Saturday, January 21, 2017

Open Letter to Senator Rand Paul

Senator Rand Paul
Main State Office
1029 State St.
Bowling Green, KY 42101

Dear Mr. Paul:

I appreciate your response to my letter of concern about the nomination of Betsy DeVos to head the federal Department of Education.  Although I realize there are areas of disagreement on this issue, letters from you that give me insight into your thoughts help me determine my continued support of you. I voted for you in the recent election based upon my desire that you would be a voice of reason in the repeal of Obamacare – especially the individual mandate.  I am an independent voter and appreciate open mindedness and workings across party lines to best reflect the will of the people.  I am writing this letter in the hopes that you might consider an independent viewpoint in making a judgement concerning Senate approval of Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education.  I am not opposed to the idea of charter schools or the return of control of education to state and local governments, but I hope you will consider the middle view expressed in the next paragraphs that express why Betsy DeVos is not the person to lead in this controversial area.

I am a product of the public school system in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Louisville area i.e., Portland. Without the support of great teachers who saw beyond my economic circumstances to advocate and offer compassionate guidance I would not have achieved the moderate success I have attained.  My highest level of formal education is a Master’s in Social Work from the Kent School of Social Work at the University of Louisville. My undergraduate degree, also from U of L, is in secondary education with endorsements in history and English. I have taught in public schools in Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, New Mexico and Oregon, teaching all facets of social studies, including American history, civics, advanced government and consumer economics, as well as freshman, sophomore, junior and senior English. In addition, my MSW took me into the field of alternative education to collaborate with other teachers to create programs best suited for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, economic status or abilities. In fact, I spent most of my teaching profession developing and implementing programs that would fill in the wide gaps between traditional education and the students being served preventing effective service to the public school populations.  I was forced to retire early from my last teaching assignment in Oregon due to whistle blowing concerning abuses that were occurring in the implementation of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), and internet abuse. That is one reason I was horrified when I listened to testimony from Betsy DeVos indicating complete ignorance of this law.

Ms. DeVos’ answers on almost every question regarding specifics about federal laws implemented to help the under-served student were answered in one way – I believe the states should handle this. That answer is far too simple to indicate any ability to explore, examine and work together with the states to make sure that in returning control to the states the best interests of all students will be served. A good example of this is the intervention of the federal government concerning education in the South that prevented certain groups from getting proper funding for sound education, thus keeping them in poverty. I am also wary of Ms. DeVos’ support of charter schools despite the fact that I am a strong supporter of charter schools that are operated with the idea of freedom of choice of parents to select the school that will give their children the best education possible while considering their specific concerns and talents. I saw this happening in Oregon and after my forced retirement, I wrote programs and worked in alternative education developing programs for teaching core curriculum through integration of content, project based learning, peer monitoring and cross cultural teaching of history. I defended charter schools in Kentucky for some time after returning to my home state in 2014 until my experience and research with those who support charter schools here provided a view of why charter schools were popular here. The supporters reflected one view – charter schools in the South reflect the idea of reversing education to the days of segregation and return to teachings based on the views of the radical religious fundamentalists of the state, not much different from the radicals of the Islamic State.  My intimate knowledge of the Amway Corporation and its principles also makes me wary of Ms. DeVos.

I was an Amway distributor from 1973 until 1980. During that time I attained the level of voting member direct distributor and even had a direct distributor in my organization. I visited Amway headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan and became very well educated in the philosophy of the founders of the corporation, especially Richard DeVos.  I was drawn to the corporation first because of the high quality, environmentally concerned way in which the products were produced. I appreciated the entrepreneurial spirit of capitalism also. I became concerned, however, as I began to notice the right wing agendas being promoted at rallies and training seminars. This created a little distance between me and the leadership of the organization. My ties to the organization ended when my husband decided to opt out of the business. We were already having marital problems and I was concerned about my economic security in the event of divorce because he was the major breadwinner in the family. I had chosen to be a stay at home mom at the time – another reason for my involvement in the company. When I indicated a desire to continue working the business without my husband, I lost all my up line support and the business failed.  The Amway Corporation promotes “family values” business which from my experience is interpreted as support for the white male Christian values that sees women as less than and offers no support for women who either want to make it on their own or be respected in a marital relationship that protects women from the capricious whims of the powerful male. Mr. Trump’s own words released to the public gave all women an opportunity to hear the extreme of that view expressed.  His nomination of Betsy DeVos is couched in a subversive way to show that his administration cares about female issues, but in my view, it only confirms what my suspicions were in the first place.

 I thank you in advance for reading my letter and hope you will know that I represent a lot of independent voters who helped put Donald Trump in the White House. I did not support either candidate and chose to vote for Jill Stein instead because I knew Donald Trump would carry Kentucky.  I don’t consider his election as the true statement of the workings of democracy because an outdated system set in place to protect the President from the “tyranny of the majority” put him office. I am not out in the streets protesting. I am trying to work with those officials who were elected to try and bring some sense into our system of democracy and make America the Constitutional Republic it was intended to be. Thank you for reading my letter.


Brenda Duffey

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