As Planes, Trains, And Automobiles Left Town

In order to put today’s article and title into context I will have to digress into a brief explanation for the benefit of my foreign readers. Americans celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November. The next day is known as Black Friday and is a huge shopping day that has morphed into a semi-holiday of its own. Many employers simply grant it as a day off and countless Americans take the day off via other methods. Those with flexible jobs tend to skip out sometime after (or in conjunction with) lunch on Wednesday so for many Americans last week was a half week of work. Thanksgiving is one of the few times that far flung families gather in a single place (usually mom’s house) therefore the traveling starts about noon on Wednesday. In politics if you want something to receive minimal coverage you announce it on a Friday afternoon since many of the senior news staff have already filed their stories and folded their tents for the weekend (often including getting out of town for a weekend getaway). That exodus is only compounded by a holiday and it started Wednesday last week. Therefore I expected a controversial announcement from the Trump transition team on Wednesday afternoon and they didn’t disappoint me!  

Wednesday America woke up to the news that Donald Trump had selected South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to be his United Nations Ambassador. I won’t waste a lot of space on that appointment for the simple reason that Trump’s crew really couldn’t give a rat’s behind about the UN. Politically and image wise it was a brilliant appointment in that they named someone that the GOP establishment likes who also happens to be a woman of color (sometimes Haley even admits to her heritage). It also gave the forthcoming bomb some cover.

A bit after noon – when the engines on the vehicles were already started – the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education was announced. Outside of education professionals and political junkies the general reaction was, “Who?” and then they returned to getting ready for turkey day. That was the bomb, it went off and most Americans didn’t give it much thought. My reaction was: that was the nuclear explosion I had anticipated!

I’m realistic. Elections have consequences. Trump won and I’m not going to see a lot of appointments I’m happy with. In the case of Mrs. DeVos we have a nominee who is unqualified and the situation resembles a fox being put in charge of security at the hen house. The Department of Education (DoE) is the federal agency in charge of public education in America. Since much of the education funding and decision making in American occurs at the state and local levels the exact quality varies by location. That being said one of the many great things about America is that a quality free public education is obtainable up to the 12th grade nationwide.

DeVos has no experience as a classroom teacher or a school administrator; she does not have an undergraduate education degree nor does she have an advanced degree in anything. She is an advocate of siphoning funds from public schools to charter and private schools and a long-time large donor to right wing Republican causes and candidates. In fact her brother Eric Prince donated $100,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC late in the campaign; (more about him later.)

My critics will jump on the fact that by legal definition charter schools are public schools. That is the legal definition but in the overwhelming number of cases it is not the reality. Most charters contract their management out to for-profit firms that are often out-of-state and have less than sterling reputations. Private schools are just that, private. I believe you should have the freedom to send your child there and I also believe that if you make that choice you should pay for it.

Increasingly I have come to believe that the incoming Trump administration is little more than an organized criminal enterprise. Let’s follow the money for a bit. The DeVos family is heir to the Amway fortune. Amway is in essence the most successful pyramid sales scheme ever. I wouldn’t buy a used car from Donald Trump and I certain wouldn’t buy an Amway franchise from the DeVos family!

Back to brother Eric; you may remember his name from recent American history. Eric Prince was CEO of the former Blackwater organization (the name has been changed at least once since then).   He made a boatload of money from federal contracts for providing “private security” in the Middle East. Blackwater was effectively a private army. Many of their operations ended in international scandal and death. The bottom line here is that the family knows how to personally profit off the government. That is a valuable skill set to someone who knows little about how government operates but is in a position to facilitate financially self-serving deals.

Most Americans don’t mind spending their tax dollars on public education. They see it as a good investment for the country as a whole and the most viable path to upward social mobility for their offspring. They do have a problem with government employees diverting tax dollars for their personal profit!

When I heard the news of Trump’s appointment of DeVos I informed a friend of mine who is a dedicated, experienced public education professional. I close today’s posting with his reply, “Lord, have mercy. He may as well have just ended the DoE.”

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