This week the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as President Trump’s education secretary, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the final ballot in a historic 51-50 vote.
DeVos, a school reform advocate from Michigan, has been a target of much negative attention. Following her confirmation hearing held on January 17, a wave of criticism arose after DeVos failed to take a stance on any question, one which involved whether she would continue de-funding public school institutions at a national level.
From a societal standpoint, terminating accessible education is a problem for many reasons. Without the backing of federal taxes, the public-school system would not survive and neither would equal opportunities for children. Universal access to free education would slowly be pulled, the correlation between poverty, crime, and the less-educated would continue to grow, and social conditions would generally worsen.
As frightening as the consequences that come with the demolition of public education may be, there is none scarier than the opportunity deregulation would provide for religious schools and curriculum. With 18 years of Catholic school under my belt, I can say with confidence:
The Catholic school system sucks.
Xavier High School sits in the Northeast corner of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. An eyesore tucked away behind a forest of trees, it is home to the obedient daughters and sons of many Catholic parents. Having undergone at least 10 years of religion classes, most of these students are molded in to “God’s perfect image,” otherwise known as people woefully uninformed about the environment surrounding them.
I graduated in 2012 with a class I would not consider God’s perfect image. Not even three months in to my freshman year, an assembly was called to address the underage sexting issue unfolding rapidly amongst my peers. The seniors, at the time, chided our actions, claiming that “Xavier High had never dealt with problems like this in years past.” Back then, I chalked it up to my female friends using a couple choice words. Now far removed from the situation, I see it for what it clearly was.
The signs of failed sex education.
In early August 2016, the Vatican issued a new approach to teaching sex. “The Meeting Point, project for affective and sexual formation” is an education program tailored to meet the progression of sexuality in the modern age. Keeping in line with Catholic values, it relies heavily on the generosity of parents willing to impart their knowledge, stating that “parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their children.” These same parents, with the power to educate, who will avoid the subject at all costs, thus handing the duty over to private school teachers.
I always loved getting new books at the beginning of a semester. Junior year gym had been insufferable up to January, yeah, but now we were switching over to the sex-ed portion of the class and I could do nothing but zone out and circle balls in my book all day. Itching to see who had possessed the textbook before me, I opened the cover and was shocked to see my sisters’ name, written in ink that had withstood the course of eight years.
High school didn’t teach me much on sex besides “don’t have it.” By the time I reached 19, I knew sex ended with either a 50 percent chance of getting pregnant or a 50 percent chance of getting AIDS. It took 20 minutes for my then-boyfriend to explain that was not the case. Birth control did not exist solely to make your boobs bigger and the risk of catching HIV was more complex than having sex just once, two fully believed truths that were shattered my freshman year of college by neither my parents nor my teachers.
DeVos has spent 30 years trying to give families taxpayer money in the form of vouchers to attend private/parochial schools, the same schools that have failed me and other areas of the United States that implement the abstinence-only curriculum.
For example, Texas, one of the top 10 places you’re most likely to catch an STD in the United States, currently implements the Heritage Keepers Curriculum to students in 5th through 12th grade. The legislature that funds this program clearly states that abstinence sex-ed programs be applied to classrooms to reduce the need for future family planning services like contraceptives. Abstinence education boils down to two things:
Presenting abstinence from sexual activity as the preferred choice of behavior, and
Emphasizing that abstinence from sexual activity is the only method that is 100 percent effective in prevent pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, and infection with human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
Privatizing public schools takes away opportunities from families not able to spend upwards of $20,000 per year on a school that will inevitably fail their children. Per the National Center for Education statistics, public educators are more qualified to teach than private school educators, with 47.7 percent holding master’s degrees as opposed to 35.5 percent. However, many students will not have access to this higher education while a woman set on advancing God’s kingdom in the school system serves as their education secretary.
Sure, private school kids can be annoying. They’re too loud, they live too hard, and they have incredibly stupid uniforms. However, they are also teenagers. Bringing them up to be reliant on a system willing to cover up truth at the “expense of their own safety” will cause more problems in the long run: ignorance of discrimination, teen pregnancies, politics, and abortions. De-funding public education will only promote this continued perspective in America’s youth and soon enough, future generations will be so uninformed they’ll make the same mistake our nation made on November 8th, 2016.