There’s been a lot of talk about “fake news” since the election. So much talk that “fake news” no longer means “fake news” but “biased articles we don’t like.” Personally, I don’t have a problem with fake news. I can tell when news is fake, and if you can’t tell when news is fake, then I don’t have a lot of confidence in your ability to deal with real news, so I give up on that score. I have even less of a problem with biased news. I expect unbiased news reports about as much as I expect Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and Donald Trump’s spiritual advisor to walk into a bar. I assume that reporters are biased; I factor it into my analysis of their reporting. What bothers me more than fake news and biased news is crap news, i.e. “news” about stupid crap that doesn’t matter to anyone and drowns out issues that are actually relevant to people’s lives.
A prime example of crap news is whatever dumbass thing the President-Elect just tweeted about that makes no difference to anyone but only shows what a dumbass jerk he is. WE ALREADY KNOW HE’S A DUMBASS JERK. THIS ISN’T “NEWS.”
The crap news that is bugging me right now is this business about Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, saying that schools need to have guns on campus to protect students from grizzly bears. All the liberals are like, “OMG GRIZZLY BEARS THAT’S SO STUPID,” and all the conservatives are like, “OMG THAT’S A GROSS DISTORTION OF WHAT SHE SAID,” and really, both of them are correct, but the most correct response would be “OMG EVERYONE SHUT UP ABOUT GUNS AND BEARS SHE CAN’T GIVE A COHERENT RESPONSE TO A RELEVANT QUESTION ABOUT FEDERAL LAW REGARDING STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES”—but that last one is more than 140 characters, so good luck.
I have four kids, three of whom are still in public K-12 schools (the fourth is at a public community college) and two of whom have disabilities. I’m as interested in the success of my disabled children as I am in my other children’s, and I’m grateful to be living in a day and age and society in which we’ve collectively made efforts to ensure that disabled students get appropriate educations. However, I am not naïve about the limitations and drawbacks of the current system under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. I am totally open to new and different policy proposals for ensuring that disabled students have access to an appropriate education.
From what I’ve read, i.e. what I’ve managed to glean from reports that aren’t obsessed with her unnatural fear of grizzlies, Betsy DeVos’s general philosophy seems to be that the federal government should have less control over education and states and locales should have more. That is a general philosophy that I happen to share. No, I’m not some kind of wacko who thinks school districts should just hold bake sales and hope for the best. I’m neither a purist nor a fanatic, but I am skeptical that the federal government, as far removed as it is from most citizens’ lives, can effectively micro-manage the educations of all students. Just a healthy skepticism, that’s all I have, not a partisan axe to grind or a political hobby horse I want to ride.
The fact is that my family does just fine under the status quo. We’re above-average in terms of income and financial resources; my husband and I are both college-educated; one of us is a full-time caregiver. We have many advantages over other families, particularly when it comes to providing for the needs of our disabled children. We can supplement our children’s public education. We can afford to live in a good school district with good schools. We can afford private therapies for our children with disabilities. We can afford babysitters to watch our kids while we go to endless IEP meetings and fight with the school district over what services they’re going to provide. We can take time off work to go to these meetings. If push comes to shove, we can afford to hire a lawyer or advocate to help us navigate the process of getting our kids the services they’re legally entitled to. The federal government doesn’t need to change anything on our account.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands of families in this country who don’t enjoy the same advantages we have. Whatever their neighborhood school is, no matter how awful, they’re stuck with it. Whatever the school district offers in terms of services for their disabled children, no matter how inadequate, that’s what they’ll get. These are the families who aren’t being served by the current system because they don’t have the resources to navigate it. So yes, I’m very interested to learn how a “federalist” (i.e. local) approach to education would benefit students across a spectrum of needs. I’m philosophically biased toward federalism and local control to begin with, so you don’t even need to work that hard to sell it to me—but you do have to sell it. You can’t just say, “Leave it up to the states,” like it’s some Jedi mind trick. That doesn’t even work on me, let alone all the folks who think “states’ rights” is just another way of saying “slavery” or “segregation.”
I’m not super-convinced that anyone in Washington really wants to have a substantive discussion about education policy, though. I haven’t seen reports of any particularly substantive questioning of Betsy DeVos by anyone in the Senate. I see that she can’t explain what she plans to do (or not do) to improve the lot of American students, but I also see that some dumbass from Connecticut wanted to spend his five minutes asking her what she thinks about guns in schools WHEN IT’S NOT THE EDUCATION SECRETARY’S JOB TO KEEP GUNS OUT OF SCHOOLS OR PUT THEM THERE, REGARDLESS OF WHAT SHE THINKS. Honestly, does anyone think Sandy Hook could have been prevented if the Secretary of Education (whoever he/she was at the time) had just been more pro-active about keeping guns out of school? I meant that to be a rhetorical question, but just in case anyone’s raising their hand, let me just say NO GRIZZLY BEAR OR PSYCHOPATH HAS EVER BEEN STOPPED BY THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION. Whether or not there should be guns in school or no guns in school is certainly debatable. By all means, have that debate. MAYBE IN YOUR STATES OR LOCALES, WHICH ARE IN CHARGE OF GUN LAWS.
I should probably not call the senator from Connecticut a dumbass when I’ve never met him and he’s probably a perfectly lovely person who happens to feel strongly about gun control for understandable reasons, but golly, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and not everything can be about gun control.
I should also probably note that Trump talked on the campaign trail about banning gun-free schools, as though this is something the President should even be able to do, let alone actually do. To this I can only say NO PRESIDENT HAS EVER BEEN STOPPED BY THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION AND THIS COUNTRY REALLY NEEDS TO HAVE A COME TO JESUS ABOUT EXECUTIVE POWER. FORWARD SLASH RANT
The reality is that it probably doesn’t matter who the Secretary of Education is if this is the level of discourse we’re going to have about education policy. A meaningful discussion of the most important issues will take longer than the 45 seconds the public is willing to spend on it. SO FINE JUST TALK ABOUT BEARS.