by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Frederick Hess and Grant Addison use a National Review Online column to contrast the remarks of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with the actions of Harvard protesters who aimed to shout her down.
Shouts. Interruptions. Orchestrated chanting. The predictable convulsions of the contemporary university when a conservative comes to town. This time it was U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, speaking to students, faculty, and others gathered at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government last Thursday night. She joined former FBI director James Comey and current attorney general Jeff Sessions as the third cabinet-level official in the span of a week whose visit to a college campus was met with protests, caterwauling, and the now-rote charges of “white supremacism.”
Against this increasingly threadbare backdrop, DeVos delivered what is probably her best speech to date. It was a constructive, serious address from someone whose remarks have not always met that standard. DeVos spoke thoughtfully — at times, even eloquently — about how school choice empowers families, creates room for a healthful diversity, and is wholly consistent with the historic aims of public education.
DeVos rejected the false dichotomy that insists that the case for school choice rests on jeremiads against traditional public schools. She observed: “Education is not a binary choice. Being for equal access and opportunity — being for choice — is not being against anything.” She emphasized the stakes that can be obscured by abstraction: “It’s important for all of us to remember that we’re not just talking about abstract theory or some wild social experiment here. This is about putting people — putting parents and students — above policies and politics.”