TO: PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP and SECRETARY BETSY DEVOS
FROM: A Concerned Grandfather
RE: Aidan’s America
Like many Americans, I had the great privilege and joy of spending the holidays with family. While my wife and I had great fun in remembering past times of raising our three girls, we took a special delight in playing with our soon to be two-year-old grandson, Aidan. Now that Aidan and his mom and dad have returned to their home, I’ve been thinking about his future, as well as the future of the country we all love. Those reflections prompted me to write you, President-elect Trump, and your nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, about a grandfather’s concern for his grandson and his country.
You see, like most of our contemporaries, my wife and I were raised by parents who believed in the American Dream, giving their kids the opportunity to achieve their dreams by sacrificing to provide us with a great education. Our parents were members of what Tom Brokaw called the “greatest generation,” who grew up in the Depression, fought in World War II or Korea, and came home to raise a family, secure in the belief that America was the land of opportunity, and their kids would have a better standard of living. Unfortunately, I’m not sure the same will be true for young Aidan given the growing body of evidence that we have a huge chasm between the “haves” and “have-nots,” with declining economic mobility. Most notably, several recent studies have argued that it’s doubtful that my Aidan and members of his generation will achieve a better standard of living than his parents. Wages have stagnated, automation is destroying jobs, and our education system is an inefficient, unproductive, one-size fits-all government monopoly.
One of the main reasons, Mr. Trump, that you will soon become president is that the American people finally decided not to listen any more to the arrogant elite members of the governing class, including the members of the education-industrial complex. Instead, I believe the average American, on the issue of education, has made it clear that he/she trusts parents, not bureaucrats, to make the choices as to how and when to educate each child. Once you chose Mrs. DeVos as your nominee for Secretary of Education, I did some research on her views and what her appointment might mean for my grandson.
I know the very same elitists who’ve been running our system of public education are outraged at your nomination of Mrs. DeVos. My humble request — ignore them and read a speech she gave at a conference in March, 2015, titled “Competition, Creativity & Choice in the Classroom.” When you’ve finished reading the speech, you and Mrs. DeVos should pledge to the American people that you will work every day of your Administration to make her vision a reality. As she said:
Here’s my thesis for your consideration — we must revolutionize our education delivery system in America. That’s it — that’s all I’m asking for. Open education up: allow for choice, innovation, and freedom…
Her thesis is based upon what she called these “inconvenient truths”:
#1 — Our education delivery system in America is antiquated and quite frankly embarrassing.
#2 — American education has been losing ground to other countries for at least half a century.
#3 — We are stuck in a partisan rut. The political parties are dead-enders when it comes to education revolution.
#4 — Government really sucks.
#5 — We don’t pay teachers enough, and we don’t fire teachers enough.
#6 — In America, we do NOT provide equal educational opportunity to our kids.
Once you’ve read her speech, as President Trump, you should give your own speech supporting what she calls an “Ed Revolution,” appealing as she does, to “the younger generation… because… [t]he older generations are too wedded to political parties, too wedded to romantic memories of what education was like when they were kids, and too wedded to the status quo group that clings to power.” Finally, you should end your speech with the soaring words which concluded Mrs. DeVos’s call for an Ed Revolution:
I don’t care who the winners or losers are in the current partisan political debate. That is immaterial. If we can manage to break free, to open the system and embrace all choices for education, we will be the first to give politicians awards to hang on their office walls.
But most importantly, the next generation of kids will be the real winners. And collectively, as Americans, we will all benefit from their unleashed horsepower.
If you claim you are for freedom… if you claim to be an innovator or you value innovation… if you claim to be an entrepreneur… if you claim to believe in equal opportunity… if you claim to embrace social justice… then you have to embrace educational choice, and you have to embrace opening up our closed educational system.
How can you and Mrs. DeVos translate her vision into reality? Pass legislation which acknowledges that every law, rule, or regulation which impacts K-12 education must be judged by this question:
Does this law, program, rule or regulation increase the freedom and ability of all parents to choose the education which best suits the needs of every child?
Start by using current federal appropriations for K-12 education to fund education savings accounts of $10,000 each for the poorest families throughout the country, with one proviso — to have their citizens qualify for these accounts, states must agree to match federal dollars with state dollars. For example, if my state, Georgia, would receive $1 billion for 100,000 federally-funded education savings accounts, require Georgia to provide$1 billion in state funds for an additional 100,000 accounts. If Georgia elects not to match the federal government, use the $1 billion in another state.
President-elect Trump, if you begin to implement Mrs. DeVos’s vision for an Ed Revolution by increasing the number of parents who have the financial means to exercise the freedom to choose the best education for each child, then you will go a long way to ease a grandfather’s concern about Aidan’s America.