When Betsy DeVos was appointed as US Secretary of Education, to say people weren't thrilled with the decision would be an understatement.
It might have to do with the fact that when she appeared in front of House members and was presented with some basic questions regarding her past experience and qualifications for the position, she crashed and burned in an embarrassing fashion.
It could also have something to do with her past ties with student debt collection agencies, which raised some eyebrows, or her utter lack of teaching or classroom experience, which had people wondering if she was an appropriate choice for the top education position in the United States that basically calls for someone to be an advocate for students above all else. On paper, DeVos has all the makings of someone who is categorically unable to identify with individuals being educated in public institutions.
A perception that was recently reinforced when the current Secretary of Education sent this tweet out.
Does this look familiar? Students lined up in rows. A teacher in front of a blackboard. Sit down; don’t talk; eyes up front. Wait for the bell. Walk to the next class. Everything about our lives has moved beyond the industrial era. But American education largely hasn’t. #SXSWEDU pic.twitter.com/kyy2r7bTud— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) March 6, 2018
The picture calls into question the educational practices of American public schools, but, as Twitter users pointed out, there are several things wrong with this photo.
The first, is that it's a stock image, and not one from an actual classroom. The second part of the image featuring the "now" classroom was even used on the cover of a textbook called Look Out, Fourth Grade.
The second is that DeVos is projecting a mischaracterization of classrooms with the photo, something that many teachers, educators, and school employees were quick to point out, with actual photos of classrooms that many of them took themselves.
Now I have to admit that my public school upbringing was more akin to the old-school "sit down and shut up" approach to education, but more interactive and mobile methods have been implemented as of late, especially with younger children, in our nations public schools.
The user who responded to DeVos with these photos stressed that this interactive approach to learning is an everyday occurrence in this particular school.
She even invited the Education Secretary to the Texas school to see how they roll and from the looks of things, it's pretty awesome.
However it isn't all rainbows and butterflies for public schools, as other educators were quick to point out. The problem isn't that school classrooms are boring, drab, and teaching methodologies are outdated - the real problem is that, according to many educators, teachers need more resources.
PUblic school is 13 year old books, donated supplies because the underpaid teachers can’t afford their college loans & their classroom supplies. Public school is when you have 1 teacher, with 25 student with 17 504, 13 IEPs & having to speak 3 languages.— Amanda Lu (@manda_Lu2) March 7, 2018
I taught for 6 years.
Some argued that the interactive, updated classroom environments are exceptions to the rule, and DeVos was speaking to the majority of US classrooms with her stock photo.
Again the point of her post is that it needs to change. Your school or style is more the exception vs the norm— Ken Finnen (@wallsttutors) March 7, 2018
Ahh yeah, they do. Teachers still lecture, for long periods of time. Many are transitioning from direct instruction, but let's not pretend.— Nicholas Bennett (@nicholasfbennet) March 7, 2018
A claim that educators lined up to vehemently deny as they blasted DeVos for posting the stock image.
Actually, your stock photos looks unfamiliar. In my classroom, and many others (that you probably don’t know about) students are the agents of their own learning and often are the ones up in front of the class teaching and learning with each other. pic.twitter.com/M02YzBBMmJ— Alex Brown (@AlexBrown15) March 7, 2018
Her tweet response thread was filled with replies, all of them more or less reinforcing the fact that DeVos has no idea what a modern American classroom looks like.
This is NOT what today’s classrooms look like. It’s insulting to imply that schools haven’t changed. The classrooms I know are warm, innovative, & dynamic. This tweet tells me there is a HUGE disconnect between your perception and the reality of what is happening in our schools.— Christina Carlin (@carlinc3) March 8, 2018
One teacher responded to criticism of having students explain concepts to other students, that it was the "blind leading the blind."
So yesterday I tweeted this picture. And in the replies someone mentioned something to the extent of “the blind are leading the blind” why am I getting paid to do this? This kind of thinking is a problem.— Alex Brown (@AlexBrown15) March 7, 2018
And her response shows just how outdated people's concepts of education really are.
First of all children are NOT blind. They pay attention. TO EVERYTHING. They hear every sound, notice every motion and hear every word you say (if you’re engaging enough so that they want to listen)— Alex Brown (@AlexBrown15) March 7, 2018
Second, the assumption is here that the teacher(s) are the ones that are supposed to be dispelling the knowledge onto students and “teaching” them. This kind of thinking is outdated. Children come into classrooms with a wealth of experiences and knowledge.— Alex Brown (@AlexBrown15) March 7, 2018
They use these experiences and knowledge to create meaning. This meaning then turns into learning that is impactful. And anyone who knows a thing about kids know they listen and learn much better to other children than adults.— Alex Brown (@AlexBrown15) March 7, 2018
The role of the teacher in today’s classroom is not to stand in front of the room and dispel information. It’s to facilitate learning, to question understandings and to make informed and critical thinkers— Alex Brown (@AlexBrown15) March 7, 2018
Someone also posted a photo from a school funded by DeVos family...which looks startlingly similar to the kind of classroom she claims is ineffective.
The teachers were relentless in their criticism of DeVos, saying that her appointment as Secretary of Education was purely an economic move.
The only thing you know about education is how to profit from it, shameful. Resign.— ☸️Jedi Master Guinan🖖🕊️ (@Guinan2017) March 7, 2018
And that maybe if she wanted to enact real change, she should allocate funds to the schools that actually care about student development.
Also... underfunded school systems are more likely to get the outdated approach because they don’t get funded for the training or supplies for innovation. Invest in public schools instead of taking money away with school voucher programs.— Tina Tormey (@TinaTormey) March 7, 2018
There are lots of classrooms in this country, so maybe pause before you tweet out broad generalizations— Jordan Wood (@jordanwood5843) March 6, 2018
Clearly you aren’t paying attention to flipped classroom practices or other innovative work teachers are integrating into their classrooms.— Tina Tormey (@TinaTormey) March 7, 2018