The Sensation Known as Betsy DeVos
Never before has an education secretary aroused so much controversy. Could her confirmation be a boon for schools?
A 40-second scene on Saturday Night Live this past weekend featuring Kate McKinnon as the beleaguered Betsy DeVos, now the nation’s education secretary, blew up almost instantly on social media. The scene could’ve easily been just a blip, buried within the remarkable skit that had the affable Melissa McCarthy playing the role of Sean Spicer, the White House’s pugnacious press secretary. But McKinnon’s cameo as DeVos made its own headlines.
Perhaps it was because the SNL comedian so flawlessly, and efficiently, embodied the most glaring criticisms of the Michigan billionaire-turned-Cabinet member. McKinnon’s DeVos failed to answer a reporter’s question about growth versus proficiency, as DeVos did during her confirmation hearing, responding that she doesn’t “know anything about school.” She alluded to her desire to funnel public-education money into private schools, namely Christian ones. And she finished off with DeVos’s now-infamous comment about the need for guns on campus to protect students from grizzly bears.
But perhaps another reason the skit was so noteworthy was because it highlighted issues—and, indeed, a Cabinet position—that typically only garner the interest of those deeply embedded in the education world.
“All us education nerds were on Twitter saying, ‘Whoa, there was an education secretary being spoofed on SNL!’ That says it all, right?” said Joshua Starr, the CEO of PDK International, a professional educators’ association, and the former superintendent of Montgomery County Schools in Maryland.
Indeed, SNL, with its February 4 sketch, may have actually been late to the game; DeVos has been a national sensation for weeks, starting with the day she took questions from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Since then, DeVos has attracted input from celebrities including the author Stephen King, the comedian Jimmy Kimmel, and the former Star Trek actor George Takei. Her name has bombarded Facebook feeds and trended on Twitter. She’s even been analogized to a villainous contender on this season of The Bachelor.
Of course, the Democratic campaign to block DeVos’s confirmation didn’t work. Thanks to a vote from Mike Pence, who in an unprecedented move used his The Unprecedented Opposition to Betsy DeVos's Nomination - The Atlantic: