Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Monday made comments that not only earned her near universal criticism, but many say prove the depths of her ignorance when it comes to education.
DeVos said that historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are “real prioneers when it comes to school choice.”
“The are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and great quality,” the newly sworn in Education Secretary said in a statement. “Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”
Her comments came as representatives from the nation’s HBCUs were in Washington to meet with Republican lawmakers. President Trump is expected to sign an executive order related to the schools on Tuesday.
DeVos’s comments immediately earned her backlash from supporters of HBCUs who educated her on why the institutions were established — because of a lack of choice for African American students.
This is not okay. Devos is truly clueless and has far too much power. Her leadership of USEd is dangerous https://t.co/MixGaTEWAX
— Jovan Miles (@JovanDM) February 28, 2017
— Myron B. Pitts (@FOmyronpitts) February 28, 2017
Does DeVos not realize that the HBCUs only exist because black students literally couldn't attend any other institution? #NotSchoolChoice
— Mickayla Roberts (@M_C_Kayla) February 28, 2017
Congressman John Conyers, Jr. issued a scathing response to DeVos calling her statement “shocking and insulting.” The Democrat from DeVos’s home state of Michigan also set the record straight as to HBCUs. “Let’s be clear, HBCU’s were started because of Jim Crow laws. Black students did not ‘choose’ HBCUs over the all-white colleges — they were barred from attending due to their race.”
“This statement by Mrs. DeVos reveals either a stunning ignorance of history on the part of the person tasked with overseeing our nation’s education system, or an inability to acknowledge our nation’s shameful history of racial discrimination in education,” he added.
Conyers then blasted DeVos’s record in education. “These statements are not surprising. Mrs. DeVos’s ‘work’ in Michigan pushing for an education system that increases segregation, improves schools for wealthy students, and destroys choices in minority and underserved communities, should have disqualified her from serving in her current position.”
— John Conyers, Jr. (@RepJohnConyers) February 28, 2017
Twitter users were not kind with their analogies either. Some argued that her statements could be equated to saying that segregated water fountains simply gave people more beverage choices, or that civil rights icon Rosa Parks was standing up for seat choice.
Betsy DeVos said HBCUs were about school choice. As if white/colored water fountains were about beverage options. pic.twitter.com/I3tNlER43n
— Resist Dystopia (@AynAyahSteenkur) February 28, 2017
@nktpnd betsy devos: "rosa parks is a real pioneer when it comes to seat choice"
— Sam Deutsch (@samdman95) February 28, 2017
DeVos has been under fire since she was nominated to be Education Secretary, among other reasons, because she appears to have virtually no knowledge of public schooling, or frankly, education as a whole.
Brendan Nyhan, who is professor of political science at Dartmouth University, pointed out on Twitter that DeVos’s statement contradicted information which is readily available on her own department’s website.
Betsy DeVos on HBCUs as "school choice" vs. basic historical facts about segregation on her own department's website pic.twitter.com/b6fs5v78W0
— Brendan Nyhan (@BrendanNyhan) February 28, 2017