Education is critical to science. Lack of a good education can put science out of reach. One of America's greatest strengths has been the public school system, which allowed children whose parents didn't have the means to send them to elite private schools to obtain the education they needed to take us to the moon, make crucial medical discoveries, and advance our knowledge of every branch of science.

And, of course, there would be very little American science without our universities and colleges. Without science, you can pretty much kiss American prosperity goodbye. Education is the foundation upon which the American dream rests.

So the Secretary of Education is critical to the health and future of American scientific achievement. They're not the be-all end-all, but the policies they enact and the tone they set reverberate from the most prestigious Ivy League universities down to the tiniest public primary school all the way out in Podunk, Nowhere. Everyone from young children to adults seeking continuing education are affected.

Betsy DeVos, Trump's woefully terrible pick for the job, has had a terrible effect on most of them in her months at the helm. As 2017 draws to a close, let's have a quick look at all the ways she has changed education for the worse.

Betsy DeVos Eviscerated the DOE's Civil Rights Enforcement

At a time when we're struggling to increase diversity in education, she reversed the advances made during the Obama Administration. Instead of increasing staff to handle the increased workload caused by policies that took civil rights seriously, she just scaled it all back. And the person she put in charge of the Office of Civil Rights, Candace Jackson, is a white woman who thinks policies meant to give students of color opportunities that white kids already enjoy are "reverse discrimination." Neither of these actions will protect students' civil rights.

Betsy DeVos Refused to Protect LGBTQA Students

Oh, she likes to claim that discrimination won't be tolerated. But if you look over her testimony before Congress, you can see a clear pattern: she won't make protecting LGBTQA students a priority, she won't require private schools that receive federal funding to follow federal anti-discrimination laws, and if federal law is unsettled on a point of protection for students that are trans or non-heterosexual, those students are out of luck as far as she's concerned.

She abandoned trans students whose discrimination cases were already open, too.

Betsy DeVos Made Campuses Safer for Rapists

During the Obama Administration, the Department of Education cracked down hard on campus sexual assault. Under DeVos, the DOE rapidly pulled back. Pressured to meet with assault survivors, she decided to balance the scales by meeting with men's rights groups that love to blame victims for what their attackers do to them and see domestic violence as a free speech issue. She thinks that protecting those targeted by sexual harassers and predators on campus is "weaponizing" the DOE's Office of Civil Rights. She basically answered the pleas of sexual assault survivors by telling them they don't matter.

The reprehensible Candace Jackson, DeVos's pick for head of the OCR, actually bluntly said that the vast majority of campus sexual assualts "fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk, we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.'" With attitudes like this, there is no hope these people will advocate for victims.

And considering that women are overwhelmingly the targets of sexual harassment and assault, STEM education's sexism problem will be harder to address due to the actions of these right-wing women.

Betsy DeVos Doesn't Understand IDEA

When questioned last January about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, DeVos displayed considerable confusion. That didn't stop her office from rescinding 72 documents that provided guidance to schools and parents as to how IDEA should work in practice. I find the claim that those documents were outdated or unnecessary less than believable, coming from people who have absolutely no idea how to protect the rights of minority students.

 

We haven't even touched on her dramatic negative effect on staff morale, the rampant corruption, her enthusiasm for dismantling public education in favor of predatory for-profits and religious private schools, and the financial burdens she's dumping on students' shoulders. We'll address that next week.