betsy

The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp. -George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-four

No one makes a better villain than Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. She’s the enemy of public education that everyone – on a divided left  – can agree to hate.

DeVos is our very own Emmanuel Goldstein, great uniter of the democratic party and designated enemy; who continues to bring all of us together in our updated – dare I say innovative – version of Orwellian inspired two minutes of hate.

Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury

Since DeVos is the agreed upon villain and one woman wrecking ball of public education, it may come as a huge shock to people who view themselves as democrats that “the evil one” is a big supporter of the Swiss Model of youth apprenticeships and career connected learning.

Here’s a portion of her prepared remarks from June 7, 2018 before the International Congress on Vocational & Professional Training:

While I’m here in Switzerland I will meet with students, educators and business leaders to learn more about education in this country. I look forward to seeing first-hand how Swiss students pursue their passions through many different technical and vocational courses and in apprenticeship programs.

The Swiss approach is one from which we can all learn a great deal. It is so interesting that more than two-thirds of current students pursue their education through apprenticeships.

Of course apprenticeships include those for welders and carpenters – which, in my country, is more common. But apprenticeships here include many options in every sector of the economy, including healthcare, finance and law. I was so intrigued to learn from Switzerland’s Ambassador to the U.S. Martin Dahinden that the CEO of UBS, Sergio Ermotti, started his career as an apprentice. And Lukas Gähwiler, Chairman of UBS, Switzerland also started out his career as an apprentice. That’s not commonplace in America, but perhaps it should be!

President Donald Trump has made apprenticeship expansion a priority. He established a national Task Force on Apprenticeships, chaired by Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta and co-chaired by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and myself. We were joined by leaders from business, labor and education. Our charge was to explore ways to empower Americans with options to earn and learn. And ways to encourage the private sector and higher education to advance this important opportunity for our nation’s economic future.

There are many avenues to earn what individual students want and what employers need: industry-recognized certificates, two-year degrees, stackable credits, credentials, licenses, advanced degrees, badges, four-year degrees, micro-degrees, apprenticeships and so on.

All of these are valid pursuits. Each should be embraced as such. If it’s the right fit for the student, then it’s the right education. And importantly, no stigma should stand in the way of a student’s journey to success.

Proper credentials send important signals to employers. The question is whether those credentials match what employers need – and what employers think those signals mean.

Think about it this way: students seek out a credential – a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree, an advanced degree – because they think it will send a signal to employers that they are employable. But too often what they learn while earning that credential isn’t what they need to do the work they are hired to do.

The Swiss approach addresses that. Employers and educators work hand-in-hand to line up the skills required with those actually learned. It’s a bottom-up, self-defined solution. And it’s a solution we must better emulate in my country.

Additionally, the notion that education begins at age five and ends at age twenty-two must be retired. That posture suggests that education is merely transactional, with a finite beginning and end. But learning has no finish line.

Today’s students need something drastically different, something significantly better than what my own experience was. They need learning environments that are agile, relevant, exciting. Students need customized, self-paced, and challenging life-long learning journeys.

Let’s see, DeVos mentions: industry-recognized certificates, stackable credits and credentials, badges, micro-degrees, and apprenticeships, all of which – in my mind, add up to a nationwide K-12 badging program.

This is a dream come true for the Chamber of Commerce, business leaders, and social impact investors who are keen to limit public education to workforce development devoid of any time wasted on extraneous knowledge not directly beneficial to capital and the bottom line.

Really, if DeVos hadn’t mentioned Trump, her prepared remarks would be hard to distinguish from something Suzi LeVine, Washington State’s newly appointed Commissioner of the State’s Employment Security Department, would have delivered in a speech.

Who’s Suzi LeVine? You can learn more about her by reading Kids, Welcome to the Machine: Suzi Levine & Career Connected Learning.

So, this is a little awkward. Betsy DeVos  – the agreed upon enemy of public education- also endorsing the democrat approved initiative of career connected learning and youth apprenticeships.

Maybe the destruction of public education is a more bipartisan affair than our thought leaders would have us believe.

-Carolyn Leith