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Fact Check: Wash Post Distorts DeVos’ Ed Reform Speech

Another day, another misleading attack on President-elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. This morning, The Washington Post published a story under the headline, “To Trump’s education pick, the U.S. public school system is a ‘dead end.’”

The only problem is, DeVos didn’t actually call U.S. public schools a “dead end.” As the full context of the video and transcript clearly show, DeVos was actually commenting on how the refusal of entrenched interests to accept innovation and change in education is failing America’s children:

“Change is hard, but change is not difficult. People naturally resist change. But without change and without innovation, everything withers on the vine. We need an army of big thinkers, of entrepreneurs and innovators, of tech-savvy people who are not afraid of or intimidated by entrenched powers. We need to overcome the political class that keeps us bound to a ridiculously antiquated status quo.

“I believe this revolution will be fueled by the younger generation. The older generations are too wedded to political parties, too wedded to romantic memories of what education was like when they were kids, and too wedded to the status quo group that clings to power. It really is time for everyone to acknowledge the need to open things up in education and to modernize and innovate. We need to think big and envision the way things could be, and then move to make it happen. This is not a battle of left vs. right, or Democrat vs. Republican. It’s a battle of Industrial Age vs. the Digital Age. It’s the Model T vs. the Tesla. It’s old factory model vs. the new internet model. It’s the Luddites vs. the future. 

“We must open up the education industry – and let’s not kid ourselves that it isn’t an industry – we must open it up to entrepreneurs and innovators. This is how families without means will get access to a world-class education. This is how a student who’s not learning in their current model can find an individualized learning environment that will meet their needs. We are the beneficiaries of start-ups, ventures, and innovation in every other area of life, but we don’t have that in education because it’s a closed system, a closed industry, a closed market. It’s a monopoly. It’s a dead end. And the best and brightest innovators and risk-takers steer way clear of it. As long as education remains a closed system, we will never see the education equivalents of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Paypal, Wikipedia, or Uber. We won’t see any real innovation that benefits more than a handful of students.”

The Post also expresses shock that DeVos say “government really sucks” when describing how it “fears entrepreneurs, open systems, and crowd sourcing … which they find threatening.” That’s a sentiment heard loud and clear in the 2016 presidential election, and one would be hard-pressed to find many who didn’t agree with DeVos on this, especially when it comes to schools that are failing to adequately serve the needs of their students:

“If you want to risk sending your kids to a failing school, that is certainly your choice, but why would you deny the high performing “Alpha School” choice to anyone else? 5 And yet, our President has tried to terminate these options in Washington DC. ….while at the same time he sends his daughters to an elite private school. It’s illogical, it’s hypocritical, and frankly it’s immoral.

“Inconvenient Truth Number 4. Government really sucks. And it doesn’t matter which party is in power. Having been around politics and government my entire adult life, I have a five observations about government for you: Government tends to believe in top down solutions and government fears of bottom up solutions. Government tends to stifle innovation and it abhors improvisation. Any good military strategist will tell you that a battle plan rarely survives past the first engagement. After that, you have to improvise to survive and to win.

“Government tends to favor one size fits all solutions handed down from central command. Government likes committees – a lot. Committees kill all the really good ideas and generally all the really bad ideas. They produce middle ground mush. Government prefers control and tightly-defined systems. It fears entrepreneurs, open systems, and crowd sourcing. All of which they find threatening.”

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