Education Secretary and billionaire conservative donor Betsy DeVos sat down for an interview with Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes last night, and it’s not entirely clear that she has a better understanding of the country’s education system than she did at her confirmation hearing, when she suggested that schools in places like Wyoming need more guns to fend off grizzly bears.
DeVos, who was just appointed as the head of a new commission on “school safety,” believes arming teachers is an option that states ought to consider, although she also told Stahl that she has trouble imagining her first grade teacher with a gun. Yes—DeVos, a living reminder that abstract ideas aligning with one’s radical ideologies do not necessarily work in real life, has continued to heroically avoid putting two-and-two together. Instead, she opts for big smiles and warmly repeating the word “choice” over and over again.
Here is a list of things Education Secretary Betsy DeVos does not care to understand.
LESLEY STAHL: Do you feel a sense of urgency?
BETSY DEVOS: Yes.
LESLEY STAHL: Because this sounds like talking.
BETSY DEVOS: No, there is a sense of urgency, indeed.
BETSY DEVOS: We have invested billions and billions and billions of dollars from the federal level and we have seen zero results.
LESLEY STAHL: But that really isn’t true. Test scores have gone up over the last 25 years. So why do you keep saying nothing’s been accomplished?
BETSY DEVOS: Well actually, test scores vis-à-vis the rest of the world have not gone up, and we have continued to be middle of the pack at best. That’s just not acceptable.
LESLEY STAHL: No, it’s not acceptable, but it’s better than it was, that’s the point.
BETSY DEVOS: We should be funding and investing in students, not in school buildings, not in institutions, not in systems—
LESLEY STAHL: Okay, but what about the kids who are back at the school that’s not working? What about those kids?
BETSEY DEVOS: Well, in places where there have been, where there is a lot of choice that’s been introduced, Florida for example, the studies show that when there’s a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools, actually, the results get better as well.
LESLEY STAHL: Has that happened in Michigan? We’re in Michigan, this is your home state.
BETSY DEVOS: Michi—yes, well, there’s lots of great options and choices for students here—
LESLEY STAHL: Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?
BETSY DEVOS: Uh, I don’t know overall, I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.
LESLEY STAHL: The whole state is not doing well.
BETSY DEVOS: Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where the students are doing well—
LESLEY STAHL: But your argument that if you take funds away the schools will get better [laughs] is not working in Michigan, where you had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system here.
BETSY DEVOS: I hesitate to talk about all schools in general, because schools are made up of individual students attending them.
LESLEY STAHL: The public schools here are doing worse than they did.
BETSY DEVOS: Michigan schools need to do better, there is no doubt about it.
LESLEY STAHL: Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they’re doing?
BETSY DEVOS: I have not, I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.
LESLEY STAHL: Maybe you should.
BETSY DEVOS: Maybe I should, yes.
LESLEY STAHL: Why have you become, people say, the most hated cabinet secretary?
BETSY DEVOS: I’m not so sure how exactly that happened, but I think there are a lot of really powerful forces aligned against change.
BETSY DEVOS: Arguably, all of this comes down to individual kids—
BETSY DEVOS: It does come down to individual kids—
LESLEY STAHL: Well, no—
BETSY DEVOS: And it often comes down to—I am committed to making sure that students have an opportunity to learn in an environment that is conducive to their learning.
LESLEY STAHL: Do you see this disproportion in discipline for the same infraction as institutional racism?
BETSY DEVOS: We’re studying it carefully and are committed to making sure students have opportunity to learn in safe and nurturing environments.
If you’re looking to start your week with a light headache and a very deep appreciation for Lesley Stahl, you can watch the full interview here.