Some years ago a friend of mine wrote a book titled “The Seven Last Words of the Church, or, We’ve Never Tried It That Way Before.” It is about what he regarded as the entrenched bureaucracies in his denomination that are reluctant — even hostile — to change.
The same opposition to change exists in government and the media. As in some denominations, entrenched bureaucracies are reluctant to give up power and influence for something untried, or for something that differs from what they have been doing for years, even when their approach has failed.
I thought of my friend’s book in light of Donald Trump’s inauguration and transition to power. Take the media. The White House press corps has its knickers in a twist over suggestions by the incoming administration that reporters might have to vacate their cramped quarters in the West Wing for a larger venue on White House grounds. That the current quarters have become too crowded to accommodate the growing number of reporters covering the White House matters little to those who have occupied that territory for many years. The New York Times and The Washington Post have contributed to the overcrowding by assigning six reporters each — a record — to cover the Trump administration. Don’t expect them to cut back in deference to others.
A sign of changes to come was also contained in Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos’ testimony at her confirmation hearings Tuesday. Speaking about the unfairness of allowing children to fester in underperforming, even failing public schools, and the disparity between wealthier families who are able to choose better schools for their children, and the poor whose kids are often trapped in bad and unsafe schools, Mrs. DeVos said, “We recognized that other parents were not able to make similar decisions about their children’s education, based on their income or the ZIP code in which they lived.” She called that a “national injustice.”
Many on the left believe school choice should not be available to poor children, not because school choice is a bad idea, but because the Democratic Party doesn’t want to alienate teachers’ unions that oppose it. Teachers’ unions make generous contributions to Democratic politicians, and Democratic politicians rely on teachers’ unions for votes. Yet these same politicians have no skin in the game; many send their children to elite private schools.
Much of what Donald Trump proposes has been tried before, but not since the Reagan administration has smaller government, lower taxes, fewer unnecessary regulations and personal responsibility been promoted. But personal responsibility and self-reliance are not taught in today’s public schools, which is why too many young people are deficient in these areas.
A press release from the office of the president-elect said about her: “Mrs. DeVos’ most important qualification is that she has the courage of her convictions.” Some may remember when such people were in greater supply.
The release continues: “During the 1990s, (DeVos and her husband) patronized a private-school scholarship fund for low-income families and championed Michigan’s first charter school law. In 2000 they helped bankroll a voucher initiative, which was defeated by a union blitz. The DeVoses then turned to expanding charters, which have become Exhibit A in the progressive campaign against her.”
Democrats have put Mrs. DeVos at the top of their hit list. She represents a threat to them and their union supporters. Instead of going in a new direction, Democrats cling to a model that doesn’t work and then have the audacity to resist change.
If Mr. Trump and Mrs. DeVos play this right, they will earn the gratitude (and possibly votes) of thousands of parents who yearn for their children to be set free from their unsafe and underperforming public schools. As the song says, “This could be the start of something big.”
• Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist. His latest book is “What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America” (Zondervan, 2014).
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