Betsy DeVos – the unqualified political donor who ascended to the role of secretary of education by virtue of her decades worth of financial support for the Republican party – ranks among the more ridiculous appointments in the Trump Administration. Her confirmation hearing showcased her cluelessness on education policy, callousness regarding the rights of students with disabilities, and bizarre line of reasoning, summed up in her statement that guns had a place in schools “to protect from potential grizzlies.”
All and all, it’s hard to imagine a more unsuitable candidate to head the Department of Education. Take, for her example, her completely ignorant case example for why school choice is good policy: during black history month, she described historically black universities as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” In reality, these institutions emerged from the opportunity vacuum created by segregated schools and the impossibly high bar African-Americans faced to gain entry into other colleges and universities.
Considering this appalling lack of historical knowledge (or, even worse, this willfully racist and revisionist worldview), it was quite surprising when DeVos was invited to present a commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college in Florida.
Students weren’t having it, though.
During DeVos’ speech, students turned their backs and booed the oligarchically appointed secretary of education. Even when the university’s president, Edison Jackson, threatened to mail the students their diplomas if their behavior continued, they persisted.
Betsy DeVos got loudly booed by students at a historically black college. pic.twitter.com/gobykJkzY6
— AJ+ (@ajplus) May 11, 2017
Dismayed graduates exercised their First Amendment rights, and shouldn’t be condemned for doing so. Sometimes, pundits make the argument that no-platforming (ie shutting down a speaker) is anti-democratic. This argument simply doesn’t make sense in some cases. Whether it’s the media’s tendency to present a climate denier for every climate scientist (which grossly misrepresents the actual consensus on climate change), or an alt-right bigot like Milo Yiannopoulos peddling unbridled hate as free speech, pretending that some individuals have an equal share in the debate gives way too much credence to toxic belief systems we shouldn’t actually be talking about. DeVos’ self-serving, corporatized, and ignorant understanding of education ranks among these.