American News

The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: Betsy DeVos Uses Her “Discretion”

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Seattle, Washington, March 2018 © SeaRick1 / Shutterstock

August 28, 2018 13:32 EDT

Hey, kids, soon your teachers may have the guns they need to keep your attention.

Hand it to US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — whose brother, Eric Prince, founded the mercenary army of Blackwater — to find a way to turn classrooms into virtual military battlegrounds. According to a report in The New York Times, she may soon be able to “use her discretion to approve any state or district plans to use grant funding for firearms and firearm training, unless Congress clarifies the law or bans such funding through legislative action.”

Here is today’s 3D definition:


License to do the unthinkable in politics with no checks or balances in place to restrict or restrain the decision

Contextual note

The article makes the point that this initiative “could undermine the grant program’s adoption of ‘drug and violence prevention,’ which defines a safe school environment as free of weapons.” But at another level, it would appear there are two contrasting interpretations of the meaning of “safe.”

On one side (that of DeVos’ critics), “safe” describes an environment in which people trust one another and assume positive social intentions define what is normal. On the other, “safe” describes an environment in which persons of authority wield the physical means of enforcing order and suppressing asocial behavior. The first encourages exchange because it assumes sharing of knowledge and insight to be the at the core of the learning experience. The second establishes passive docility as the norm because it is organized around the notion of potential threat. Trust to create a feeling of security vs. mistrust to enforce security.

The brother and sister team have combined their forces to turn even the most traditional collective activities — education and war — into private profit-making institutions and possibly merge the ethos behind them into a single culture. As Business Insider reports, Prince is lobbying the Trump administration “privatize the war in Afghanistan.”

With a businessman’s head, “Prince intends to privatize the conflict to reduce US manpower in the country and ultimately reduce spending.” He understands perfectly the value of downsizing and budget cutting. War should no longer be entrusted either to politicians or generals, people on the public payroll. Give it to the capitalists, who know how to make it efficient and need not account to the people, the rabble who will never understand the logic of force and the principles of management. The same with education: run it like a business (Betsy DeVos and Bill Gates appear to be on the same page). And of course make sure your system of security can keep the intruders out and the inmates — er, students —  under control.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, complained that “DeVos wants to turn schools into armed fortresses and make kids and educators less safe … She wants to turn the U.S. government into an arms dealer for schools.” Brother Eric might find an opportunity to run the private army that will end up protecting all the schools.

Historical note

The theme of the entire Trump administration has begun to make historical sense. “Make America Great Again” should actually be spelled, “Make America Grate Again.” Everything Donald Trump has done literally grates on the nerves of everyone and everything outside his circle of friends, family and influence. But more fundamentally, Trump has proudly revived the dark side that popular media so long tried to hide by alternating romantic comedies with violent war and police detective films, successively celebrating the longing for love between young heterosexual couples and the gritty justice of heroic soldiers and law enforcers, sometimes doing both in the same movie.

What Trump has produced and is promoting as the image of an “America Made Great Again” is a curious hybrid of Norman Rockwell — the illustrator of middle-class America, occupied by its innocent pursuit of happiness — and Rambo. It’s the story of self-reliant white people who just want to get on with their lives as consumers and spectators of popular sports, but who now are ready to wreak havoc if anyone prevents them from doing so.

In Trump’s world, good people sit at home and watch reality TV or NFL games (preceded by the national anthem, for which all good citizens stand), soak up celebrity sexuality through the various media they consult (unless they turn to Fox News for a dose of truth alongside their entertainment), and spend the rest of their time reading his tweets, while he makes America great by haranguing and harassing other nations.

In other words, transcending the moralizing hypocrisy of previous presidents, Trump wants everyone to understand that America is about mindless consumption and imperial power. Where other presidents justified economic exploitation of poor countries, military prowess, intimidation and invasion as a means of promoting democracy, shared economic growth and freedom, Trump is more forthright in affirming this basic truth: That bullying and media-centric blustering are the essence of the American way of life. And never forget it or you will be excluded from the feast.

That is the lesson — enforced by firearms — that Betsy DeVos wants our children to learn. It’s the lesson Eric Prince wants to impose on those nasty lands that resist US law and order.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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