May I call you Betsy? I feel I have earned the right to this bit of familiarity. Why do I feel I have earned this right? Here’s why. The thousands of dollars I have in student loans that were acquired at a University splattered with the DeVos name is why I feel I have earned that bit of familiarity.
Betsy, I am a teacher and a (twice) graduate of Lee University. I was SO excited when I saw that you had been nominated for Secretary of Education. I asked my husband (also a Lee graduate), “Is that Betsy DeVos as in THE DeVos family?!” All I ever knew was the wonderful altruism and support of education that came from the DeVos name. It was one of the first names I heard as a scared freshman many years ago. So long ago, in fact, that Lee wasn’t even a university, yet. Just Lee College.
Betsy, I am heartbroken. I had high hopes until these hearings. I really thought that the support of education I had seen all those years ago would filter into this nomination and (at the time, hopefully) your appointment. I have kept quiet and adopted a “wait and see” approach when others were so negative about this. I seriously thought you were going to be the ace in the hole for public education. I mean, a family that was SO devoted to higher education had to believe in education, in general, right?
Betsy, it’s starting to look like I was wrong and I write this with tears in my eyes. Why have you not educated yourself on education? Public education, in particular. Why have you not taken the time to talk to educators? You seem to think public schools are still “reading, writing, and arithmetic”. We are SO much more. We are STEM, we are arts, we are language, we are relational, we are sports, we are clubs, we are hygiene, we are food, we are shelter, and we are LOVE.
Betsy, what we are not is a moneymaking machine. Public schools are not about the dollar signs you seem to be seeing. Public schools are not about the companies that try to profit from selling their multitude of products to us, constantly. We are bombarded with “new and better” all the time. Everyone has the “latest and greatest” thing in education. Guess what, half the time, their newest thing doesn’t last beyond a semester or a year, if we’re lucky. How many of those companies do you have investments with?
Betsy, do you have any idea how many hours per year teachers in public schools spend trying to better themselves? Do you have any clue how many of the things you are trying to say are a better idea are actually happening on a daily basis within our public schools? Schools have not been “one size fits all” since before I was in high school. And, Betsy, no offense intended, but, you’re not much younger than my own mother. Maybe that’s why your notion of public schools is so antiquated.
Betsy, I URGE you to spend some time in public schools and with public school teachers. I BEG you to try to understand why people are so upset. I IMPLORE you to put yourself into the shoes of the people who go in day after day and try to make a difference. I BESEECH you spend 9 hours a day in a public school and see exactly what is happening there. Our day starts at 8:00. Between 7:30 and 8:00 this morning, I dealt with students dealing with a pregnancy scare, a relationship breakup, and a poor home life. I also had to make copies and get ready for my first class of the day during that time.
Betsy, I am extending to you a personal invitation to come visit me for the day. I’d love to show you what it’s really like in a public school. I’d love to show you the differentiation that’s happening. I’d love to show you the programs we have in place for students who struggle, who don’t struggle, and who do well. I’d like for you to see how we care for students who are hungry, who are cold, who need a home other than a shelter. It would be great for you to watch us include students in sports, academics, and arts. I’d love for you to see how ONE teacher and ONE classroom can encompass all of that and still have successful, well adjusted, engaged students who come to school and want to learn, feel safe, and feel valued.
Betsy, come on down to the trenches and see how the soldiers work. See how the soldiers march. See how the soldiers soldier on in light of all the things thrown at them from so many generals who’ve never stepped foot into a classroom (except on paper) to tell them how to be a good soldier.