Tone Deaf Post — Betsy Devos
The Department of Ed's Insensitive Tweet
Today the US Department of Education tweeted about Nancy Devos’ trip to Wyoming to celebrate the “Rethink School Initiative.” Devos visited the school on the Wind River Reservation today. The Department of Education’s tweet included a picture quoting a Native American Proverb that said, “You already possess everything necessary to become great.”
At best, this is a tone-deaf attempt at celebrating Ms. Devos’ efforts and at worst a blatant taunt to tell Native Americans that they are not utilizing the resources that the federal government has “given” them. If you have never been to the reservation in Wyoming, it is a desolate and remote area that the federal government found worthless. Therefore, they gave it to the Native American population in Wyoming. This is the case with many, if not most, reservations. Now, Ms. Devos has gone to the reservation to show how the government is going to rethink education. Yet, the photo and quote lead one to believe that the government believes they have already done enough to help Native American populations. Basically, they have used a proverb or saying, sometimes attributed to the Crow, to state that the federal government has given them more than enough to succeed.
If this was not bad enough, they highlight that the school has been a part of the reservation for more than 120 years. This is not something to be celebrated. Native American students at reservation schools were forced to have their hair cut, stay at dorms rather than returning home, and treated like animals. Yet, the tweet today would make one believe that the government has provided enough resources to ensure the success of every Native American on the reservation. How laughable.
The Department of Education’s post should have said, “This is all you are going to get. We took everything you hold dear. Deal with it and appreciate what we are trying to do now.” — An American/Capitalist Proverb.
Let us not forget that the Native American people had everything necessary for success until they were decimated by guns, disease, and a frontier conquering mentality to own everything in sight. Using a Native American quote to encourage people on reservations is like telling people to “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” while cutting their feet off.
Nancy Devos has no background in education. Her children never attended public school. How can she be an expert on education and schooling? She has a BA in business economics and did not even earn a higher degree. If one must earn a graduate degree or certificate to be a principal, superintendent, or professor, how can we allow the policy maker for all education to skate by with anything less? Let us not forget that her father founded Amway and her brother founded Blackwater USA. Both organizations have been sued for less than ethical practices. Does the apple fall from the tree?
Devos came to Wyoming today. I am not sure what she hoped to accomplish. If it was to offend educators and Native Americans, then she will be deemed successful. However, if she came to reform education, a day trip to a few schools can never accomplish this. I think she came to attempt to show people that she and the Department of Education care about others less fortunate, but it will fall on deaf ears. As long as we have underfunded schools on reservations and in inner cities, very few people will believe that the government cares about the education of the masses. Rethinking school begins by evaluating equity and the government’s stance on who should have access to opportunities. Reform is not accomplished through handshakes and photo ops at a handful of schools.