I see through you, Betsy DeVos.
I see through your blatant awfulness and cluelessness. I see your inability to answer the simplest question about the department you have been nominated to head, and the millions and millions of young people that you will be responsible for. I see you spitting on public schools—something that 90% of students depend on. I see through your belief that it is not our mandate to teach those with disabilities, and how that belief ties into the casual eugenics of the man who nominated you. But above all else, I saw that glimmer in your eye during your hearings, the way it said, “None of this matters.” You’re wealthy, powerful, and you won’t be held accountable for anything, right?
I see through you, Betsy DeVos.
I see through you because I am a public school student. I see through you because I am intellectually disabled, and if I didn’t have my education, I wouldn’t have anything.
I have shared this story with so many family members, friends, co-workers, and I will continue to repeat it. I used to understand words, letters, sentences, but I could not write. It took hours, days, years to get a single sentence out of me. I could not organize my thoughts. It was torture, painful and constant, and in the beginning, there were teachers that looked and sounded just like you; that glimmer that was in their eyes, the lack of accountability, that disappointment, that notion that somehow, I deserved it.
In middle school, I started getting help from the special education department. I met educators that worked closely with me, one on one, first helping me construct thoughts and sentences, then building on that, until I began to enjoy it. Love it, even. Over the course of four years in that program, everything changed. It has continued to change, too. I write articles for The Argus, I study creative writing, and I talk and think and write every day. I am acutely aware that this narrative would not exist without unbelievable privilege, and that my disability can still be a hindrance (particularly this year, as my medication stopped helping me and started hurting me), but I am proud, I am grateful, and I owe so much to public schools and special education. And you want to weaken this, to take it away from some?
I know the American education system fails as much as it succeeds. But it does succeed, and it can get better. And the solution to this is not turning away from public schools, from making it a choice, not a mandate for those with disabilities to get education. We are not lesser.
There is more than a good chance that you will become my Secretary of Education. During that time, I will be starting my job as a special education teacher. It will be the hardest thing I do, and if confirmed, I am all but certain you will make it harder. Part of me is doing it because of you and the ignorance you displayed, but I’m doing it because this matters. It matters to me, and it matters to those with disabilities like mine, or more severe, or even less. My story is not a universal one, but it is a mandate to educate disabled students, and it is also a mandate to try and get better at it.
People will read this and think that I am overreacting, or demonizing wealth, or prejudging someone’s skill at a job, and that is fine. But this is not about private schools versus public schools. It’s about the fact that education is not something to be trifled with. I see how you got here, Betsy DeVos, the money that you donated, and how that supersedes merit. The President trusts you with the future of America’s students. I do not. It will take a lot, after what I have seen of you, for me to have any trust. So I’m going to keep saying what I am saying. This is not a job you want or a job you are ready for. If you do what you say you will, you are going to have to deal with people like me. This will not end well for you. You think you can casually undermine us?
I see through you.