When Donald Trump was elected president, one of our biggest fears about him settling into the White House was that he would appoint all the wrong kinds of people to his cabinet to help him govern. And our worst fear was realized. Almost all of the people on his team are problematic in their own specific ways, but Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos might be one of the worst. After DeVos’ 60 Minutes interview this weekend, there’s no more hiding that she doesn’t know what she’s doing when it comes to education, ror that she doesn’t care about the future of the public school system.
Remember, she was barely approved for the position after her nomination hearings, and Vice President Mike Pence was the one to make the tie-breaking vote about whether she was the right woman for the job.
Stahl asked her, in one particularly painful moment, why the education secretary is the “most hated cabinet member.” DeVos answered, “I’m not so sure exactly how that happened. But I think there are a lot of really powerful forces allied against change.” She added, “I think, I think… I’m more misunderstood than anything.”
That answer was just as frustrating as anything else she said. Because people aren’t dumb. We aren’t misunderstanding what she wants to do with school vouchers, or her shoddy ideas about how to make a school safe. We understand what’s going on all too well — and vehemently disagree about what change should look like.
Here are some of the most bizarre moments that had us furiously tweeting on Sunday night.
1She *really* thinks rape culture is something women made up.
DeVos is currently being sued by civil rights organizations for issuing guidelines to colleges and universities for how to handle sexual assault. Her department’s Title IX rollback has been cheered by men’s rights groups, which she met with before issuing the guidelines, which in and of itself is an affront to women everywhere.
The guidelines require campuses to have way more evidence of an assault than ever before — which is rare to find, in most sexual abuse cases — before schools investigate an accusation, and some people feel they discriminate against accusers. But in Sunday’s 60 Minutes interview, DeVos doubled down on the guidelines. Here’s how it went down:
Stahl: “Are you in any way, do you think, suggesting that the number of false accusations are as high as the number of actual rapes or assaults?”
DeVos: “Well, one sexual assault is one too many, and one falsely accused individual is one too many.”
Stahl: “Yeah, but are they the same?”
DeVos: “I don’t know. I don’t know. But I’m committed to a process that’s fair for everyone involved.”
Her guidelines are basically institutionalized victim-blaming and spread the idea that false accusations are a *thing,* which is just plain dangerous. In fact, studies have found that false reporting happens in only about two percent of cases, and that sexual assault allegations rarely “ruin” a man’s life.
2She refuses to visit schools.
Like, what? At a certain point, Stahl prodded DeVos about what evidence she has about underperforming schools and why she thinks her way is the best way.
Stahl asked, “Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they’re doing?” DeVos replied that she hasn’t “intentionally visited” the really bad schools, which is unbelievable.
If there’s one thing an education secretary should do, it’s familiarize themself with what they’re working with.
3She basically admits that school choice doesn’t work.
DeVos’s big idea is “school choice,” which really isn’t about choice at all. The basic premise is that funds typically reserved for public schools would instead go to low-income parents in the form of vouchers, which they could then use to pay for the private school (or other voucher school) of their choice. The vouchers don’t cover the full cost of tuition, though, leaving many low-income parents and families of color with only under-funded public schools as an option.
Stahl pressed DeVos on the issue during 60 Minutes, asking for any stats or evidence that school vouchers actually work. DeVos had a rough time answering since, well, there is no evidence that “school choice” works and actually, there are a ton of studies that show that it hurts kids.
In Michigan, DeVos’ home state, for example, schools are suffering, as Stahl points out. Here’s part of the exchange:
DeVos: “Well, we should be funding and investing in students, not in school — school buildings, not in institutions, not in systems.”
Stahl: “Okay. But what about the kids who are back at the school that’s not working? What about those kids?”
DeVos: “Well, in places where there have been — where there is — a lot of choice that’s been introduced, Florida, for example, the studies show that when there’s a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools actually — the results get better, as well.”
Then, when pressed on Michigan, she said:
Stahl: “Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?”
DeVos: “I don’t know. Overall, I —I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.
A ringing endorsement for vouchers? Not exactly.
4She really wants to arm teachers.
Most of us can agree that arming teachers will only lead to more violence. More guns in schools is not the answer to school shootings, plain and simple. No one has been a bigger supporter of arming teachers than DeVos, though.
Back when she was being confirmed, she suggested that armed teachers could protect kids from a bear if it entered a school, which… we can’t even dignify with a joke.
On 60 Minutes, DeVos insisted that states should have the “option” to require schools to arm teachers, and that she was on a task force to look into how it will all play out. Basically, she’s advocating for arming teachers before there’s any evidence whatsoever that it helps or harms students. Talk about being an obstacle to meaningful change.
DeVos wasn’t underprepared for her interview, she’s just massively, startling unqualified for her position. For an education secretary, all of these points should have been easy to talk about, and she should be open to admitting that people’s criticisms of her might be valid. It’s a shame that we’re likely never to get anything like that from her, or the rest of this administration.