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DeVos on Higher Education

February 24, 2017

U.S. Secretary of Education, speaking at CPAC on Thursday, February 23, issued a first, very brief, statement on one issue in American higher education.

The fight against the education establishment extends to you too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community. But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.

It’s difficult to know what the motive of this statement was because initial political appointments to the U.S. Department of Education by the Trump Administration indicate a reprise of the failed education policies of Bush era Education Secretary, Margaret Spellings. The previous careers of these appointees deal with K-12 education, which is Betsy DeVos main interest, and none have experience in higher education.

Nevertheless, we should be thankful for small favors. Restrictions on speech on college campuses are rife, as this list of the ten worst incidences compiled by FIRE suggests:

NorthernMichigan University                       California State University, Los Angeles

Fordham University                                           University of Oregon

California State University, Long Beach     Harvard University

University of South Carolina                           Williams College

Georgetown University                                     DePaul University

Violations of First Amendment rights of free speech are abhorred by everyone, of course.  So this was a safe issue for the Secretary to tackle.

The more difficult issues deal with the high cost of a college education, a system of federal tuition subsidies that threatens to impoverish parents and students, lack of intellectual diversity (liberal bias) in hiring and course content and a renegade Department of Education that sought to destroy the for-profit education sector during the Obama Administration–and succeeded.

Whether a President with his own problems (Trump “University”) with higher education regulatory policies has the insight and courage to take on the higher education Establishment  on these issues remains to be seen.

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