The failure of Betsy Devos
After the events at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, pressure from the student community has reached the doors of the White House, putting Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in the eye of the hurricane, and she doesn’t seem to be up to the challenge.
On February 14, students at Stoneman Douglas High School witnessed one of the worst American traditions: mass shootings.
After the names Columbine, Sutherland Springs and Sandy Hooks have become synonymous with the paradoxical arms policy in the country, a new tragedy was the straw that broke the camel's back, unleashing one of the most important student revolts since the Brown Berets in the 60s.
However, the Donald Trump government's response has been a tug of war over erratic postures, worthy of a puppet manipulated by associations such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) or by hidden counselors behind the scenes.
But in cases like Parkland's, the latest answer was from the Secretary of Education herself, Betsy Devos - who joined the Trump campaign with her agenda of charter and private schools - when she visited the high school almost a month later, in a gesture perceived by the students as "publicity stunt", as reported by TIME magazine.
After the Trump Administration decided to finally go for the option of arming "some teachers" in the schools and formally support a bill that strengthens the federal background check system - something that President Obama had already established but that Trump dismantled during his first days in government - Secretary DeVos had to answer some questions on CBS's "60 Minutes" last Sunday night, in a performance that has won her national criticism.
Although journalist Lesley Stahl conducted a rather aggressive interview, the DeVos’ responses were more than vague.
Her ignorance about the reality of campus sexual abuse, her inconsistencies in school funding and the lack of argument about her decision to withdraw funds from underperforming schools were just some of the most disconcerting details of her interview.
"I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them," the Secretary said, trying to defend her position against traditional public schools. "We have invested billions and billions and billions of dollars from the federal level, and we have seen zero results," she argued.
When asked about the strategy, DeVos said that "we should be funding and investing in students, not in school, school buildings, not institutions, not in systems."
Stahl responded vigorously saying that "your argument that if you take funds away that the schools will get better is not working in Michigan (her home state) (...) Have you seen the really bad schools?" DeVos replied: "No, I have not. I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming (...) maybe I should."
The question that has arisen has not only been about the little argumentative capacity of the Secretary but of the entire governmental machinery that she represents, because, if the representative of the Department of Education is not up to the challenge then, who should we be asking solutions to?
While the government has now given way to the process of arming teachers in schools and has backed down on the possibility of raising the age of acquisition of weapons from 18 to 21 years, DeVos tried to recover ground in another interview on Monday with TODAY, arguing that while President Trump had made public statements on the matter, "the process is much longer."
"Everything is on the table, and the commission that is being organized and that I will lead will review all the options, and the point is that we have to talk beyond arms," the secretary explained.
After a brief meeting with the NRA by the president, the issue of age regulation was removed from the project, which DeVos has argued as a prior mechanism to "evaluate all options."
Journalist Savannah Guthrie asked the secretary directly how many teachers should be armed to make her program work, and DeVos’ responses were again vague: "I don’t have a percentage; it should be those who are capable and qualified and only in places where is appropriate."