Journalist and public education advocate Jennifer Berkshire traveled to the heart of DeVos-land — the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids, Michigan — to learn more about Betsy DeVos and her family’s life-long attempt to dismantle the “nanny state.”
Listen closely to Betsy DeVos on the state of the nation’s public schools, and you can hear distinct echoes of the sturdy free-market shibboleths advanced by the families’ economic heroes, Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. Public schools are a monopoly. They are government schools, and “government truly sucks,” as she said a couple of years ago at a South by Southwest gathering in Austin, Texas. It is the free market, not loathsome and unholy government regulations, that will at last propel America’s youngsters, its school-bound serfs, to the top of the international test scores. The education marketplace will make our children free, whilst making others rich—and that, too, is OK.
In sum, the DeVosian vision of school reform is the anti–New Deal offensive launched by the free-market reactionaries of the American Liberty League, retooled for schools and delivered with evangelical zeal. During her confirmation hearing, DeVos gave a pointed shout-out to a handful of schools that are doing it right. Acton Academy, described by Forbes as “Socrates’ Antidote for Government School Hemlock,” was one of these. Acton Academy (also named for the Lord of sainted laissez-faire memory) offers up “disruptive education” to propel its students on a “hero’s journey,” all the while teaching them to treasure “economic, political and religious freedom.” You can start your own franchise today!