Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are “real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” according to a statement by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Also, I’m going to pull my head off and punt it into a bog.
Here’s the statement, which went out as a press release and was first brought to wider attention by Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Adam Harris (emphasis added):
A key priority for this administration is to help develop opportunities for communities that are often the most underserved. Rather than focus solely on funding, we must be willing to make the tangible, structural reforms that will allow students to reach their full potential.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have done this since their founding. They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education. They saw that the system wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution.
HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.
Their counsel and guidance will be crucial in addressing the current inequities we face in education. I look forward to working with the White House to elevate the role of HBCUs in this administration and to solve the problems we face in education today.
I dunno, it’s a historically deep competition, but ... this might be the worst and most offensive thing a Trump administration clown has said*, so far? I kind of think it is!
*In fact, this statement is so batshit, bugfuck crazy that—no discredit to Adam Harris whatsoever—at first it seemed quite literally unbelievable. I made a Department of Education flack email it to me directly just to confirm Harris hadn’t been the victim of a prank.
There’s the obvious reason, of course, which is that this is an absurd and nightmarish vision of school choice. The HBCU system has its roots in racial segregation, arising from the practical unavailability of higher education for black students in the years after the Civil War. The functional choice HBCUs gave black students at the time of their founding was between black school and no school—which is to say, their advent did not provide black students with meaningful school choice at all. Calling them pioneers of school choice is like pointing to the construction of a homeless shelter as a landmark achievement in affordable housing.
So if you’re feeling particularly charitable, and want to do DeVos the unwarranted favor of granting that she might actually have thought through the implications of what she’s saying, then the Trump administration’s Secretary of Education sure seems to be issuing an anti-Brown v. Board of Education take, positing that segregated education is good so long as students also have the “choice” not to go to school at all.
Although I think DeVos—a billionaire by birth, married to a fellow billionaire-by-birth, who in her whole life never has held a job or had to contemplate anything more demanding than dressing herself—quite possibly is too ignorant to have considered this, I still think this is a good place to note that the inevitable outcome of the general school privatization she advocates would be a frenzied acceleration of the de facto school segregation already worsening across the United States. This was the backdrop of charter-school huckster Kevin Johnson’s hostile takeover and destruction of the National Conference of Black Mayors: The group, and the black communities its members represent, wanted no part of Johnson’s school-privatization program, rightly viewing “school choice” as an assault on the black middle class.
This adds a nice second layer of insanity to DeVos’s statement. In what sure seems like an effort to pose the forces now trying to destroy public education as agents of social justice, DeVos claims institutions that were instrumental to the creation of the black middle class as pioneers of the effort to undo it. That’s ... almost kind of clever! Also it is extremely evil.
The interesting question, here, is whether DeVos actually is dumb enough to believe this stuff. Unlike most of the charter-school grifters, she doesn’t really seem to stand to profit in any real way off of school-privatization policies—that is, she’s so insanely wealthy already that no plausible school-privatization scheme could meaningfully enrich her. Maybe she really is an idealist! Maybe she really, genuinely believes that what’s best for your children is to be educated in the “School” section of your local Walmart.
If that’s true, we’re really fucked. After all, Betsy DeVos went to some of the best private schools in America.