When inexperience meets education

President-elect Donald Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Betsy DeVos pose for photographs at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J. Trump has chosen charter school advocate DeVos as Education Secretary in his administration. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Last Wednesday, President-elect Donald J. Trump continued his spree of cabinet nominations by naming his new pick for Secretary of Education: Betsy DeVos. DeVos is a Michigan native and has served two previous terms as the chairwoman for the Michican Republican Party, from 1996 to 2000 and then again from 2003 to 2005. As with almost all of Trump’s choices so far, the announcement of DeVos’s nomination has been met with mixed responses. Liberal democrats have, of course, criticized Trump’s pick, seeing it as reckless and elitist, while supporters say they look forward to seeing what DeVos will bring to the table. However, whether or not people approve of DeVos, one thing that cannot be denied is that, for a Secretary of Education, she has virtually no experience with anything related to the field.

Betsy DeVos’s lack of experience with public education began when she was young. As a child, she attended Holland Christian High School, a K-12 private school in Michigan, where all four of her children would proceed to attend during their school age years. Upon graduating high school, she completed her undergrad at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, earning a dual degree in business administration and political science. In the career that followed, DeVos held seats in state-level government positions, completing a multitude of philanthropic work and raising money for George W. Bush’s reelection campaign and other non-profit organizations.

While DeVos’s resume is clearly filled with public service and at least some amount of government experience, it is still glaringly obvious that the one thing she lacks is arguably what matters the most: experience with the education system. In fact, the only connection DeVos has to education is through the Alliance for School Choice, of which she is the chairperson. This organization is the self-proclaimed “nation’s vanguard organization for promoting, implementing, and enhancing K-12 educational choice”, and focuses mainly on the school voucher program, which aims to allow more children to attend private schools with funding from the government.

While nothing about DeVos makes her seem a completely unethical or immoral pick for the job, her lack of educational background has brought about a feeling of uneasiness in many Americans. After all, in what world does it make sense to allow an extremely under qualified person be in charge of something so important to our country?

The public education system is by far one of the most drastically unequal systems in our country, and it clearly needs to be remedied. But trusting somebody who has never been a part of this organization to fix it will never work. A person would never want a lawyer performing surgery on them, despite how smart the lawyer may be, as it would just cause more damage. The same rings true here: inexperience will only lead to a greater problem.

Not only will DeVos’s lack of experience harm the country, but her policies will also be unhelpful in alleviating the inequality that already exists within public schooling. One of the greatest problems our nation faces is the lack of a universal standard of education that can be expected for all students. While the Common Core aimed to fix this issue, it has not lived up to its potential. Betsy DeVos hopes to fix this by allowing all children access to charter and private schools through government funds. Not only would this plan be extremely costly for our nation, it would also fail to improve our public schools, as all funds and focus would be funneled to charter and private education. While these alternative schooling options would be available for some, not everyone would have the opportunity to attend, and as a result, students’ education would suffer.

While Betsy DeVos recognizes that the state of our education system in America needs to be improved, she unfortunately does not have the ideas or experience necessary to accomplish this goal. Instead of being a fresh voice and visionary as Trump hoped she would be on his quest to “make America great again,” DeVos falls short and proves that to really make America great, some experience is preferred.


Emma Hungaski is an opinion contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emma.hungaski@uconn.edu.