It’s been a long time since any journalist has defended public schools with the kind of punch we saw with veteran journalist Lesley Stahl. It was refreshing to say the least.
Stahl has a book out about being a grandmother, so maybe she’s got the children of America on her mind more intensely these days. I thought I’d pay tribute to her with a picture of a child clapping.
For years the media has indiscriminately criticized public schools unfairly, often by shunning. We’ve watched a variety of corporate reforms get top billing on the news. Remember Education Nation? The promoting of Waiting for Superman?
For example, during the recent West Virginia teachers’ strike it was reported by FAIR (Fairness in Accuracy in Reporting) that MSNBC’s liberal leaning Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnel and Chris Hayes were silent. They said nothing about the strike. Hayes only did a segment about it after being called out. The strike was reported on by other news outlets. But for the most part the media has been a megaphone for corporate school reform.
A lot of interesting points have been made about the DeVos 60 Minutes interview. But let’s focus instead on Lesley Stahl’s questions and more importantly her responses to DeVos.
I’ve broken some of it down. There’s a whole lot more, of course.
On School Safety
Betsy DeVos: I give a lot of credit to the students there for really raising their voices, and I think that they are not going to let this moment go by.
Lesley Stahl: They want gun control.
On All that Money Spent on Public Schools and Test Scores
Betsy DeVos: We have invested billions and billions and billions of dollars from the federal level And we have seen zero results.
Lesley Stahl: But that really isn’t true. Test scores have gone up over the last 25 years. So why do you keep saying nothing’s been accomplished?
On Charter Schools (and One-On-One Technology)
Lesley Stahl: Why take away money from that school that’s not working, to bring them up to a level where they are—that school is working?
Betsy DeVos: Well, we should be funding and investing in students, not in school—school buildings, not in institutions, not in systems.
Lesley Stahl: Okay. But what about the kids who are back at the school that’s not working? What about those kids?
On Public Schools in Michigan—DeVos’s Home State and Where Her Family Has Had Great Influence on Public Education
Lesley Stahl: Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?
Betsy DeVos: I don’t know. Overall, I—I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.
Lesley Stahl: The whole state is not doing well.
On Visiting Schools in Michigan—(I was Thinking about Flint)
Betsy DeVos: I have not—I have not—I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.
Lesley Stahl: Maybe you should.
On Racism When it Comes to Discipline
Betsy DeVos: We are studying that rule. We need to ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn in a safe and nurturing environment. And all students means all students.
Lesley Stahl: Yeah but let’s say there’s a disruption in the classroom and a bunch of whites kids are disruptive and they get punished, you know, go see the principal, but the black kids are, you know, they call in the cops. I mean, that’s the issue: who and how the kids who disrupt are being punished.
Lesley Stahl’s interview will likely fade in time. Corporate school reform is powerful business and there’s an agenda that’s difficult to fight.
But for one night, those of us who love democratic public schools heard words we’ve yearned to hear for years from a journalist. For that we’re grateful.
Lesley Stahl. “Betsy DeVoson guns, school choice and why people don’t like her. CBS 60 Minutes Interview March 11, 2018.