It’s common today for people like me who blame Trump for everything to blame Trump for everything else also—a kind of guilt by association with himself. It’s quite easy, and what makes it so easy is that it’s essentially true.
Now we have a recent study showing that fourth- and eight-graders’ ability to read texts and literature proficiency has dipped, that two out of three children did not meet the standards for reading proficiency set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The test was administered by the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the Education Department.
We hear so many numbers today that they begin to blur; still, it seems striking that in an era when we profess to value our children’s education, only 35 percent of fourth-graders are proficient in reading, down two percentage points from 2017. The lowest achieving students are falling still further behind.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos labeled it a “student achievement crisis.”
And this is how Donald Trump exerts his influence on every aspect of American society—he appoints cabinet members who threaten to fire officials at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration after their president redraws a hurricane map, who will act not as the chief policeman of the country but as the president’s personal lawyer, and who will not defend his own State Department staff against criticism and threats.
Thank you for your disservice, Wilbur Ross, William Barr, Mike Pompeo.
And then there’s Betsy DeVos and her “student achievement crisis,” one which she has engendered and nurtured in her few short years of misdirecting America’s educational system. She hates public schools, has no use for public school teachers, and would be hard-pressed to defend the American education system on the world stage. Her schtick is privatization, and anything else that decimates the system by which education has been democratized in the United States.
People who thought she was too incompetent to be dangerous were only half-right. But unlike the now-invisible and never-to-be-sought Ben Carson, DeVos is still preaching her elitist system of educating the wealthy, legal strictures be damned. (She was recently held in contempt of court for refusing to support students victimized by crooked for-profit schools. She has openly, in the past, sought to protect and defend such institutions, Trump University to name one.)
The actions of people like DeVos and her ilk raise an obvious question: who can still support/encourage/admire Donald Trump? It can’t be average Americans, not any more. Maybe they bought the "build a wall" or the "crooked Hillary" gibberish of 2016, but nothing in their lives has changed for the better. Hourly wage-earners, farmers, the poor—they're all worse off than they were before Trump. But Wall Street executives, CEOs of major corporations, billionaires—all doing fine.
Which leaves us with the single-purpose voters: the pro-life zealots, the climate change-denying diehards, the top one percenters benefiting from Trump's new tax law, and the closet racists who are so happy not to have a black man in the white house that they can tolerate the most corrupt and criminal activity. That unholy alliance may not seem like enough of a base to re-elect a president, but if they can dumb down the country enough, by ravaging the public education system, then just maybe....
A thousand cuts, and Betsy DeVos is wielding one of the knives.