Journalist Valerie Strauss interviewed historian Jack Schneider. Is Betsy DeVos right to say that American public schools have not changed for a century, she asks. He answers: Not true. Betsy DeVos doesn’t know what she is talking about.

Schneider says:

If we could transport ourselves to a typical school of the early 20th century, the basic structural elements — desks, chalkboards, textbooks, etc. — would be recognizable. And we might see some similar kinds of power dynamics between adults and children. But almost everything else would be different. The subjects that students studied, the way the day was organized, the size of classes, the kinds of supports young people received — these essential aspects of education were all different. Teachers were largely untrained. Access to education was entirely shaped by demographic factors like race and income; special education didn’t exist. Latin was still king. It was just a completely different world. To say that schools haven’t changed is just an extraordinarily uninformed position.

DeVos says these ridiculous things because she wants to disrupt public schools. The reality is that they are constantly evolving.

Teachers and principals are too busy working every day to “reinvent” their schools.

Strauss quotes Professor Adam Laats of Binghamton University (SUNY) who wrote that DeVos’ idea of education anywhere everywhere is actually an early 19th century idea. It didn’t work, it left many children behind, and forward-thinking educators realized the need for free, universal public education.