DeVos' 60 Minutes Interview Is Not Going Over Well

Critics pile on education secretary, and she says her views are misunderstood
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 12, 2018 2:47 PM CDT
DeVos' 60 Minutes Interview Is Not Going Over Well
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Education secretary Betsy DeVos appeared on 60 Minutes Sunday night, and she's taking much criticism Monday over her answers to questions from Leslie Stahl. In the intro—you can read the interview and see the video via this CBS News link—Stahl notes that DeVos "is dedicated to promoting school choice, but her critics say she really wants to privatize the public school system that she once called, quote, 'a dead end.'" Asked about being the "most hated Cabinet secretary," DeVos said she is "misunderstood more than anything." Highlights and samples of criticism:

  • Campus assault: The Washington Post has a video highlighting four areas where DeVos appeared to struggle with her answers, including on campus sexual assault. "She couldn’t say whether the number of false accusations of sexual assault on school campuses is lower than the number of actual rapes or assaults," writes Valerie Strauss.
  • School choice: Lots of critics, including Margaret Hartmann at New York, are focusing on a part of the interview about school choice during which DeVos acknowledged she didn't know whether schools in her home state of Michigan were doing better. Stahl told her they weren't. "Your argument that if you take funds away that the schools will get better, is not working in Michigan where you had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system." DeVos responded: "I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them."

  • Hang on, Democrats: Blogger Ben Mathis-Lilley writes that DeVos seems to be taking a lot of flak on because of her advocacy of two key points: First, "that rewarding high-performing schools with more resources will compel low-performing schools to improve themselves." And second, "that 'school choice' programs should be expanded despite mixed or poor results in states such as Michigan." The problem for Democrats, writes Mathis-Lilley, is "that these principles have been a crucial part of their party’s education policy for 17 years." He explains at Slate.
  • Congressman's slam: "Betsy DeVos wasn't asked what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow," tweeted Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu, using a reference to the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. "She was asked basic questions about education and had trouble answering them."
  • Trump's cursing: Asked Monday on Today about President Trump's reference to NBC's Chuck Todd as a "son of a bitch," DeVos said, "I would probably use different language myself, and I think we all have an opportunity and a responsibility to be examples to our kids." That "would include the president," she added, per the AP.
  • Guns: DeVos, who is leading a new commission on school violence, said only teachers who are "capable and qualified" should be allowed to have guns in the classroom, per Politico. "The point is that schools should have this tool if they choose to use the tool. … Nobody should be mandated to do it."
  • A theme: Lots of critical coverage says something along the lines of "DeVos struggled to answer basic questions." (As with the congressman above.) See just a few of the examples at Axios, CNN, Vox, Vice News, Complex, and even People.
  • Sexist? Conservative site Townhall calls out sports commentator Peter Gammons for joining the fray and suggesting that DeVos quit her job and clean houses instead. "Will feminists stick up for her?" wonders Cortney O'Brien.
(Read more Betsy DeVos stories.)

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