Thursday evening, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was the featured speaker at Turning Point USA’s Young Women’s Leadership Summit.
The four day conference aimed at young conservative women just wrapped up in Dallas, Texas, with “some of the nation’s most known conservative leaders and activists” as speakers, according to the organizer’s website.
DeVos gave a question and answer formatted session which quickly focused in on a critical issue facing our education system, a total failure to offer students the basics of how our government works, commonly known as “civics.”
The questions were presented by Charlie Kirk, the founder of TPUSA. The fireworks got started when he mentioned the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
“It’s amazing how few students are exposed to the brilliance of these documents and our Founding Fathers. How are you planning to continue to address this problem as we move forward?”
DeVos immediately admitted the seriousness of the issue. “Well, it is a huge problem,” she began.
“The latest statistic that I saw suggested that only about 18 percent of high school seniors had a reasonable understanding of civics and U.S. history. That’s a frightening figure when you think about it.”
DeVos isn’t ready to suggest that the federal government should be the one to force a heavy handed mandate down on the schools though. She favors each state to adopt a policy which reflects their own particular needs.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the federal government to mandate a specific curriculum nationally to address this. I do think it’s appropriate to talk very widely and loudly about the need to have robust civics and American history courses taught in every school across the country and for states, frankly, to adopt the requirement in their state to do so.”
DeVos went on to acknowledge a deeper underlying problem. American students aren’t making the grade in comparison to students in other nations.
“There’s an international assessment that’s done every three years in countries around the world –- developed and developing countries. Results are compared for academic achievement.”
“In the latest one, the United States was 24th in reading, 25th in science, and 40th in math. Now, if we had results like that in the Olympics, do you think anyone in our country would stand for that?”
One solution DeVos suggested is “School Choice.” She plans to support a federal tax credit to make that possible.
“Individuals and companies could voluntarily donate to 501(c) charitable organizations that would be designated by the states that chose to participate in this tax credit.”
The individual states could team up with corporations and individual donors to “take a portion of that federal pot and develop or augment programs that they already have in their state to extend scholarship opportunities to families and students.”
The net effect would allow parents to have more control and “choose a better fit” for their child’s education.”