Some of my earliest memories are of drawing on the chalkboard in my dad’s third grade classroom, playing teacher. I would line up spare chairs along the board and seat stuffed animals in them, trying in vain to teach them the multiplication tables I was learning.
As I grew older, I would beg my dad to bring me to school with him on my days off; I loved sitting in his classroom, passing out papers, grading worksheets, and talking to his students.
These memories are accompanied by my father chronicling the daily frustrations of his job — sometimes about a particularly difficult student, but more often about administrative hassles, the increasing pressure placed on him and colleagues by standardized tests meant to evaluate their proficiency as teachers, and a consequential increasing political presence in schools. Each airing of grievances concluded the same way, with a stern warning to my brother, sister, and me — “You’re not allowed to become a teacher.”
I took my dad’s words to heart. I began my college search completely undecided about my future. Eventually I decided to tell people I was considering physical therapy, just to stop the questions.
I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but someday in the recent past, I had an epiphany. I want to be a teacher. That’s what I’m passionate about, that’s what will make me happy, that’s why I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to study.
I finally mustered the courage to inform my parents of my self-perceived, Earth-shattering decision. They weren’t surprised, nor were they upset. It turns out they’d been betting on when I would come out to them.
Now, I’m becoming increasingly concerned that my dad was right. Today, mere months after revealing my passion, being admitted to college, and finally feeling as if everything has finally fallen into place, everything has changed.
Betsy DeVos has been confirmed as President Trump’s Education Secretary.
The former Republican Party chairwoman has been a long-time advocate for education reform in Michigan. The ACLU describes her work as “elevating for-profit schools with no consideration of the severe harm done to traditional public schools” despite “overwhelming evidence” that charter schools were no more successful than their traditional counterparts.
Along with this, DeVos also advocates less government oversight of charter schools, allowing for them to pursue creationist, evangelical agendas, and, as she so eloquently phrased it in a meeting of Christian philanthropists, to “advance God’s kingdom.”
When Senator Tim Kaine asked, “Should all schools that receive taxpayer funding be required to meet the requirements of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act?” DeVos replied, “I think that’s a matter that’s best left to the states.”
Never mind the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Later, when Senator Maggie Hassan reminded her that IDEA is a federal civil rights law and asked if she still stood by her earlier statement, DeVos responded, “Federal law must be followed where federal dollars are in play.”
Hassan followed up by asking, “So were you unaware when I just asked you about the IDEA that it was a federal law?”
DeVos responded, “I may have confused it.”
By confirming DeVos, the Trump administration is bringing back the spoils system. During Devos’ hearing, Senator Bernie Sanders asked DeVos, “Do you think that if you were not a multibillionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions, that you would be sitting here today?”
DeVos consequently appears to the public to be using her wealth to buy a position in Trump’s cabinet — a position that she is utterly unqualified for.
Opposing DeVos is not a partisan issue; anyone who values today’s youth should have no qualms about it. The futures of our country’s children now rest in DeVos’ incompetent hands.
As the country’s public school system braces itself for a grim four years, I’m beginning to wonder if my dad is right. Teachers are riddled with uncertainty and despair, wondering what may become of their jobs under DeVos.
But, they cannot surrender. Now, more than ever, I feel that it’s vitally important to pursue teaching. Future generations depend on it — they need a defender, so I’m preparing for battle.