Reflections On DeVos, Arntzen, And Public Education

A philosopher once said that we are really three quite different people; the one we see as our self, the one others see, and the one we really are. All very different and the first two are merely reflections.

The recent discourse concerning the Q & A session between representatives of the Great Falls Public Schools and the newly elected Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Elsie Arntzen, was not congratulatory, or welcoming. The event seems to be a spot-on reflection of the discourse surrounding President Trump’s Secretary of Education nominee, Betsy DeVos, who has been ripped nationally as Arntzen has in Montana.

Do you think the shoot-from-the-hip comments and condescending narrative directed at both women just might have some to do with their similar pro-voucher, pro-charter schools, and most importantly, pro-choice education positions? Do you think just maybe the NEA and the MEA have leveled their sights on Elsie and Betsy? One important feature is the emphasis and the substance of the word public when referring to education in our state as well as nationally. There is a not so new paradigm that suggests that the government’s program of public education for our children may not be the only, or the most successful methodology. When a country spends the most money per student on public education, yet ranks 29th in the civilized world in educational achievement, its structure probably ought to be up for review.

If pro-choice, charter schools, and vouchers have shown positive results, why not let this shift universally seek its level? The answer seems obvious; public education is a big business. Any move to divert taxpayer funds from the public education business is viewed as a threat to those running the business.

The truth is that parochial schools have been around since the beginning of our country’s history and the best colleges and universities are private institutions, many of which were founded based on religious principles. Why, then, should parents and students be financially penalized for exercising pro-choice educational freedoms when it concerns their children?

No matter the venue, existing and new educational methodology must be positively responsive to the new world we live in. It is well established that education on all levels must advance two basic important tasks, creativity and innovation. Without a strong emphasis on these, our children will not successfully meet the demands of the 21st century marketplace and our country will be at a significant disadvantage in the new world economy.

Yes, and how we design our schools can affect the education outcome we must achieve. Gone is the cellular and static concept we have duplicated in the past — encouraging movement, sensory stimulation and interdisciplinary study is the future. To do this, working together with open minds is absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, the left’s assaults on DeVos and Arntzen are instructive of knee-jerk partisanship, and ultimately, a willingness to place agendas above policy while shamelessly using our children as political pawns.

Posted by Philip M. Faccenda

Philip M. Faccenda is an AIA award-winning architect and planner. He is the Editor-in-Chief of E-City Beat.

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14 Replies to “Reflections On DeVos, Arntzen, And Public Education”

  1. Neither woman is knowledgeable enough for their positions. Period.


  2. Philip M. Faccenda February 4, 2017 at 6:49 AM

    “Small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, great minds discuss IDEAS” point made. Period.


    1. Unfortunately, pithy quotes don’t change the fact that neither woman possesses the knowledge to be the best advocates for our children.


  3. With VP Pence breaking the tie Ms. Devos is now the Education Secretary. A simple case of party politics becoming more important than actually serving the people.

    This may be a “win” for the GOP but it is a loss for the children of this country.

    For the record, I am an Republican who values my country over my party.


    1. So it’s okay now to judge someone to be a complete and total failure at their job before they even show up for their first day at work?

      Is that what we’re teaching our kids?

      As someone who supports and has benefited mightily from a quality public education and whose two daughters are likewise the beneficiaries of a magnificent local public school system here in GF, I say thank you to our teachers.

      I will reserve judgement of cabinet picks like EdSec until such time as an assessment can be made based on actual job performance and educational outcomes and opportunities for students – not based on regurgitated opposition talking points from political and special interests released prior to confirmation.


      1. Gee Rick, I haven’t deemed her to be a complete and total failure anywhere on this blog. Is reading comprehension an issue for you?

        I stated, and stand behind, my belief that Ms. DeVos is NOT qualified for her position. What I am suggesting is that an employer would not hire someone so woefully prepared for the position. I know I wouldn’t and I doubt that any competent employer would.


        1. Gee Rick, I didn’t say you deemed her to be a complete and total failure anywhere on this blog. I simply asked a rhetorical question in light of all of the little hissy fits and uninformed conclusions about her ability to do the job coming from unidentified trolling objects like you. Is reading comprehension an issue for you?

          Hard to take anyone like you and your pseudo-intellectual remarks seriously since you go to such lengths to hide your real identity.


    2. Philip M. Faccenda February 7, 2017 at 7:46 PM

      Let me guess, you are a teacher and belong to a Union which is the reason we rank 25th in the world when it comes to Math, Reading and Science. Don’t play the children card.


      1. Wrong. Not a teacher, not a union member. Care to try again?


      2. Lastly Philip, “Don’t play the children card.” Really?

        Isn’t that what this is all about? The children?

        Or is this about you “winning” on the internet, damn the kids? Perhaps you might want to reassess your priorities.


        1. All I know is that I think it is a good thing to have someone at the head of the Department who has an open mind about how we might do things differently. The teachers union/public education model is not the only way to educate kids in this country.


        2. Philip M. Faccenda February 10, 2017 at 7:10 AM

          Rick, Anytime you would like to debate non-web I would gladly accommodate. Your worn-out and misdirected positions would lose.


          1. Why would I waste my time doing that? Isn’t that what this blog is for, among other things?

            Your back-up position seems to be to accuse me of being something I’m not (teacher or union member) in an effort to diminish my point of view. You haven’t shown the ability to actually debate this issue. If you want to debate then by all means do so, here, where you started it with your article.

            In regards to my positions, since when is wanting a qualified individual in a position misdirected or worn out? For example, if I am looking to build a new house I am going to approach someone such as yourself who is trained and knowledgeable in their field, not someone who played with Lincoln logs all there life and thinks they are qualified but who clearly are not.

            That is what we have with Ms. DeVos.

  4. Have any of the people commenting been inside an elementary, secondary, or special education classroom in the GFPS system or in another town in Montana?? Have you discussed educational issues with Arntzen, or with the union??? Do you ever wonder why so many more parents are choosing to homeschool their children, or send them to private schools? The union has a stronghold on education even more since the Department of Education has gone to Common Core and has taken away so much local control. Textbook/testing publishers and special interest groups have excessive control of education along with politicians. The Federal Department of Education did not begin until the 1960’s. Before that the state had more control and did not have to answer to the hand of big government. Education and discipline in the classroom was much improved. Why don’t you all sit down and research viable options for the state legislature to address? Montana schools are NOT safe; Montana schools test way too much; Montana schools have too many administrators; Montana schools are influenced too much by the union; Montana school should offer Charter Schools, fewer electives, more emphasis on writing, history, government, reading, math, public speaking, and MANNERS, with less emphasis on snacks, water bottles, and students’ rights.

    I am a retired Montana conservative teacher who has witnessed the changes in the public schools in Montana over the last thirty years, and the changes have NOT been positive.


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