Opinion: Another fake ‘gaffe,’ involving Betsy DeVos and grizzlies

Here we go again. Last week we had the supposed “gaffe” Ben Carson committed when one of his comments was taken out of context. Now we have another one involving Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary — who supposedly thinks American schools are on the verge of a mass, multi-front attack by grizzly bears, or something.

Betsy DeVos, nominated to be secretary of education, testifies before a Senate committee, Jan. 18.  (AP Photo / Carolyn Kaster)

Betsy DeVos, nominated to be secretary of education, testifies before a Senate committee, Jan. 18. (AP Photo / Carolyn Kaster)

Except that, just as in last week’s case, believing this requires one to ignore the entire context of the hearing and the dialogue DeVos had with the senators on the committee.

At the start of the questioning portion of the hearing, Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming made the following remarks, punctuated by a question:

“You’re going to be dealing with a variety of states, from high-population to low-population. I happen to come from the lowest-population state. It has some specific challenges in education – call it rural and frontier challenges. We don’t allow a child to travel more than an hour by bus to or from school. And as a result, we have some schools that have one or two students. It’s a little different situation than was even envisioned with No Child Left Behind. … Rural and frontier has some specific problems. Part of them are that the submission of some of the applications and some of the applicable reports have no bearing on what we’re doing. And that’s important when we have the rural aspect, as well as the Wind River Indian Reservation, which is the home of two tribes. … One of the most important jobs you’ll have is the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, and I’m pleased with what you’ve said about it. Can you talk about your plans to engage rural and frontier states and communities in that process?”

This was a question premised on a mainstream conservative belief, which is that blanket regulations and requirements set in Washington, D.C., often fail to take into account the unique circumstances that pop up all across our vast nation. And DeVos clearly recognized that premise in her response:

“Well, Senator, thank you, thank you for that question, and I too enjoyed our meeting in your office. I particularly enjoyed hearing a little bit about the special needs of schools like the Wapiti school that has the grizzly-bear fence surrounding it. I think that is a unique need to Wyoming, certainly. But certainly rural schools and rural settings require different approaches and different options. And so I refer to the Every Student Succeeds Act, and I think (in) the implementation of that, and Wyoming’s plan for that, it will be important to recognize the unique needs of the rural population that you have, as well as many of the other states represented here in the committee. … And I would, if confirmed, look forward to working with you and some of your other colleagues that face some of those same types of challenges, such as Sen. (Susan) Collins (of Maine) and Sen. (Lisa) Murkowski (of Alaska), and work with you to address the specific needs of rural communities and high-rural-population states.”

So there’s the context for what all the headlines are about: an exchange about an hour and a half later between DeVos and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut:

The premise of Murphy’s question is the opposite of the conservative one I mentioned earlier: It’s the liberal impulse to believe Washington elites in their well-insulated bubble can set blanket regulations and requirements that make sense despite all of the unique circumstances that pop up all across our vast nation. What’s more, his question is as broad as it could possibly be: “Do you think guns have any place in or around schools?” (Emphasis added.) Well, does that include school security officers? Faculty and staff trained to use their weapons in the case of an armed attacker? Parents who keep a concealed weapon in the vehicle they might happen to drive onto school property while dropping off or picking up their children? “Any place in or around schools” is broad enough to mean anything at all.

When DeVos responds with the reference to her earlier exchange with Enzi about the school that is so threatened by grizzly bears that it built a fence to keep them out, it’s perfectly clear she’s rejecting Murphy’s premise — not necessarily about guns, but about the more general liberal premise about blanket regulations and Washington’s ability to know about or anticipate all the unique circumstances out there. That’s all. It’s dishonest to pretend she was suggesting every school faces such threats, or even that many do. On the contrary, the uniqueness of the problem is the entire point.

What this really boils down to is the refusal of DeVos — like a number of Trump appointees, and Republicans and conservatives more generally — to hew to the liberal orthodoxy about matters such as education policy. There’s a great deal of disdain for DeVos among those educrats and status quoists who can’t stand the thought of a U.S. education secretary who understands traditional public schools aren’t the best option for some children. And as we’ve seen in Georgia recently, they’ll say anything and everything — whatever it takes, truth be damned — to suppress that kind of thinking.

Reader Comments 0

91 comments
Scott Wrighter
Scott Wrighter

Fight fake news, unless it helps your cause era.

David Starks
David Starks

You moron!! She's the one who brought up the grizzlies as a reason to have weapons in schools! No senator said anything to coerce that from her!!

Carole Holloway Lancaster
Carole Holloway Lancaster

Oh contraire..." 2 days ago - In her answer, DeVos mentioned something Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said earlier about a school in Wyoming that has fences surrounding it to protect against grizzly bears."

David Starks
David Starks

And that's not any reason for her to say anything about guns in schools! Try again!!

Matthew Howell
Matthew Howell

Carole Holloway Lancaster so she should be excused because a republican said something stupid first? Good point.

Carrie Taylor
Carrie Taylor

She didn't know IDEA was a thing. She wants to leave the educating of special needs kids "up to the states." We tried that. It's why we have IDEA. Her ignorance about the complexities of the public school system is insulting.

Carol Cambra Smith
Carol Cambra Smith

I understand your comments and putting some of the criticisms about her out of context, BUT her lack of understanding of proficiency vs growth is inexcusable! You are wrong on her. This has nothing to do with politics but everything to do with qualifications, which she lacks! Sorry!

Lindsey Gregory
Lindsey Gregory

I wouldn't trust trust this dumb broad to kill a bear.

Kuaskualo16
Kuaskualo16

Didn't know the difference between proficiency and growth?! WOW!

Matthew Howell
Matthew Howell

Wow Kyle is an idiot! Maybe he has a future in the trump administration. Left or right the grizzly bear answer was dumb. It's even more idiotic not to realize that.

Eric Lahr
Eric Lahr

She looks most qualified to complain about her filet being a bit undercooked.

Debbie Fritts Hendrix
Debbie Fritts Hendrix

My daughter is a teacher with a masters degree. Better qualified for the position than this lady.

SJ Moore
SJ Moore

Because your daughter has actually taught and understands the obstacles in education at every level? Yes...I would agree. I read somewhere this women didn't even attend public school. I also read she wants to take funds away from public schools and give them to private schools which rich kids attend. Does that make sense to anyone but her and other wealthy people?

Richard Crabbe
Richard Crabbe

I hope Kyle Wingfield continues to employ this kind of methodical deconstruction every time one of the Tweeter-in-Chief's fact-free 140-word gems gets dumped into the social media stream.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Just thought of a federal school policy that got way out of hand.

From the Safe Schools Improvement Act encompassing gun-free schools to zero-tolerance school policies created a pipeline to prison whether intended or not.

Zero-intelligence brought that nonsense about.

Inches and miles.

Undoing the damage is more difficult than doing it without thinking. 

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

What has the Department of Education Accomplished since its inception under the Carter Administration in 1980? It has been an abysmal failure as the US education rankings compared to the other top countries in the world have plummeted during the last 35 years. For 16 to 24 year olds 

Reading comprehension 18 out of 19 at least the US rated higher than Italy.

Math and Science proficiency  last out of 19

Problem solving last out of 19.

So how will Ms.Devos do anything that would make the US educational system any worse than it already is,(in World rankings) last place. The Department of Education has set the mark(the lowest) in achievement and efficiency of all of our Federal government agencies. When will our feckless leaders in DC give up the social engineering project and return education to the local governments ,where parents have more control. It may be too late ,because most current parents have been subject to the current public education system and may not have the ability to comprehend that our schools are failing to educate our children and grandchildren.

Sorry I forgot to give credit to John Cassidy of the New Yorker Magazine  for the world rankings.

Mustang100
Mustang100

Aaaaah!

January 20, 2017 - PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP!!!!!!!!!

How about THAT Hedley_butthurtLamar?

All of your name calling, whining, temper tantrums,and snot drip licking cannot change it!!!!!!!!!

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Wanna know how bad her testimony was.


Folks like Kyle arent even trying to defend it.


Instead HE wants to talk about grizzly bears.


Frankly Kyle that was her best moment.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Its estimated the DeVos family has given over 200 million to the Republican party over the years.


Funny. I didn't think cabinet positions cost that much these days.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Her testimony wasn't just bad


Its was stunningly bad. Jaw dropping bad.


Normal this would disqualify that person.


But not in Trumps America. Better buckle up buckaroos.


The nuts are running the show now. Lead by the birther in chief.

Soybean Bob
Soybean Bob

Identity Politics - the classic liberal orthodoxy - you can't understand the needs of ___________ because you haven't been __________.
With that litmus test, nobody could be president, senator, governor, etc because s/he hasn't experienced every possible issue or circumstance that someone in his constituency has experienced.
Does liberal orthodoxy require that a SecEd have homeschooled, private-schooled and public-schooled at least one or more of his/her children?  Apparently the answer is yes.  So, ok, let's just jettison the entire department.
BTW, the largest single issue in public education is teacher's unions.  The biggest aim of public education is to protect teachers' jobs.  If any learning actually occurs, that's a bonus.  Unless/until that issue is resolved (and it likely won't be), public education will remain what it is today.  A jobs program.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Soybean Bob Identity Politics


You just elected a birther nut who did nothing but play identity politics. Pitting whites against minorities


You have no idea what you are talking about.

TruthReallyHurts
TruthReallyHurts

@Soybean Bob Dumbest post of the day. 

DeVos is unfit and unqualified for the job. She's probably more qualified to run Commerce instead of the DOE. She despises public education and has most likely never set foot in a traditional public school, other than to flip it to a charter school.

As for your nonsensical claim that the "biggest aim of public education is to protect teacher jobs," no, the biggest aim of public education is to provide EVERY child an education -- without regard to race, creed, color, gender, religion or socioeconomic status. Using your logic, I guess our military is a jobs program, too, eh?

TruthReallyHurts
TruthReallyHurts

Kyle has fallen in with the "fake"-azoids. Now EVERYTHING they don't agree with is "fake", as in "fake news."

The questions from Sen. Murphy was legit, even within the context of rural schools. There are "urban" schools that have issues with stray dogs, and schools near swamps in south Georgia and Florida that have had issues with gators. Should they have gun toting teachers at the ready?

I thought Kyle was bigger than pandering to the deplorables. Guess not.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

The Franken questioning was especially good. He exposed her for the fraud she is.

redneckbluedog
redneckbluedog

Make America Great Again..?!?!?

Nominate a HHS secretary that trades stocks based on legislation he has manipulated..?!?!

That's not Great...that's criminal..!!!

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@redneckbluedog You think congress really wants to open that Pandora's Box? Passing legislation that benefits them directly or indirectly through their donors; unethical of course, illegal not unless you are up for a cabinet position under a GOP president

redneckbluedog
redneckbluedog

Make America Great Again...!!!

Drain the Swamp..!!

Open That Box..!!

DeepStateDawg
DeepStateDawg

Interesting bit Kyle. 


It is truly distressing to hear that a politician would use anecdotal evidence to make any kind political point about perceived gaps in a large system.  


More please.  

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RidgecrestDawg You find it "distressing" that someone would point out a possible problem with a proposed policy?

DeepStateDawg
DeepStateDawg

@Kyle_Wingfield @RidgecrestDawg Not it all... The problem is that opponents of said policy would dare to use anecdotal evidence to comment on the entire policy or program.  


And if that weren't bad enough, then the well meaning bureaucrat gets quoted out of context commenting on that statistically improbable event. 


Fortunately enough, conservatives most certainly do not engage in that type of journalism, especially not on AM radio or click bait websites. 


http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2014/11/11/death-panels-coming/

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

In the 2012 - 2013 school year 38 percent of charter schools received state academic rankings below the 25th percentile - meaning that 75 percent of all the schools in the state performed better. By contrast, only 23 percent traditional public schools fell below the 25th percentile, according to an exhaustive investigation by the Detroit Free Press. Not surprisingly, the New York Times found that the better schools are located in the richer neighborhoods. Despite these failures, DeVos fought for, and won, laws that allow Michigan’s charter schools to operate without any oversight or accountability.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-greenwald/kids-for-sale-betsy-devos_b_14158500.html


This is going to be an absolute disaster.

redneckbluedog
redneckbluedog

Just wait until The NY Times, the WaPo, and the Guardian take over the Russian investigations...

Andrew Cuomo will be the next POTUS....

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

A billionaire from one of Michigan’s wealthiest families, DeVos has never been a teacher or worked as a school administrator, and her children did not attend public school. Her education experience is primarily as a political donor, steering money toward “school choice” reforms to bolster charter and private schools.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/betsy-devos-trumps-education-pick-seems-unfamiliar-with-a-major-federal-education-law_us_587f7c0fe4b0c147f0bc01ea


What a joke.

redneckbluedog
redneckbluedog

Nikki Haley looked great. Perry and Perdue also. The rest gotta go.

redneckbluedog
redneckbluedog

Except for that whole "Trade stocks based on legislation" thing...

He is a criminal...lock him up..!! Drain the Swamp..!! Make America Great Again...

redneckbluedog
redneckbluedog

He will make Georgia proud....unlike Dr. Price...and Speaker Gingrich..

redneckbluedog
redneckbluedog

Easy Boss....Perdue was a decent Governor and is a decent person...

He has more experience than Carson, DeVos, and Trump combined...

He should do fine....

This is about public service...as opposed to oligarchs, robber barons, and the kleptocracy...

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@redneckbluedog He seems to actually have experience he could bring to the job he is being asked to do.


This seems to be the exception among Trumps nominees.


DeVos a prime example. She is there because she is rich. 

bu22
bu22

@Hedley_Lammar @redneckbluedog Perdue really doesn't have heavy agricultural experience.  He's kind of a question mark.  He obviously has government executive experience.

bu22
bu22

@Hedley_Lammar @redneckbluedog Price is a doctor heading HHS and has spent a lot of his time in the legislature dealing with health issues.  He was an excellent choice.

bu22
bu22

@redneckbluedog More "fake graft."  http://dailycaller.com/2017/01/17/cnn-missed-or-ignored-key-facts-about-tom-prices-health-care-stocks/  Several reasons it is fake news, biggest being "Importantly, Price played no role in the decision to purchase the stock, which was executed under a broker-directed account by Morgan Stanley, according to a source with direct knowledge on the issue. The stock purchase was by his brokerage firm during a regular rebalancing of accounts."

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2017/01/17/cnn-missed-or-ignored-key-facts-about-tom-prices-health-care-stocks/#ixzz4WE3EYZaw