Teaching Profession

Teachers Push Back Against Betsy DeVos’ Claim That Schools Are in the ‘Industrial Era’

By Madeline Will — March 08, 2018 3 min read

During a speech at SXSW EDU, the annual education conference in Austin, Texas, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told the audience that educators need more room to innovate in the classroom.

But on social media, teachers said their classrooms are full of innovation—and they have the photos to prove it.

“We have to free them up to be more innovative in their own classrooms,” DeVos had said, adding that she has met with teachers of the year who had left the classroom. Those renowned educators, DeVos said, were told to go back and “get within their box at their school.”

Teachers should be given “more latitude and autonomy to meet the needs of their students in their classrooms,” DeVos said. She also took to social media to share her concerns.

“Does this look familiar?” she tweeted, showing side-by-side stock photos from different eras of children sitting in desks, facing the teacher. “Students lined up in rows. A teacher in front of a blackboard. Sit down; don’t talk; eyes up front. Wait for the bell. Walk to the next class. Everything about our lives has moved beyond the industrial era. But American education largely hasn’t.”

Her comments struck a nerve with teachers, who widely dislike the controversial education secretary. According to an Education Week Research Center survey, 72 percent of the 1,122 educators surveyed said they didn’t like DeVos. In comparison, 67 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of Trump.

Many tweeted back at her, showing pictures of their classrooms full of flexible seating and project-based learning.

Even one teacher, who used to work with DeVos at the Education Department as a classroom teacher ambassador fellow, weighed in:

So did the 2016 National Teacher of the Year:

DeVos has visited a handful of schools during her time as education secretary—traditional public, charter, or private. Education Week has tracked each visit.

Image via Alex Brandon/AP

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.