As usual, This American Life gets to the heart of the argument between the debate of public schools and school choice.
One of President Donald Trump’s more controversial cabinet picks was his choice for Secretary of Education; Betsy DeVos. During her confirmation hearing, much was made about DeVos being a major advocate of school choice: a K-12 strategy that advocates multiple alternative programs and resources that aren’t connected to public schools. While many of her critics insinuated that DeVos had never even stepped into a public school, a recent episode of This American Life shows that wasn’t necessarily the case!
In the early-2000’s, DeVos became a volunteer mentor at a Grand Rapids, Michigan public school. The story goes into how her time as a volunteer mentor might have affected her to becoming a strong advocate for school choice. The episode also gets into the rift that public school advocates and school choice advocates see in fixing the problems of K-12 education.
For individuals like DeVos, who are strong supporters of programs like school vouchers and charter schools, they see school choice as a fundamental right for parents to be able to choose which schools that can send their kids to. While many have painted DeVos to be an out-of- touch billionaire, that uses her connections carelessly to undermine the tenants of the US education system, the truth is a bit more complicated. School choice advocates like DeVos believe that a failing public school shouldn’t hold a child back, even if taking that child out of a public school system inadvertently makes that failing public school that much harder to fix.
While most discussions of school choice vs public school have always demonized the other side, This American Life however does an excellent job of showing the motivations in how each side comes to their conclusions. For that alone, the story is worth a listen.
You can listen to the story here.
(Photo Credit: Betsy DeVos Twitter)