Wednesday, April 24, 2024

#2763: Betsy DeVos

Elisabeth Dee “Betsy” DeVos is a zealous anti-public education activist, fundie and supporter of pseudoscience who served – in a move that must be counted among his administration’s most detrimental to civilization – as Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education. She previously served as Republican National Committeewoman for Michigan from 1992 to 1997 and chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party from 1996 to 2000. Her family is notable as well: Betsy DeVos is married to Dick DeVos, former CEO of Amway, and the sister of Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater.


As for her qualifications for the position of Secretary of Education, DeVos herself had solely attended private Christian schools, Holland Christian Schools and Calvin College; she had “never taught in a public school, nor administered one, nor sent her children to one.” On the other hand, she was already before her appointment known in Michigan for her activism on behalf of the charter-school initiative and voucher programs for public funding of private schools, partly because Michigan charter schools were not accountable for student performance, not accountable financially, and, as DeVos had to admit, unable to improve student performance. They would, however, be able to circumvent regulations related to religious indoctrination or to sticking to facts when it comes to topics like evolution, climate change or history. And DeVos does herself have a background in pseudoscience, at least insofar as she is one of the primary investors in Neurocore, a “brain training” company based on undiluted pseudoscience; she has also admitted that her advocacy for charter schools is driven by a desire to “advance God’s kingdom”. Then there is this case.


Another important qualification was presumably her astounding ignorance about rather crucial details concerning public education. On the other hand, she does think that guns might be needed in schools because schools in Wyoming might need to allow them to protect children from “potential grizzlies”. At least the intelligent design creationism advocates at the Discovery Institute defended her appointment.


After her career stint at the Trump administration, DeVos has been involved in the efforts of the wingnut and occasionally neo-fascist group Moms for Liberty (a.k.a. “Klanned Karenhood”), where she has for instance advocated for the abolition of the Cabinet-level department she used to run. “I personally think the Department of Education should not exist,” said DeVos, who, we suspect, still has no clear idea about what the department actually does. She has also released a book, Hostages No More: The Fight for Education Freedom and the Future of the American Child, which attempts to provide things dumb people might conflate with arguments for her claims (but which, we suppose, she has never actually read). 


There’s a decent DeVos resource here.


Diagnosis: Well, the obvious word that springs to mind to generally sum up Betsy DeVos is ‘incompetence’, but it incompetence and ignorance combined with zeal and at least a willingness to use whatever means available to reach her aims, and the combination of zeal and ignorant incompetence is aptly described as lunacy.


Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

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