Education Elements’ Q&A with Michael B. Horn, Co-author of Blended and Disrupting Class, and Board Member of Education Elements
Ed Elements: Betsy DeVos’s confirmation process was one of the toughest anyone can remember. What do you think made people so passionate about her nomination?
Michael Horn: The toughest ever certainly for an education secretary. I think there were three things in particular that made people so passionate. First, to understate it, there is obviously a lot of passion around Trump’s election with many who did not support him opposed virulently and reflexively to anyone he would nominate and determined to see at least one of his picks for Cabinet “go down”, so to speak. Second, despite DeVos’s long-time involvement in education and a deeper and more mainstream track record than has been portrayed by the mainstream media, no matter how you slice it, her hearing did not go well. It revealed some significant apparent blind spots in her awareness of some of the questions swirling around education and the federal government and Department of Education’s role in particular. It did not seem as though she was prepared well at all by Trump’s transition team. This built a narrative to question her qualifications for the job. Finally, DeVos has been a school choice hawk — in all its forms — for many, many years. That’s the big thing the public knows about her. And, as Ross Douthat wrote in the New York Times, that of course is immensely threatening to certain parts of the education establishment and so they were ready to fight.
Ed Elements: Taking into account things we heard on the campaign trail, what we heard during hearings and what we know about DeVos’s past, what are the first few changes you expect we might see as she moves into this new role?
Michael Horn: First, I don’t think we should pretend we have any certainty around any of what we will see.
With that caveat in place, here are my best guesses.