Why students should be concerned about the DeVos confirmation

After the initial excitement of the election and the inauguration, it’s easy to let politics fade into the background of student life. At this point, Donald Trump is president. We can continue to protest or accept the election results. Either way, there is less interest in Trump’s actions now than say, two months ago.

One of the first tasks on Trump’s to-do lists was to create a new cabinet. Many of his picks were controversial (I’m lookin’ at you, Jeff Sessions) but the most uproar surrounded Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. DeVos was often criticized for her lack of experience and knowledge about the American education system.

She is not an educator – she’s a billionaire philanthropist who supports for-profit schools. This is the woman who thought guns should be allowed in schools in case of “grizzly bear attacks.”

How concerned should we, as students, be?

Though DeVos is wildly unqualified, her power his limited. In the past, very few education secretaries have made serious impact on the education system. In particular, higher education usually goes untouched, especially if the president has no real policy or campaign promise to fulfill.

The secretary doesn’t have the power to completely eradicate higher education posts or departments either – despite Trump’s campaign promise to diminish the power and reach of the Department of Education.

DeVos’ power, or lack thereof, provides a glimmer of hope after a bruised confirmation.

Throughout her hearing, DeVos was questioned tirelessly about her knowledge of the system, her intentions for the position and her values in regards to education. It’s frightening to think someone with such a high governmental position doesn’t understand the difference between proficiency and growth in regard to Common Core. Common Core, which has its own set of issues, is used throughout the K-12 system – how could she not have a basic understanding of the standard for most of our education system?

As students, we should not be so concerned with DeVos’ power – it seems as if she has very little of it to make actual change, especially for us in higher education. What we should be more concerned about is her influence and lack of knowledge, which could create an impact that will affect our younger siblings and our children.

At the very least, DeVos can start conversations about privatized education, employment regulations and other ideas that will make waves at the state and local level. Perhaps she is not writing law, but she has sway.

What we can take out of the confirmation of DeVos is this: Trump is willing to put inexperienced businesspeople in positions of higher governmental power. Experimentation is one thing – let's see how this Linda McMahon thing plays out – but education is too important to play with.

Tori Roseman is the managing editor and can be reached at tori.roseman@ubspectrum.com