About That DeVos Interview…Plus Discipline And School Shootings, The NRA And Schools, Lockett On Personalized And Empowerment, Runaway, More!

Last week I interviewed Nate Bowling and Alex Rigsby. Bellwether released some papers on gender and pensions, among other things, you might want to check out.

Of course an argument has broken out over whether the Obama Administration’s discipline guidance contributed to the Parkland shooting.

Here’s your periodic reminder that like all interest groups the NRA probably does some stuff you like and some stuff you don’t like (although probably not in equal measure). Their gun safety programs are pretty good, though, just for instance and they do a lot with schools. That’s why an effort to disrupt the landscape rather than a frontal assault is probably more durable over time if the goal is to change gun politics in this country.

Phyllis Lockett sees personalized learning as one way to empower girls.

Here’s an interesting line up for an event on data and college completion.

As you may have heard, Betsy DeVos was on 60 Minutes.

Clearly, Betsy DeVos should not take my advice.

Definitely not a soft profile and covers a lot of ground for a 13 minute segment. I may have a scale that has too many shaky performances baked into it. It certainly wasn’t great but as these things go and given that Stahl was coming hard it didn’t seem to be the disaster the news clips today are making it out to be (by tomorrow it will be worst interview ever!).

Look, DeVos doesn’t give good interviews. And she should be more conversant on some issues – more on that in a second. And maybe I have that general rockiness baked into my assessment too much. But, this did not seem to standout to me. Generically bad, not epically bad. And in her defense, going back to Bush I, Dick Riley, John King, and Margaret Spellings are the only secretaries I can think of [Update: Should have mentioned Lamar Alexander here, too, he was a seasoned pol when he took the role and has done so much since then the Secretary role slipped my mind] who didn’t mangle facts and evidence with some regularity or give answers that would not withstand scrutiny. And most of them were not asked hard questions very much anyway. Presentism is a powerful thing right now.

Anyway, a few things jumped out to me. 60 is usually pretty solid on the evidence but they do the typical throw your hands up on school choice and say who knows? It’s complicated! Yes, it is, but whether vouchers or charters there are some pretty clear inferences one can draw about what’s working and not working on a macro level and in specific places. That would be good to push DeVos on more than the generalities Stahl went with (and as we saw with the infamous Franken episode on value added at her confirmation, just because DeVos is out of her depth doesn’t mean her questioners are not as well).

On choice DeVos is right on Florida and what the research shows about the impact on other schools, she should have stayed on that point and not taken Stahl’s bait. And obviously at this point she ought to have a crisper answer about Michigan given that it’s going to keep coming up – and all the evidence there doesn’t cut against her case! Inexplicable that she doesn’t. It’s not some random state, it’s her home state and one where she has wielded some influence.

We also got a bit of DeVos derangement syndrome. Last week DeVos improved all the state ESSA plans in just 120 hours. This week she’s doing wonders for aggregate school quality. Pre-DeVos the faddish argument was that all this reform had led to nothing, NCLB, Obama, all of that. But presto! All DeVos has to do is criticize schools and suddenly everyone is talking up all the improvement of the last 25 years and how test scores have been going up! (It’s true, they have but you were not hearing a lot of that…).

The story also gives airtime to the idea that DeVos might personally profit from her public service. That’s a waste of precious screen time when we could have been talking about substance. In practice, the opposite is actually true given what she had to do to take the office. That’s kind of interesting! Plus, in case you haven’t noticed, there are opportunities, sure, but for the most part the education business is a great way to turn billions into millions. There is a lot of money in education but most of it is not up for grabs and the politics suck.

They didn’t ask her about her brother or it didn’t make the screen.

And despite today’s chatter it didn’t seem to me she was really pushed on her vision for education beyond gotchas on what schools she visits. That was good TV but while I get that she wants more choices anyone awake gets that, would it kill an interviewer to ask her how that will play out against concerns about equity, what we know about the unevenness of choice in some places, and the fiscal reality of her ideas beyond the typical ‘choice takes money from other schools’ because it’s more complicated than that in practice? I guess Stahl was trying but seemed to go with the easier made for TV questions than real probing stuff on the complexities here. In Stahl’s defense, complicated multipart questions make lousy TV.

Finally, the story mentions the ongoing debate about changing the Title IX sexual assault standards on campus. She should have been better on the false accusation issue – there is actual evidence there, too.* But, a really great 60 story would be about the colleges that are quietly working with her behind the scenes on that because of the due process problems those standards created, including racial inequities – but that don’t want anyone to know they support the change given the politics. There are also federal lawsuits in play. That’s a story that’s pretty illustrative of the nature of our times…

Random odds and ends:  Bonnie Raitt gets the job done. Lawsuit you may want to keep abreast of.

*On that as with all the questions, we don’t know what’s in the outtakes but what made it to the screen is not great. I’m not implying 60 was biased, just that editing these things is complicated and harder than it looks from the cheap seats.

Posted on Mar 12, 2018 @ 1:26pm

One thought on “About That DeVos Interview…Plus Discipline And School Shootings, The NRA And Schools, Lockett On Personalized And Empowerment, Runaway, More!

  1. Alan Vanneman

    Short version of your take on the latest DeVos interview: “She should have done better on [insert name of issue here]”

    Your sentence “Look, DeVos doesn’t give good interviews” is beyond hilarious. Is this a polite way to say “she’s stupid”?

    Also funny: “it’s her home state and one where she has wielded some influence.”

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