Underneath my yellow skin

Deliberate Ignorance or Hidden Agenda: Which is Worse?

no ignorance, no cry.
No ignorance zone.

The Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, said something astounding stupid recently. In talking about Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), she praised them for being “pioneers when it comes to school choice”, which is a total perversion of how HBCU came to be. They were created to help black students who weren’t allowed to attend white institutions, and the fact that DeVos chose to ignore that fact in order to push her own agenda (she’s a BIG fan of charter schools and school ‘choice’) or that she didn’t know why they were created is horrifying. Which is worse? The latter would mean she’s too ignorant for her position, whereas the former would mean she’s too biased to do her job properly. It might be a combination of both, and any of these options are discouraging.

One of the the other statements DeVos made that bothered me isn’t getting as much play in the media. She was talking about a famous African American philanthropist, Mary McLeod Bethune, who founded Bethune-Cookman University (an HCBU) in 1904 and said, “In 1904, with nothing more than $1.50 in her pocket and a vision and determination in her soul, Mary built a school from scratch to serve African-American children.” In and of itself, the statement is innocuous, but DeVos was touting it in support of school choice, of which she is an aggressive pusher. Yes, it’s great that Bethune did that, but she shouldn’t have had to, which isn’t a point DeVos will acknowledge.

Despite my anger towards DeVos and the continued pushing of charter schools at the expense of public school, this post is more about the toxic mentality of business over public works that permeates this administration than strictly a post bashing charter schools. I will, say, however, that it’s difficult for me to understand why the debate about charter schools vs. public schools still exist.  Charter schools don’t have to play by the same rules as do public schools and can choose who they want to accept and who they don’t. That means that the playing field is already uneven, so any results are tainted.

It makes me angry and sad that so many people are pouring so much money into charter schools that may or may not be there in a year, whereas public schools are languishing. I remember having this argument with my brother decades ago, saying if we put as much money and care into public schools as we do into charter schools, all children would be better off. I can usually see many different sides to a story, but in this case, I am 100% pro-public schools.

DeVos did try to backtrack on her initial comment, acknowledging that racism did play a part in the creation of HBCUs, but it was still within the frame of rah rah rah choice. I am not a parent, but I know parents who have struggled with the issue of school choice. I understand that when it’s about your kid, it’s hard to take a broader view of the issue. Most parents would do anything to make sure their children have a good life, which is completely understandable. However, it’s frustrating because if parents would band together and work on their local public school, they can make things better for all children. Yes, I know that’s easy for me to say, and, yes, I know it’s easier said than done, but I’ve seen an example of a group of parents who worked tirelessly to improve their local middle school by making it an IB MYP school, and they were finally able to accomplish their goal after several years.

DeVos made a joke at CPAC about telling Bernie Sanders there’s no such thing as a free lunch at the same time as when Republicans are trying to make it harder for kids to qualify for reduced/free lunches. By the way, when did we start making kids pay for their lunches? I don’t remember having to do that as a kid, though it may be I was just ignorant of my parents paying for it. At any rate, the fact that some people have a problem with making sure kids aren’t starving is really depressing to me. One of the things I hate most about the conservative mindset is that they want to penny-pinch things by cutting things such as this, the NEA, and Obamacare, but they won’t even hear a word about the defense budget. This president recently proposed a $54 billion dollar increase to the defense budget while cutting several federal agencies. This is insanity. Our defense budget is just shy of $600 billion, and he wants to add $54 billion.

In comparison, this president has proposed at some point to cut the NEA, which receives $150 million per year, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which gets $445 million per year, and the NEH, which is allotted $150 million per year. That’s under three-quarters of a billion dollars total. From the link above, $150 million a year translates into $0.46 per American. I am more than willing to pay $2.50 a year to keep the NEA, the CPB, and the NEH running for another year.

Why the hell is our defense budget a taboo subject? Anyone serious about trimming the national budget has to mention our defensive spending. We spend more than the next seven countries combined, and that includes China and Russia. The Pentagon itself has said that it doesn’t need all the things we are funding, including some expensive missiles and planes. The problem is that many of the military machine factories are in Republican counties, so their representatives have to make sure the money keeps flowing. The easiest way for us to cut the national budget is to cut back on our military spending. This is not rocket science; this is just reality. Hell, even if we agreed not to increase it, we would have, oh, $54 billion for other things.

You know what else this president is proposing to cut in order to pay for the defense spending increase? The State Department and foreign aid. This is who we are right now as a country–warmongering assholes who don’t value diplomacy, art, or our relationships with foreign countries. I don’t like it; I hate that I’m part of the face of it, but; I cannot deny that’s who we are by electing this ignorant cretin as our president. I can protest and say that I didn’t vote for him (which I didn’t, of course). I can say he’s not my president (but he is). I can pretend I’m Canadian (which I practically am). The hard truth is, though, that I am an American, and we voted on the whole to put this man into the office of presidency. I can’t distance myself from that as much as I’d like to.

Back to free lunches. It’s funny to me that it’s always people with money who go on and on about their being no free lunches. DeVos was born into money (her father was Edgar Prince, the founder of the Prince Corporation and a billionaire when he died) and married into even more money. It’s easy to be cavalier about money when you don’t have to worry about it. Being the daughter of a businessman and being married to the son of a businessman (co-founder of Amway) means she’s never had to worry about money for a single day in her life. it’s not necessary to experience something in order to have empathy, but it seems to be a shortcoming of conservatives*. They only change their mind when someone they know is affected by the issue, and the stratosphere which DeVos is in, it’s highly doubtful she will run into many people who go to bed hungry and wake up the same.

It’s a month and a half since this president has taken office, and I’m still in disbelief that we as a country elected him. I like to say I’m a cynic (which I am) and a pessimist, but as a friend once said of me, I’m an optimist at heart because I’m constantly disappointed when people don’t do the right thing. I don’t mean this president because my opinion of him can’t be any lower, but the American people. Before this election, I thought I knew where we were as a country. I mean, I knew there were Teabaggers, and I knew there were plenty of racists, misogynists, ignorant assholes, and every kind of miscreants. But I thought there would be a line drawn, a line right before someone like this president. I thought that there were enough sensible people to stop this from happening. I was so very wrong. Not only were there enough Democrats who did the usual purity thing and voted third party, there were plenty of people who did the most American thing of all–didn’t vote.

I’m feeling very dark about our country right now. All the negative things I’ve ever felt about America are amplified now. I’ve never been proud to be an American, but I felt OK with it during the Obama years. I wonder if I’ll ever feel that way again.


*Some liberals, too, of course, but it’s more prevalent with conservatives.

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