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I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a bit. Betsy Devos makes me mad.

By her own words, she has singlehandedly tried to discredit the public educational system, in stating that she would prefer that private schools be the single thread in the educational system of this country. This sentiment completely dehumanizes the work that public educators – for the already underwhelmingly low pay – try to do on a regular basis. She’s telling parents and educators in the country who are looking to her for guidance that their students can only benefit from some privatized schooling that may be out of their pay bracket, local district or students’ specified educational needs. Much like most of the misguided rhetoric that’s being politically spewed daily, this is just damaging.

Private education isn’t the enemy, but private education depends on its exclusivity. We live in a time in which having a Bachelor’s degree is becoming the standard, but even still, the accessibility of that degree isn’t always there for those who could use it. This is why certain areas – urban, rural and in-between, the regional demographic doesn’t always match the expectation – will become impoverished, lack development or fall behind the times and lose jobs and training needed to progress in a new age.

I was always a “smart student,” but the two things I had above all were accessibility and encouragement. I was put in an advanced special education class when she was in first grade, after testing out in kindergarten. Which is ridiculous. If you want my full opinion, I think while this can be uplifting for a student, as it was for me, I’m only 6 years old at this point. I’m no Matilda, though I wanted to be. The fact that they set me up for this path at such a young age, and didn’t give others that same opportunity hurts to realize now that I’m older.

Having said that, some of the best years of my life, and my fondest educational moments, were due to those courses. But seriously. All I had were parents with the time to spend with me teaching me essential skills and tools before I entered my schooling, and they were there to encourage me to do well and complete my assignments during. And this happened both while we were a very poor family and while we were not. I do not believe that my abilities extend beyond that of any of my peers. What I learned I learned because I listened and practiced. But so many students are discouraged by their environments and neglected – either at home or by the system.

We need to work with the systems that have been resources to our educational growth for so long: libraries and public schools. Funding for programs, outreach, and holding up shelves, can help us bring people into the libraries and make it an environment where students (and students of life) want to learn more on their own. Libraries themselves are even far from antiquated, when provided the adequate treatment. Keeping library doors open with programs and safe spaces for learning and conviviality, while offering digital and physical resources, keeps them with the times and relevant for those who need them. Many libraries are doing that or trying to do that, they just need the help. Public schooling is no different. The environment should be for learning and accessible resources, not exclusivity and privatization that serves the few instead of the many.

How on earth can anyone politically or not expect us to excel in the marketplace and socially if we’re not afforded equal opportunities for education?

Devos and many others live with blinders; they believe that everything is a choice because they have the luxury of picking for their palate. Many of us have to work hard to reach farther, and don’t live with such luxe. Once everything came crashing down at the end of the year, and I started thinking more about of what I can do in lieu of this, I’m realizing more and more that what I need to be doing is getting involved in these programs. Summer programs, library programs, school programs. If I want there to be an impact for these kids who might be tossed into a system that just as quickly would neglect them, then I need to be there to help.

I’m currently in talks now to start working on some of these programs in my own town. I encourage you all to do the same.

It’s funny… I always said I wouldn’t teach. I’m not so sure that I will now, but I’m certainly not going to let this just happen without my involvement. I was given so much encouragement; I was bolstered so much. As a kid, I felt invincible, intellectually. Other kids deserve that, too.

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