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When newly-confirmed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos arrived at Jefferson Academy in Washington last week, her access was briefly blocked by group of protesters. DeVos, a controversial figure because of her support for programs like school choice, took the incident in stride.

While it was only a speed bump compared to the Senate hearing she endured, the protest conjured up memories of a past many have worked to forget. It wasn’t too long ago that Alabama Gov. George Wallace secured his place in history when he, like the DeVos protesters, sought to block access to a public school in 1963.

While some may cringe at the comparison, cringing doesn’t make it any less real. This is not to say the experiences of African-American youth in the 1950s are similar to those of very wealthy, white DeVos in 2017. However, the motivations of Wallace and the anti-DeVos protesters who blocked her way are the same.

When Wallace positioned himself to deny access to African American students he wasn’t just blocking people, he was blocking ideas. To Wallace, segregation was a way-of-life and rooted in a twisted theology. To allow the “mixing” of the races was not a political policy he opposed, it was a heresy brought about by outsiders clueless about his culture.

Is the opposition to DeVos not the same? Those who worked to oppose her, progressives and teachers unions, claim DeVos is unqualified to oversee the nation’s public schools.

Why is she supposedly unqualified? She is not a professional educrat who has spent a lifetime in a system that continues to fail the most vulnerable children: inner-city African-American youth. She is an outsider who does not understand the education culture.

DeVos presents a chance to think outside-the-box and upset an educational apple cart that, after decades of dollars and opportunities, has failed to equally distribute the apples. Inner-city students of all races remain trapped in a public school system that uses their residence and their parent’s income level to trap them in failing public schools. Because students are compelled by law to attend the school in their district, administrators and teachers are guaranteed students (their income stream) no matter how poorly their perform.

DeVos is not just a Michigan billionaire, she represents a school of thought that counters the status quo. If she is successful in implementing new education models, what need would there be for the old guard? In this sense, the education bureaucracy that recoils at competition and idles on mediocre has the most to lose. That’s why protesters want to block her access, both literally and figuratively, to the public school system.

Look at the ideas DeVos embodies. School choice, vouchers, and charter schools all challenge what education “professionals” believe will fix the public school system. While there are no guarantees such policies will work, DeVos has now presented the possibility that such policies may be tested more broadly. The possibility that they may work is where the fears of DeVos opponents lie.

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Under DeVos, power would be gradually transferred from school officials back to the home. Families of all types would be responsible for holding schools accountable rather than vice versa. If such a power transfer occurs, families would lose the ability to blame the schools for their child’s educational struggles. In a society accustomed to passing blame, DeVos’ policies would prevent both parents and school officials from doing so. Everyone would reap what they sow.

Just like integration threatened Wallace’s way of life, DeVos threatens the stability of the education bureaucracy that thinks accountability stops at the schoolhouse doors. It is why Wallace attempted to block the changing policies of integration and it is why DeVos opponents attempted to block the changing force of educational thought.

But maybe it is time we stop using the schoolhouse as a political petri dish and return the focus to the students who merely want an education.

There is plenty of time for them to learn about grandstanding. Isn’t that why we have colleges?

Joseph Murray (@realJoeMurray) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. Previously, he was a campaign official for Pat Buchanan. He is the author of “Odd Man Out” and is administrator of the LGBTrump Facebook page.

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