Trump’s anti-education DeVos and United States teachers

This satiric video from the USA says about itself:

10 February 2017

Jimmy [Fallon] speaks with new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos about her plans for America’s public schools, including getting rid of textbooks.

By Nancy Hanover in the USA:

“If you don’t have an education, you don’t have a life”

Teachers speak out on the schools crisis and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

23 February 2017

New US Education Secretary billionaire Betsy DeVos has lost no time in making known her ideological opposition to public education, contempt for educators and hostility to democratic rights.

Her installation has evoked strong opposition to teachers, who rightly see DeVos as the spearhead of a ramped up attack at all levels on public education.

Following her narrow Cabinet confirmation, DeVos’ first appearance was a brief visit to a public school, Washington DC’s Jefferson Middle School Academy, on February 10. Her arrival was greeted with protests by parents and teachers, temporarily preventing her from entering into the school.

Speaking to the press after the visit, DeVos insulted the teachers, haughtily characterized them as in “receive mode” … “waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child.” She has routinely referred to public schools as a “dead end”.

In a subsequent interview with the right-wing news site Townhall, DeVos alleged the protests were “not genuine”. “We’ve seen enough written that they want to make my life a living hell”, she added. …

DeVos has now made the highly unusual and expensive demand that she be accompanied by US federal marshals for the foreseeable future. No Cabinet-level secretary has requested a similar level of protection since at least 2009.

The secretary is not just fearful of protesting teachers, she also issued a not-so-veiled threat that any Education Department employees who try to “subvert the mission” (her pro-privatization agenda) would be attended to “swiftly and surely”, according to Townhall.

For his part, President Trump reiterated his support for privatization at a White House “listening session” with a handpicked group of parents on February 14. Trump, with DeVos at his side, described charter schools as “fantastic”, “amazing” and “unbelievable”. He has pledged $20 billion of federal dollars for school vouchers through block grants to the states or a federally funded scholarship tax credit program written into the tax code.

In an interview with Axios published February 17, DeVos stated that she would “be fine” with the abolition of the Department of Education and predicted the flowering of all types of schools except public ones. “I expect there will be more public charter schools. I expect there will be more private schools. I expect there will be more virtual schools. I expect there will be more schools of any kind that haven’t even been invented yet.”

Teachers spoke to the WSWS describing their reactions to the Trump administration’s privatization policies, DeVos, the threat to close nearly half of Detroit’s public schools, the failure of the teachers’ unions to stand up for educators and the broader political issues involved in defending democratic rights and public education. …

In the city of Detroit, the DeVos family’s policies have resulted in a wide battery of pro-privatization legislation and the control of 80 percent of charters by for-profit businesses. The growth of charter schools and edubusinesses in DeVos’ home state of Michigan, as elsewhere, proliferated under the Obama administration’s Race to the Top.

A young first-year teacher in a Detroit public schools said, “I am not originally from Michigan so I didn’t know much about Betsy DeVos before now. Working in Detroit schools and talking with other educators, I see the effects of her policies already.

“They are trying to shut between 8-10 of the Education Achievement Authority schools and dozens of Detroit Public School Community District schools, some this year and some next.

“From what I heard, the charter districts are already looking to buy these schools. That’s how underhanded things are already. Charters have had a terrible effect on Detroit. With DeVos in office, what I’ve seen will happen all around the nation.

“In my district, the neighborhood is the worst of the worst. The homes are abandoned; there are fires everywhere. These are ‘forgotten’ neighborhoods, those in poverty.

“We’re got seven-year-olds at pre-K reading levels. Seeing children two years behind is common. Our school is severely underfunded with computers. My children get no time with computers, but they need to because the tests are all online. The computer testing starts in kindergarten.

“Then bonuses are paid to the teachers based on the test scores and if there has been ‘student growth’. Attendance is a big problem. Often kids are gone for six or seven days, then in school for two. It’s really hard to make gains like that.”

The elementary teacher added her strong opposition to the administration’s attacks on immigrants. “As an undergraduate, I studied Spanish and my parents suggested I become an ICE officer. I wouldn’t because I didn’t want to send anyone back. It’s so deplorable. No one is a native here, unless you are Native American, and we see how they are treated.

“The claims that immigrants are taking jobs are just used to fuel the fire. They want to use this hot button issue to change what people are focusing on, like cutting the EPA, women’s rights or the national parks. Deporting people goes against basic fundamental human rights and even how our country was founded. I can’t even believe this is happening in 2017.”

Beverly, a Detroit Community Public Schools District teacher, said: “I am in one of the priority schools but it’s not on the list for closure. I try to speak out and be positive.

“What a lot of people fail to understand about the school closures is that it is not just academics which can put a school on the list, but also attendance. If the children don’t come to school for whatever reason—their transportation breaks down, their parent has to go to work—the school can be put on the list and the school be closed.

“A school can have most of the children improving, say 90 percent, but if that other 10 percent falls, this will pull the scores down. That can be another reason the school is judged not to meet Annual Yearly Progress.

“If there is no education and people don’t have financial means, a sociological change takes place. They can turn to stealing to find food. I try to be positive, but the powers-that-be, the political people in charge, are more concerned with their riches.

6 thoughts on “Trump’s anti-education DeVos and United States teachers

  1. Saturday 25th February 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Features

    We mustn’t let the personalities of Trump and his cabinet dominate our opposition to imperialism. They, warns LIZ PAYNE, are but a part of the most reactionary wing of the US ruling class

    IF EVER we needed proof that capitalism, in the words of Britain’s Road to Socialism, “is a system of exploitation that generates crisis, inequality, corruption, environmental degradation and war and is innately incapable of solving the most fundamental problems of humanity,” we have it before our eyes.

    The plight of humanity is desperate and worsening. Just 1 per cent of the world’s population controls 99 per cent of its wealth and the cavernous gap between rich and poor is widening at an alarming rate.

    Oxfam reported in January 2017 that the fortunes of the richest eight men on the planet are equal to the wealth of half of its entire population of just over seven billion. One and a half billion live in countries affected by imperialism’s wars. Almost a billion are hungry.

    It was headlined this week that millions of children in four war-torn countries (Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen) are in danger of starvation. Eleven million have been displaced in Syria or forced to flee as refugees, more than 300,000 are dead and the country’s infrastructure destroyed.

    This is the inevitable legacy of capitalism, created by it in a systemic cycle of destruction.

    The most reactionary forces of imperialism can only worsen the suffering. There is no resolution for the masses in the relentless crisis-driven quest for new investment potential and higher rates of profit.

    And so to the newly inaugurated president of the leading imperialist power. No matter how often Donald Trump repeats his “America first” slogan, there is no doubt that the only ones who will come first are the most reactionary sections of the ruling class, hell-bent on shoring up their position through a new openly totalitarian US-dominated world order.

    Since they have been completely unable to solve the continuing global economic crisis and new exacerbating factors are constantly emerging, the iron-fist is blatantly revealed as the tactic of last resort in salvaging for themselves the juice of every last squeeze by whatever means at their disposal and openly attacking the working class of the United States and across the world.

    Behind the populist razzmatazz it is the darkest forces of monopoly capital, which are ruthlessly attempting to reassert their hegemony over the resources, labour and markets of the world.

    Theirs are the voices of those now holding the most powerful positions: chief strategist, secretary of state, defence secretary, etc. All dangerous men with dangerous visions and behind them rank after rank waiting to fall into line on behalf of monopoly power.

    Through the Trump mouthpiece, they have made it clear that the days of niceties such as respect for international agreements or indeed fundamental human rights are gone. If you want something, you “just go in and take it.”

    As Defence Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis warned the people of Iraq: “Do not cross us because if you do, the survivors will write about what we do here for 10,000 years.”

    So it is then that recent weeks have seen a massive and very dangerous ratcheting up of international tension focused especially on the Middle East and the countries of the “Pacific Rim,” where several potential flashpoints are carefully provoked, stirred and nurtured.

    For the Middle East, US imperialism’s strategy is clear — control of its resources and vital supply routes while limiting the access of rival economies to what the region has to offer. This is to be achieved without the massive cost of US armies on the ground.

    Others must do the dirty work. Conflict and division must be maintained.

    No sustainable peaceful outcomes in the foreseeable future can be countenanced for the people of the region — not in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and neither for the Palestinians nor the Kurds. Trump’s backing of the one-state (Israeli state) solution will kick the decades-long struggle for a Palestinian state into the long grass of history.

    No single power must be allowed to dominate — not Saudi Arabia, not Turkey, not Iran.

    The influence of any external powers that might challenge the US from the Mediterranean to the borders of China must also be restrained.

    States such as Syria and Iraq are to be divided to isolate and better control the richest pickings of oil and gas and weaken potential opposition. Sectarian divisions must be fermented. Left and progressive movements must be suppressed and silenced.

    Trump’s White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has declared a new war brewing and put Iran “on notice.” No sooner did he enter the White House than Trump picked up the phone to allies in the region — Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel. His message? The imperative of strengthening bonds between each one and the US.

    Already a new mutual defence alliance along the lines of Nato is in the offing between Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey. The danger according to the US is there for all to see: Iran is “the biggest sponsor of state terrorism,” according to Mattis.

    The push towards conflict between the US and Iran is not only disastrous for the people of Iran struggling against a theocratic dictatorship but also for the peace process in Syria and the stability of the region as a whole. The Trump administration knows this. It is deliberate and reckless.

    Trump boasts of huge growth for the US arms monopolies, while Congress has been put on a war footing, now needing to give no further ratification prior to the opening of hostilities.

    War threatens to engulf the region in an all-encompassing conflict that might easily spark an even more widespread conflagration, while the threat provides the life blood of the region’s dictatorships and the opposite for all who struggle for rights and freedoms and a just and peaceful future.

    In the Far East too, the heightening of tensions in the South China Sea and towards North Korea serve another major US strategy — the economic and military containment of China.

    Any softening of attitudes towards Russia by sections of the US ruling elite should be seen in this context, as should the alacrity with which the Trump administration has moved to cement ties with Japan, pursuing its militarisation and pitting it on a battle-ready standby.

    The Japanese reactionary government has proved a willing ally. Despite huge opposition, the country’s prime minister Shinzo Abe gave the go-ahead for full-scale work on construction of the new US military base in Okinawa just a week before he hurried off to the United States to offer homage to Trump.

    The left in Japan condemned him, the Japanese Communist Party writing of his “extraordinary obsequiousness” as he endorsed the US-Japan alliance while remaining silent on Trump’s anti-humanitarian ban on all Syrian refugees and Muslims from a number of countries entering the US.

    Elsewhere, the writing is clearly on the wall. Secretary of state Rex Tillerson is promoting regime change in Venezuela (refering to it as “a negotiated transition to democratic rule”) and urging Colombia and Brazil to rally behind the US to achieve it.

    Intervention in Cuba is also in the strategic mix with no sign of any lifting of the 55-year long blockade.

    And in terms of worldwide trade, the hugely anti-democratic, big business-focused Ceta deal with Canada looks set to become a model and foundation for US-dominated economic arrangements throughout the world.

    At home, the deal on offer for US citizens is to swap their constitutional rights for the “security” offered by the ruling class.

    This involves persuading the public that they are so threatened by Syrian refugees, Muslims from seven countries, Mexicans, terrorists, “bad dudes” and so on that they have no choice but to fear everyone and trade in everything they hold dear for “protection.”

    This, of course, is the stuff that creates an environment in which fascism can take hold. The ideological onslaught backed by coercion and violent suppression are already present and the broken record plays as in an echo-chamber.

    Confidence in any past gains is being eroded together with attacks on the viability of pro-people policies going forward.

    The things people have believed in are publicly trashed, the press is condemned and anyone or anything that doesn’t go along with the reactionary agenda is condemned for not putting “America first,” which rapidly translates into “un-American,” a threat and thereafter a legitimate target.

    At the same time the targets of the ruling class are dealt with one by one.

    International agreements on refugees are shredded; thousands of legitimate travellers are turned away at borders on racist grounds; torture is praised; women’s rights are abandoned and victims of injustice are branded and perpetrators lauded. Climate change is denied and treaties and environmental regulations are torn up.

    There has been mass opposition in the United States and across the world as concerns mount on the nature of the intensifying threat.

    Across the world the mass media reports every last thing the US president says and does and purports to open him to scrutiny of every kind. Everyone everywhere has a view.

    But in this lies the biggest danger of all — that we think it is all about Trump and those around him.

    We mobilise in huge numbers against personalities and this becomes a substitute for the only thing that will defeat US imperialism and its reactionary backers across the world, mobilisation of the broadest alliance of working people and their supporters against the most reactionary circles of the US ruling class, for whom Trump is simply a personification.

    For the working class in Britain, this will mean solidarity with left and progressive movements in the US and genuine international support for solidarity campaigns including for those for Palestine, Cuba, Venezuela and for Iranian people’s rights.

    It will also mean opposition to imperialism worldwide through organisations like, for example, the World Peace Council, against militarisation and war, against Nato and other reactionary alliances.

    It will especially require us to oppose our own pro-US government and those that back it and counter all that the “special relationship” with the US stands for in Britain.

    It will mean bringing to power a left Labour government backed by a broad movement to start building an alternative democratic and just Britain.

    It will require, as we recall in this 100th anniversary year of the great October Revolution, fostering an understanding of what is possible and ending what has been referred to as “the shrouding of dreams and hopes and the eclipsing of the collective memory of peoples” that has been withheld from their knowledge, laid bare by the victory of 1917, of how to build peace and socialism.

    Liz Payne is chair of the Communist Party of Britain.


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