Dear Mrs. DeVos,
You don’t know me, but I know you. Most of what I know is from the recent news and controversy surrounding your nomination, and later appointment, as Secretary of Education.
Let me be clear and perfectly honest, I opposed, and still continue to do so, your appointment. However, I do not wish you to fail. You failing would be an astounding hit to our future generations for years to come. I hope for the best from you, and those expectations are incredibly high.
As someone for whom the public school system failed to protect, I would like to extend my hand towards you. You have an incredibly tough job and I don’t envy that.
However you got that job is irrelevant now, you have it; and with it, comes an amazing responsibility towards not only the students of these United States of America, but all Americans, even those that aren’t students anymore, like myself. You have the responsibility, the obligation, but you will be held accountable to not only just your actions, but the actions that they set in motion, by us, We the People of these United States.
Please, if you have a moment, I’d like to tell you my story.
I have an IQ of 156. That’s genius level. I can safely call myself a genius and not be lying or exaggerating.
I’m also a gay man. This is possibly the most important part of this.
The public school system itself, the education part, wasn’t what failed me; it was the fact that I wasn’t protected from my fellow students. I was bullied and teased relentlessly; I became an outcast.
I feel that’s important for you to know, as you’ll be in control of the education, and the education system, for students like me.
The education I received in public school was good, great in some places. In others, it wasn’t. And that’s not on the teachers, they tried. But…when you have anywhere from 20 to 33 students per teacher, not everyone can get the attention they need. Usually, it’s the ones at the bottom, who need extra help, and the ones at the top, who don’t often need help, that get stuck or left behind.
I ended up in the ‘gifted’ class in first grade, due to my high IQ. There, we learned how to utilize our brains to better reach our “EXceptional POtential”, or EXPO, which is what the class was called. It was there that I received the extra attention I needed. In a class of under 15, usually around the 8-student mark, the teachers had a much easier time getting to all of us and helping us learn.
I learn, me specifically, in a somewhat different way than others. I can do basic-to-moderate algebra in my head, with no paper to help me out; I can parse a sentence for it’s meaning; I have a propensity towards logic and intelligence.
This wasn’t always the best thing in the public school system, or even later on while I was being homeschooled and taking classes at a charter school.
My parents were my greatest advocate. They went to bat for me whenever I had any issues with my education. And even when some teachers had issues with me for who they saw I would become.
I didn’t know I was gay while I was in public school; in fact, I didn’t even know what ‘gay’ meant until years after I’d already been called ‘gay’, ‘fag’, ‘homo’, and numerous other names. When I knew what it did mean, I was scared. I was terrified.
It wasn’t because I feared being sent to hell or that God hated me, I was raised Christian (I have now defected, but I still believe in good.) and I know that God didn’t care, that He made me exactly how I as.
No, I was scared because if my fellow students found out, the verbal abuse would get worse, from both students and teachers, and possibly even escalate into physical violence from students and no help from teachers. I’d been shoved into the stairs or lockers a few times, but not that much. I got off easy…in a sense.
Throughout my final years in elementary school, and my years in middle school, I increasingly became more and more depressed. I regularly thought of suicide; I longed for it sometimes.
But I never did. I knew, deep down, that if I could just hold on until I graduated, or until I could get out, I would be okay.
By the end of 7th grade, I knew I wasn’t going to make it to graduation.
I begged and pleaded with my parents to homeschool me, not for the first time, though this time, I was adamant that I was not going back to school. I never gave a reason, but I think, on some level, they knew.
They looked into homeschooling, and then charter schools.
Ultimately, I ended up doing a sort of mixture of both. I would go to some classes at a ‘school’ building and some classes at people’s houses.
For most of my classes, though, I taught myself. My parents would check over my work to make sure I was doing things correctly and, because I was out of the oppressive environment I’d been in, I thrived.
I finished all of my classes, with full credits, three years earlier than I would have otherwise.
For me, homeschooling and charter school was the right choice, educationally speaking.
For my family, however…it was incredibly expensive. Between books, classes, supplies, etc. we had no money to spare for anything. Our electricity and water were routinely shut off. We almost lost our house a few times as well.
After my first year of homeschooling, my parents wanted me to go back to public school. I steadfastly refused. I knew, deep down, that if I went back, I wasn’t going to graduate; I would end up killing myself.
Still, they persisted. I, tentatively, agreed to go see what the high school I would have went to was like.
When I walked into the building, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt, immediately and completely, oppressed. I was so uncomfortable in that place and the depression I had fought against so hard, that had finally dissipated for a while, came crashing back.
Educationally, I knew that it would be the better choice for me, that I would be able to do more classes and learn more.
Financially, I knew it was the best choice for my family.
Personally? I knew I wasn’t going to live through the year if I went back.
So I didn’t. I didn’t fill out the forms to go back, much to the anger and irritation of my parents. I didn’t give them an explanation, I just said that I wasn’t going back, that I would continue teaching myself with books if we couldn’t afford the classes.
Over the next year, I took a few classes, more than the year before, and excelled at all of them. (Though I couldn’t always get to them due to my parents having jobs; I actually had to just drop English class, which was the shortest class I had and I already had above-standard proficiency in.)
My favorite class was government, taught by one [name omitted]. She’d taught me history the year before, and I liked her and her way of teaching, even if she did insert her (relatively) conservative views in with the lessons. But, despite that, or maybe because of it, she taught us facts. She taught us the history of the government, no-holds-barred, the good and the bad.
She would sprinkle in her views, but she never, not once, made anyone else agree with her or feel uncomfortable for disagreeing with her. In fact, debate was a regular part of class. I alone was the single liberal-minded individual in our class of 15+. We often agreed on certain points (today she would likely be considered a moderate Democrat) and, often, I managed to present a good enough argument that made everyone think at the very least, even if I couldn’t always change their minds.
They also made me think; they showed me their point of view.
Not once did I feel unwelcome or uncomfortable among her or my other students. In fact, she often called me her favorite student because I absorbed knowledge so well and could hold my own against a roomful of people opposed to me. Her class, and indeed, she herself, was a safe zone for every student. No one would be attacked for their views or who they were in her class.
She cultivated personal relationships with each of her students; she cared.
This is something that many of my teachers in public school often attempted to do, but couldn’t, simply due to the number of students they taught and the shortcomings of the system and the way it works.
I managed, somehow, to finish my basic education three years early, when just four years prior to that, I was seriously contemplating suicide because of school.
For me, public education wasn’t the right choice. Not because it failed to teach me, but because it failed to protect me.
For many others, public education is the only choice. The only viable option.
While I do support a parent’s, and above that, the student’s, choice of where they should learn, I don’t believe that doing away with the public education system is the right way to go about changing education.
I’m sending this email because I heard that you were unwilling, initially, to roll back protections of transgender students in school, but that you had agreed to stop opposing it.
Please, I beg of you, don’t do this. Stand your ground.
Don’t just comply; don’t go against your morals, what you know is right. That’s how you’ll win over the American People.
You have a responsibility, to your constituents, your students, and the American People as a whole; you have the privilege of that responsibility.
When you do what is right, we will not oppose you, we will support you. Do not compromise what’s best for all American students just because of politics or party, or money.
Be a dissenter, Mrs. DeVos.
You may be the first, but you won’t be the last; and you won’t be alone. You will have our backing, the support of the American People, when you do what is right.
Deep down, everyone with a conscience, everyone with an ounce of humanity, knows what’s right and what’s wrong. Go with that.
That’s your gut; it comes from your faith. Follow that.
Don’t follow a madman and his greedy, power-hungry followers.
You may not have been the best pick; you may have bought your seat at the table, but you’re there now and we’re relying on you.
You have a choice. You always have a choice. You can do what is right, or you can do what is easy.
From my experience, my choice in not going back to public school, doing what is right is always worth it, no matter how hard it may be.
If you do what’s right, if you take that hit, We the People of these United States, will help you; we will lessen the blow.
Thank you for your time; I wish you all the best and hope that you do what’s right for all Americans,
“I am simply myself. No more and no less. And I want only to be free.”
*[I initially had my full name, address, and phone number in this email. I omitted it for this post.]