Despite our best efforts, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education. This is terrible news for our nation’s public schools. Those of us concerned about science education will have to pour our efforts into protecting our schools on a local and state level. We’ll also have to push hard for accountability. Just because DeVos was confirmed doesn’t mean she gets free rein to destroy our schools. She now has a responsibility to provide all of America’s children with a quality free primary education, and we will hold her to that.
My friend J.S. recently retired from a twenty-eight year career as a teacher at one of our nation’s public schools. He has some sage advice for DeVos. I hope she hears it, and takes it to heart. Please feel free to copy this open letter and send it directly to her.
Dear Secretary DeVos:
I am a retired public school science teacher, proud to have spent my career in the classroom. I will make no secret that I vocally opposed your nomination for Secretary of Education. Your publicly voiced disdain for public schools, and your lack of any relevant experience made you unqualified, in my opinion. Now that your nomination has been confirmed, you have some catching up to do, so this teacher has an assignment for you.
For the first year of your term, spend one week of each month in a public school. Yes, that’s right, an entire week in a single school, a different school each month. The intent is that you will not see a carefully staged event, but rather be able to observe what actually happens day to day in a public school, to better understand the successes and challenges of public education.
Visit high-performing schools, and schools that are struggling. Visit schools in wealthy, poor, and middle-class districts. Visit rural, urban, mostly white, and mostly minority schools.
During your visits, sit in on classes. Walk the halls. Attend band concerts, sporting events, and science fairs. Ride along on a bus route. Take cafeteria duty. Have lunch in the teacher’s lounge. Talk to students, teachers, parents, administrators, and support staff.
You will come away from this with a much better understanding of the challenges faced by public schools, as well as an appreciation that the vast majority of public school employees are dedicated, hard-working people who are doing their best for their students.