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Betsy DeVos: Just Another Mother Teresa

May 14, 2018

Prepared Remarks by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to Ave Maria University’s 2018 Spring Commencement

As I prepared to be with you today, I reflected on my own graduation from a small Christian college in my favorite corner of the Midwest. Sitting there that day, I never imagined I’d be a commencement speaker someday and I surely did not plan to become a cabinet secretary.

But my perspective then was limited. If there’s anything I’ve learned since, it’s that our horizons should be ever-broadening. We must engage our imaginations, be open to possibilities and be prepared to respond to the unplanned opportunity.

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Education Department Unwinds Unit Investigating Fraud at For-Profits

WASHINGTON — Members of a special team at the Education Department that had been investigating widespread abuses by for-profit colleges have been marginalized, reassigned or instructed to focus on other matters, according to current and former employees.

The unwinding of the team has effectively killed investigations into possibly fraudulent activities at several large for-profit colleges where top hires of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, had previously worked.

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I’m reminded of that at home, where carved above our fireplace is this verse from Joshua: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Service — to God, to country and to neighbor — is a calling, and it’s an imperative.

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The investigation into DeVry ground to a halt early last year. Later, in the summer, Ms. DeVos named Julian Schmoke, a former dean at DeVry, as the team’s new supervisor.

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Public service isn’t self-service. It’s about serving others. For me, it is in the moral obligation to expand educational opportunities for each and every child.

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stumbles during pointed ‘60 Minutes’ interview

In the “60 Minutes” interview, more than a year after becoming education secretary, DeVos again had trouble answering questions and seemed to contradict herself. For example, she and Stahl had this conversation about what happens to underperforming traditional public schools when children leave for alternatives and take funding with them:

STAHL: Why take away money from that school that’s not working — to bring them up to a level where they are, that school is working?

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.

STAHL: Now, has that happened in Michigan? We’re in Michigan. This is your home state.

DEVOS: Yes, well, there’s lots of great options and choices for students here.

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.

STAHL: The whole state is not doing well.

DEVOS: Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where this, the students are doing well and …

STAHL: No, but your argument that if you take funds away that the schools will get better is not working in Michigan, where you had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system here.

DEVOS: I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them.

STAHL: The public schools here are doing worse than they did.

DEVOS: Michigan schools need to do better. There is no doubt about it.

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That brings me to my third point, and perhaps the most familiar kind of service… service to neighbor.

Your model for service — our model — is a diminutive Albanian nun we now call saint. When Ave Maria opened the country’s first museum to Teresa of Calcutta, it was an honor President Towey knew would have made her blush. But the museum serves as an inspiration to live as Mother Teresa did, humbly serving “the least of these.”

I’m inspired daily by a painting in my home. It is a poignant portrait of Mother Teresa embracing a group of children. …

Service, then, is ultimately about humbly choosing to see the face of Christ in your neighbor and recognizing and addressing their needs.

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STAHL: Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they’re doing?

DEVOS: I have not, I have not, I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.

STAHL: Maybe you should.

DEVOS: Maybe I should. Yes.

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“Find your own Calcutta,” Mother Teresa begged us. “Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right there where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools.”

So, here’s a question for each and every one of you:

Where is your Calcutta?

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In addition to DeVry, now known as Adtalem Global Education, investigations into Bridgepoint Education and Career Education Corporation, which also operate large for-profit colleges, went dark.

Former employees of those institutions now work for Ms. DeVos as well, including Robert S. Eitel, her senior counselor, and Diane Auer Jones, a senior adviser on postsecondary education. Last month, Congress confirmed the appointment of a lawyer who provided consulting services to Career Education, Carlos G. Muñiz, as the department’s general counsel.

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What will you do to put your newly gained skills to work in the service of others?

Now is the time to start doing it.

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STAHL: Why have you become, people say, the most hated Cabinet secretary?

DEVOS: I’m not so sure exactly how that happened. But I think there are a lot of really powerful forces allied against change. …

I’m more misunderstood than anything.

Betsy DeVos  Betsy DeVos

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

11 Comments
  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Brilliant. One of your best. Thank you for the clear demonstration of hypocrisy.

    • Jack permalink

      One wrinkle to the for-profit college story that often gets left out:

      a majority (or a significant minority) of the people being ripped off by the for-profit college crooks whom Betsy’s cronies — whom Betsy is enabling since taking office — have been ripping off are … wait for it ..

      … *veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.*

      Some of these men and women are suffering from PTSD and/or permanent physical injury, and ARE financially destitute or very financially insecure, from a low-income family/demographic/ethnicity/part of the country.

      When you add these facts to the mix, the evil in play here is truly mind-boggling.

  2. Peggy Schwarz permalink

    The swamp just seeems to be getting murkier. Thanks for shining the light, Mercedes.

  3. A poor misunderstood autocratic, fraudulent, and very ignorant want-to-be fascist.

  4. Reblogged this on Crazy Normal – the Classroom Exposé and commented:
    Discover the real Betsy DeVos through her actions and NOT her words.

  5. Excellent–and thank you.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: Our Betsy Plays Mother Teresa | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Higher-End Private Schools Aren’t Buying Into Betsy DeVos’ Voucher Crusade | deutsch29
  3. Utah Asked USDOE for ESSA Testing Waiver to Honor Parents’ Rights; USDOE Said (Wait for It…) No. | deutsch29

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