Ed. Secretary Betsy DeVos Visits Jewish Schools

May 21, 2018 by

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was in New York City on business for two days last week and made sure she had no time to visit a single public school from the over 1,800 she had to choose from. 
 
Of course that was no accident. She has a deep-seated disinclination to put herself at risk of being inspired by anything she might witness in a public school. Her brazen absence was her legible signature of contempt.
 
She wasn’t called away by an emergency. Her calendar had more breathing room than Montana.  And she didn’t even deign to politely excuse herself.
 
Had she done quick walk-through of at least a single elementary, middle or high school, it would at least have muffled criticism somewhat, or at least provided a public-relations fig-leaf over what was a naked insult.
 
Her diligent avoidance of exposure to any public school amounted to a symbolic government boycott by the chief federal education authority.
 
It was not a passive gesture but rather a spiteful act of omission. She retreated from where she needed to be and instead invaded where she didn’t belong: a pair or religious private schools.
 
Betsy DeVos has two hands consisting of nothing but middle fingers for public schools.
 
While in New York, she toured two Yeshivas. That they were Jewish schools, rather than of any other religion, particularly galled much of the press and much of the establishment which exuded scorn. Anti-Jewishness ( as opposed to anti-antisemitism) has undergone a revival and repulsive level of respectability here and abroad.  It comes in many disguises and with many excuses, but that is the not the focus of this commentary.
 
Unfortunately, the DeVos visit played into the Judeophobic hands, because it conjured a legitimate current news story for journalists to masticate over against a backdrop of illegitimate abhorrence. Specifically, there’s been a halogen-bright spotlight lately on the allegedly inferior education that Yeshivas generally offer their students.  DeVos’s incursion rips open those wounds of controversy and inflames them anew.
 
Let’s not be deterred. Betsy DeVos was not displaying an ecumenical spirit or deference to a religious minority or culture. In a cunning and venal way, and with a breezy stride and seething elegance, what she was doing was clearing her throat and spitting into the face of the very concept of public schools, and every adult and child with hope and a stake in them.
 
Ron Isaac
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