The confirmation of Betsy Devos as the new Secretary of Education, on Tuesday, Feb. 7, created mass controversy among those directly impacted by public education and those involved with non-profit organizations, like Teach For America.
Devos’ confirmation also sparked an innumerous amount of public outcry and a stream of social media posts in-support of public education, which there posts were easily identified using #productofpublic.
Coinciding with the public’s uproar, Teach for America, a non-profit organization that works to strengthen the movement of educational equity and excellence, issued a statement following the appointment of Betsy Devos.
The original statement release by Teach For America, has since been altered. However, the original statement began as follows:
“We call on the secretary designee and president-elect to uphold these values in pursuit of an excellent and equitable public education for all.”
The statement then moved on to highlight what Teach For America stands for an how their stance on public education will not falter with the incoming administration.
“We will continue to fiercely advocate and defend policies that are core to our mission and that increase opportunity for our students,” the statement read.
To several Ole Miss students, who are involved with Teach For America, the statement reflected their perspectives and seemed like a call to action.
Dylan Lewis, a senior journalism major at Ole Miss and a 2017 Teach For America Houston Corp Member, stated his own personal concerns with Devos.
“Teach For America deals with a lot of low-income areas and, as we have heard countless times, Devos is not really interested in public education and has had no experience in public education,” Lewis said.
Lewis decided to apply to be a 2017 Teach For America Corp Member because of his personal experience in public schools.
“When I was growing up, school was always a safe place for me and, as I progressed in school and got into college, I found that the feeling of safety never changed,” Lewis said.
Yet, as of late, the field of education has had a different, droning tone.
“It’s really scary to know that Devos may or may not fight for Teach for America and low income areas,” Lewis, reflecting on his personal concerns with the new education administration, said.
Yet, despite his concerns, Lewis seems more inspired to enter into education since Devos’ confirmation.
“I’m fueled. I’m fueled to keep fighting inequality in education,” Lewis said.
Since Devos’ confirmation, Lewis is one of several students that feel more inspired to enter into education and the Teach for America program.
Emily Hoffman, a junior Integrated Marketing Communications major, interned with Teach For America in summer of 2016 and plans to intern there again this summer.
Reflecting on her previous internship experience with Teach For America, Hoffman said, “It really changed my perspective on things. Growing up I had always wanted to be a teacher and my mom was a teacher for my entire life. I really looked up to my mom and I saw teachers as the most powerful people in the world, which they are, but as I got older I realized they were underpaid and under-appreciated.”
Hoffman, like Lewis, also has reservations regarding Devos’ administration.
“Under Devos administration there will be less of a focus on these children who actually need our help, but don’t have the necessary resources,” which Hoffman accredits to Devos’ lack of experience with public education.
Hoffman, like Lewis, feels fueled by Devos’ confirmation and it has further incited her desire to be involved in education.
“Devos’ appointment has definitely made me come to terms with the fact that I need to do this (Teach For America) because focusing on education and educational inequity has become very important to me,” Hoffman said.
Lewis highlighted one of the biggest takeaways from this past week for these those involved in public education.
“I think that educators are beginning to realize that the future could be a scary thing. But I’m not scared to go into a field that is facing a lot of uncertainty and fight for the kids that need to know that they have opportunities out there,” Lewis said.
Emily Hoffman (in-person interview)
Dylan Lewis (in-person interview)
Teach For America (aggregated sources & press release)
//storify.com/tlbradf1/devos-appointment-calls-teach-for-america-to-actio/embed?border=false//storify.com/tlbradf1/devos-appointment-calls-teach-for-america-to-actio.js?border=false[View the story “Devos’ Appointment: A Call to Action for UM Students” on Storify]