Elizabeth Prince DeVos shouldn’t have even bothered to show up at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School today. But then, she shouldn’t even be U.S. Secretary of Education.
Betsy could have held a listening session with students at the Broward County school. She could have learned about their activism after last month’s murder spree that took the lives of 17 of their classmates. Instead, Betsy met with a few students, including three who work for the student media outlets.
DeVos could have used her press conference to dismiss calls by her boss, the Occupant of the White House, to arm teachers with guns, as well as argue against claims by some (especially so-called conservative reformers) that school discipline reform efforts are the cause of what happened at Douglas. She didn’t do this.
As Secretary of Education, DeVos could have used her bully pulpit to convince districts and other school operators to work more-closely with child welfare and community mental health groups to help children who are struggling with mental illness. She merely asked “therapy dogs” for something or another.
Even if she did none of the things your editor recommends, DeVos could have simply done what mothers everywhere do every day: Give hugs and words of comfort to young men and women in need of it. Save for the three student reporters, DeVos didn’t meet with anyone who goes to school there.
Simply put, Betsy DeVos (and the Trump Administration by extension) was merely putting on an opportunistic show, demonstrating nothing other than that she exists, offering nothing of benefit to anyone other to herself and her boss, standing behind a lectern instead of taking the time to show compassion or humanity.
This is, of course, nothing new. As Dropout Nation has illustrated over DeVos‘ tenure, the education secretary fails mightily at the job of being a champion for all children no matter who they are or where they live. Her silence over the plight of the 780,000 undocumented children, youth, and young adults (including teachers) now facing deportation from the only homes they have ever known has been deafening. This has also been proven by her efforts to scale back the federal role in defending the civil rights of poor and minority children, as well as her unwillingness right after the 2016 presidential election to call out her current boss’ bigotry and demagoguery.
What stands out this time around is that even when given the chance to rise above herself and rise to the occasion, DeVos failed to do so. It is one thing to lack the technical competency to serve as education secretary. It is another thing to lack the most-important qualification for any high political office: The ability to at least successfully feign (and actually have) concern for the men, women, and children you serve. DeVos’ failure on that front is as much a reason why she kept media outlets from covering today visit as her unwillingness to deal with questions and protests.
The only thing school reformers and others should ask of DeVos is her resignation. It’s time for her to go.
Featured photo courtesy of NBC News.