Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who would like all Americans to send their children to the school of their choice as long as it makes a buck for someone, has been invited to give the commencement speech this year at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black university in Daytona Beach, Florida. Yes, really. The invitation is almost certain to make history — in 50 years, it will be recognized as a brilliantly contrarian maneuver, remembered as an astonishing public relations disaster, or quietly airbrushed out of any still-extant paper copies of the yearbook and referred to cryptically as “the 2017 event.”
In an announcement that must perfectly capture the mood of students and faculty alike, the university explained how all this happened:
Much like Dr. Bethune, Founder of Bethune-Cookman University, Secretary DeVos deems the importance of opportunity and hope for students to receive an exceptional education experience. Her mission to empower parents and students resonates with the history and legacy of Dr. Bethune. B-CU President, Dr. Edison O. Jackson expressed, “Bethune-Cookman University is a school built on the legacy and the transformation of students. Dr. Bethune’s love for students started with five little girls and grew to over 250 students during her time as university president.” “The legacy of Dr. Bethune is that she was not constrained by political ideology, but worked across all parties to support B-CU,” he explained.
Yr Wonkette has been unable to determine whether the campus health clinic was immediately flooded with students and faculty members seeking treatment of pounding headaches.
As you no doubt recall, DeVos closed out Black History Month with a bizarre February 27 press release praising historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) for the awesome job they did of providing school choice during the Jim Crow era, which rather missed the point that they were founded not out of a commitment to providing “more options” for education, but because there were literally no other opportunities for most black people to get a college education. The release didn’t mention segregation at all, instead suggesting that somehow African-Americans excluded from higher education were only an untapped market segment the HBCUs wisely decided to serve:
They saw that the system wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution.
It was all about providing “options,” just like DeVos wants to do!
Graduates of Bethune-Cookman took to the Tweeters to express their puzzlement at the apparent alternate universe by which their alma mater appeared to have been consumed:
A Change.org petition posted Monday after the announcement, calling for a reconsideration of the invitation, had by late afternoon surpassed its 4500-signature goal. Instead of calling for DeVos to be turned away altogether, the petition asked that a new commencement speaker be invited and that, in the name of “engagement and open communication,” Secretary DeVos instead be invited to some non-ceremonial event where the campus community could “welcome her to the table and have meaningful dialogue about stronger policies, the White House HBCU Initiative, and the importance and contributions of HBCUs.”
Fortunately, the university fixed everything with a Tweet explaining they’d never meant to say DeVos and the school’s founder were exactly alike:
For one thing, Mary McLeod Bethune, who according to the school’s “About” page, “opened the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls with $1.50, faith in God and five little girls,” probably never spent millions of dollars lobbying to undermine public schools, or similar amounts in campaign donations to get herself appointed to a cabinet post. So we’d guess there’s a heck of a lot of bridges — over really wide gaps — that Secretary DeVos’s visit will have the chance to build.
Also it is your open thread.
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