Education Secretary Betsy DeVos offered few details of her views on higher education during her confirmation hearings.
But on Thursday, in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, she sharply criticized faculty members and accused them trying to indoctrinate students. She devoted only a paragraph to higher education in a relatively short speech, but she captured lots of attention. Here’s what she said, after asking how many in the audience were college students:
“The fight against the education establishment extends to you too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community. But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.”
DeVos opened her speech by saying that she wasn’t worried about what “the mainstream media has called me lately.”
Past education secretaries have offered plenty of criticism of higher education. Both Margaret Spellings (under a Republican administration) and Arne Duncan (under a Democratic administration) have raised questions about college costs, accountability and measures of student learning. But secretaries after William J. Bennett (in President Reagan’s second term) have not generally been culture warriors.
The CPAC crowd loved the speech and cheered DeVos on.