How can students fight back against a growing culture of ‘alternative facts’ and a weakening department of education?
With the confirmation that Betsy DeVos is indeed the next head of the Department of Education, many students are worried that the future of their education is in jeopardy. Those most at risk appear to be students in the public school system who depend on state approved syllabi to structure their education. Although this may not seem as though it relates to academia in a post-fact world, it lays the foundation of what students can expect from the institution of education under Trump and, to a lesser extent, DeVos.
DeVos has already demonstrated that she has little to no evident concern for students who depend on the federal system of public school education to be educated. Period. Prior to her appointment, she was quoted as saying that federal funded schools being required to meet the guidelines of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was “worth discussion.” She has also displayed an ambivalent ― at best ― approach to upholding Title IX legislation on college campus sexual assault, stating it would be “premature” for her to say whether or not she would uphold it. Public school teachers are also facing extreme adverse effects of this predicted divorce of fact from education. DeVos’s proposed policies seek to dismantle the structure public school teachers have tried to hard to reform in favor of better preparing their students for higher education. Where does that leave us, at our private university? Where does that leave federally funded colleges? Where does that leave students still in the public school system? How can we trust any institution based in academia for unbiased scientific studies, historical indexing and even any information in general? What can we as students do when objective fact is being stolen from us little by little?
It seems hopeless, when in fact there is still something we can do. We cannot sit idly by and watch as our counterparts in federally funded universities and younger siblings or friends in grades K-12 have their access to education stripped by this administration. It is our duty to pick up the inevitable slack DeVos and Trump will create. What can you do?
- Keep your textbooks. I know it’s tempting to sell them back, but we have to do all that we can to preserve higher level education for coming generations. However, if you depend on selling back your textbooks for money, there are still ways you can contribute.
- Index everything. If you see an article, a study, a piece of history in a BuzzFeed article or in a tweet go directly to the source and read it all the way through. If it seems trustworthy print it, download it, keep it somewhere you can get to it. With DeVos’s agenda it is entirely possible that historical figures like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Brown Berets, the Black Panthers, Fred Korematsu, Fatima al-Fihri, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Storme DeLarverie could be overlooked.
- Question your sources. Even though we are being inundated with clickbait and a systematic silencing of the press, it is vital that as students we try to obtain information that is objective and close to unbiased as possible. Healthy skepticism is perfectly acceptable. Ask around if something seems too prejudiced to be objective or if something looks too ridiculous to be true.
- Support the dissemination of information. I do not know what kind of restrictions will be put on the spread of information under DeVos and Trump. I do know that it is important that we help others consume information to educate themselves on what is going on. Be active in spreading information like guides on what to do if you are detained at a protest, rules on how to properly evaluate a source, or how to help someone in need. If the sharing of information among private citizens is made illegal, share information anyway. If that is our last stand then so be it, at least we did something.