle public education in favor of publicly supported private education. If folks want to do private schooling, that’s their business, but should public schools suffer for elitism? And should someone whose biases are so publicly visible be in charge of this? I think not.
We knew that DeVoid was unqualified when she narrowly squeaked past Senatorial confirmation, only earning it because Vice President Mike Pence cast a historical tie-breaking vote for her. Even Republicans find her out of order, out of line, unqualified, unprepared and unfit. She has spent her time in public office attacking student rights, ignoring students of color, and attacking young people who have experienced sexual assault. She is entirely consistent with the cretin who appointed her, and young people are paying for her ignorance.
Members of Congress can request the DeVoid resignation, but she is fully supported by the man who has enabled her to wreak havoc on our educational system. The blessing in her presence is that she can, perhaps, motivate our activism at the local level. More progressive activists must run for school boards. More progressive activists must reject the ways this administration is attacking education. And we must be clear that it did not start with this administration, but it is amplified and exacerbated by this administration. If we believe that education is a human right, we must resist this nonsense.
Betsy DeVoid is the tip of the iceberg that began melting when Black activists attacked school segregation in a series of lawsuits that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education. DeVoid is on the front line of a cultural war designed to sideline folks who don’t look or spend like her. Are we ready to fight back, resisting a woman who is unfit, unprepared, and unworthy of educational policy leadership?
Julianne Malveaux is an author and economist. Her latest project MALVEAUX! On UDCTV is available on youtube.com.