(p. A11) Mrs. DeVos sees choice as a means to the end of promoting educational innovation–including within traditional public schools. “Instead of focusing on systems and buildings, we should be focused on individual students,” she says. That means encouraging young people “to pursue their curiosity and their interests, and being OK with wherever that takes them–not trying to conform them into a path that everybody has to take.”
What stands in the way? “I think a real robust defense of the status quo is the biggest impediment,” Mrs. DeVos says. She doesn’t mention teachers unions until I raise the subject, whereupon she observes: “I think that they have done a good job in continuing to advocate for their members, but I think it’s a focus more around the needs of adults” rather than students.
Many of the adults are frustrated, too. Recently I met a veteran middle-school teacher who said his creativity in the classroom has been increasingly constrained by federal and state mandates on curriculum and testing. Another teacher I know, who wants to start a charter, complains that “it is getting harder and harder to work for the idiots in traditional schools.”
That sounds familiar to Mrs. DeVos. “I do hear sentiments from many teachers like that,” she says, “and particularly from many teachers that are really effective and creative themselves. I’ve also heard from many teachers who have stopped teaching because they feel like they can’t really be free to do their best, because they’re either subtly or not subtly criticized by peers who might not be as effective as they are–or by administrators who don’t want to see them sort of excelling and upsetting the apple cart within whatever system they’re in.”
She continues: “I talked to a bunch of teachers that had left teaching that had been Teachers of the Year in their states or their counties or whatever. I recall one of the teachers said he just felt so beaten down after being told repeatedly to have his class keep it down–that they were having too much fun, and the kids were too engaged. Well, what kind of a message is that?”
For the full interview, see:
James Taranto, interviewer. “THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW with Betsey DeVos; The Teachers Union’s Public Enemy No. 1.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Sept. 2, 2017): A11.
(Note: the online version of the interview has the date Sept. 1, 2017, and has the title “THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW; The Teachers Union’s Public Enemy No. 1.”)