Donald Trump’s secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, doesn’t just have trouble with grammar. Apparently, she struggles with American history as well.
Following Trump’s meeting with the leaders of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), DeVos sent out a tweet that can only be described as completely clueless. According to the new education secretary, HBCUs are pioneers of “school choice.”
Wowwowwow. These paragraphs are from a real, official US Department of Education statement from Betsy DeVos released today. pic.twitter.com/I2FDZfzdmt
— Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) February 28, 2017
DeVos couldn’t have gotten things more backward if she had tried. Historically black schools aren’t models of “school choice.” In fact, it is the exact opposite. These schools arose because there was no choice. Slaves were forbidden from learning how to read and write. Following their emancipation, most white schools refused to let black students in.
The first HBCUs were started to educate black teachers so that black children would have a shot at receiving any type of education at all. Later, in addition to the private institutions that had been founded, southern states set up public colleges to serve blacks rather than integrate existing schools.
If DeVos really believes this is something to aspire to, it certainly does explain a lot. As secretary of education, she plans to “fix” our “broken” education system by diverting federal funds from public schools to private schools, which are largely unregulated. Critics argue that this will serve only to accelerate the resegregation of American schools.
Following the integration of public schools in America, white parents who didn’t want their children to share classrooms with black students opted to send their children to private schools. In the decade following the passage of the Civil Rights Act, approximately half a million white students left public schools for private ones.
Maybe DeVos isn’t just an idiot with no understanding of history after all. Between her tweet and her vision for the future of American schools, we are forced to ask if taking our children and their education back to the days of Jim Crow has really been her intention all along.
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