Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Calvin and DeVos

In a show of uncharacteristic clarity the POTUS-elect posed in public beside Betsy DeVos as he unambiguously presented her as his pick for Education Secretary. Though I applauded the casting off of vague innuendo as the official form of executive communication I am a bit confused as to what DeVos brings to the post of Education Secretary. She will only be able to throw lavish parties in her 22,000 square foot waterfront home in Holland Michigan if the more inebriated guests take Uber home as it purportedly only has three bedrooms. The confusion morphs into concern when I examined where she was coming from as the position most consistent with her views and background is that of a general in a potential war on science.

She certainly carries a carpetbag full of potential conflicts. She is daughter-in-law of the Amway billionaires whose multi-level-marketing empire was built on the backs of a cult-like following. The far-right-wing foundation named after her father and mother “the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation” has donated considerable sums to organizations that teach that homosexuality can be cured. The Family Research Council co-founded by her father Edgar, James Dobson, and George Rekers (among others) actively pushed a rather heinous highly-homophobic social agenda; it is interesting, if tangential, to note that Rekers was removed from the FRC after being spotted on a 10 day vacation with a male prostitute from “”. Betsy’s brother Erik Prince is the creator of the controversy-studded security contractor Blackwater. It appears as if the more one digs the more controversy wells up around Betsy.

You would think that those would be enough encumbering controversies to recuse Becky from federal service even if there was a large campaign contribution obscuring the vetting process. Becky is actively involved in some of these questionable sources of ickyness; she is a guiding control to the foundation named for her parents, and would have been a likely deciding voice when it pumped large sums of money into California’s Prop 8 and Florida's Amendment 2 in 2008 since her father passed away in 1995.

Betsy’s controversial entanglements would make for an interesting blog post in and of themselves, but they might obscure aspects of her relationship to education that could be more informative towards the agenda she may be working in her new job (she does still need Senate confirmation). Several mainstream media outlets have described her as a proponent of school vouchers (she is), or a proponent of charter schools (she is that also). Though I fall on the opposite side of the fence on these two issues I recognize that there is a spectrum of proponents, and that we can learn a bunch about Betsy’s spot on that spectrum by finding out what she might mean by “school” and what those schools might do with vouchers.

"Just imagine if each student in these school systems was given a scholarship for this amount of money – allowing them and their family to choose the public or private school of their choice." --President Elect Donald J. Trump from a speech transcript he had on his website

Betsy herself had a highly religious school experience. Through High School she attended Holland Christian Schools which is a private Pre-K through 12 school system in Michigan. The HCS teaches bible classes and is “united by a common mission to equip minds and nurture hearts to transform the world for Jesus Christ”. The current banner for the HCS website features a line of 8 smiling middle-school-looking kids of whom two are African-American; this is a greater percentage than Michigan’s state-wide 14.2% African-American percentage, but far greater than the 0.7% African-American percentage suggested for HCS middle school by Zillow. The less-posed pictures of the HCS student body suggest that Betsy may have spent all of her pre-college education is an almost exclusively white highly religious setting.
"I would like to see the ideas of intelligent design -- that many scientists are now suggesting is a very viable alternative theory -- that that theory and others that would be considered credible would expose our students to more ideas, not less." -- Dick DeVos (Betsy's Husband) Republican candidate for Michigan governor in 2006

HCS operate under the iron fist of their controlling board. This is similar to many charter schools, and is often given as a reason why charter schools can be better than public schools. In December of 2014, just days after HCS middle school principle Mark Van Dyke’s mother passed away, he and Troy Stahl (High School Principal) were let go for undisclosed reasons. HCS superintendent Dan Meeser said there were no criminal activities and no students were involved so it suggests that the problem may likely have been in the form of words or ideas.

Evolutionism is more than a scientific theory. It is a worldview, an answer to the essential questions of who we are, where we came from, and where we are going. Consequently, evolutionism functions as a quasireligious perspective, a worldview that is in fact anti-Christian. – CRC Synod 1991 Report 28 Committee on Creation and Science p 392

Betsy went on to graduate from Calvin College where words and ideas have a much more transparent impact on the employment of its professors. Tenured professor John Schneider was terminated for suggesting, in a tediously theological scientific paper, that Adam and Eve “may” not have been historical humans. Just before fall term in 2009 the Calvin College Board of trustees sent out a memo to all employees that said that faculty were prohibited from teaching, writing about, or advocating on behalf of homosexuality or homosexual issues such as same-sex marriage; presumably they saw this as a issue in other colleges and wanted to nip that problem in the bud.

The Church confesses that both general and special revelation, each in its own unique way, address us with full divine authority. We affirm, therefore, that the whole of life must be lived in obedience to God and in subjection to his Word, that faith and life must be of one piece. This is true as much of science as it is of personal relationships, business practices, or politics. We reject any view of the Christian faith which limits its scope or any view of science which in principle excludes from its practice the influence of faith and the light of Scripture. On the contrary, we actively encourage the kind of Christian scholarship which challenges the secular assumptions of the academic mainstream by advocating the integration of Christian faith and learning. -- CRC Synod 1991 Report 28 Committee on Creation and Science Declaration A page 409

Calvin College is named after the same 16th-century Protestant Reformer that motivates the Westboro Baptist Church to call themselves “Calvinists”. The Calvinists of Calvin College are the equally backward, but far less flamboyant, Evangelical Christian Reformed Church (CRC). Members of the CRC live in a separate but equal world which they would love to fund with vouchers and unmonitored privatization. It is highly likely that, as Education secretary, Betsy will attempt to funnel tax dollars into centers for religious indoctrination. Education dollars are a huge source of public funds, and funneling them into churches which are also highly motivated to meddle in politics, like the CRC, could facilitate some scary long-lasting changes.

The CRC theological studies have repeatedly declared that true understanding of the world must be in accordance with biblical scripture, and that supporting biblical scripture is a test by which truth is measured. Although Betsy claims membership in a "non-denominational" mega church led by a slightly more mainstream pastor who is the son of the late Moral Majority leader Ed Dobson, her Calvinist roots still hold her to positions she nurtures by tending to them with hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations. Education is just one front in the developing executive branch war on science, but it is an important one, and a war on science is a war on Atheists.

'Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.' -- George Orwell from 1984

'The New Religious Freedom is the freedom to teach that two plus two can make five. If that is granted, all else follows.' -- AOA

I am not sure what my less rabid Trump supporting friends have to say about all this. Is it enough that we will probably not find out if there is a private email server in Trump Tower, or will they just go silent like all those voters who overwhelmingly voted for Bush over John Kerry in 2004?


Evangeline Brown said...

It's ok if a Republican does it.

adult onset atheist said...

It appears to be more than ok, and it may actually be required in the new administration