Home OtherCommentary 5 Films About School for Betsy DeVos: A Cinematic Primer

5 Films About School for Betsy DeVos: A Cinematic Primer

written by rick February 7, 2017
5 Films About School for Betsy DeVos: A Cinematic Primer

Now that Betsy DeVos has been confirmed as our Secretary of Education of Bizarro World, she’s going to have a steep learning curve. This would be true for any newly-confirmed Cabinet member, but it seems particularly urgent in Betsy DeVos’ case, who shows no indication of even baseline competency for the position.

But we, and the movies, are here to help. Whether the issue is local control, charter schools, or the need to burn your tormentors with your mind, cinema has many lessons for our new Secretary of Education, who is Betsy DeVos, apparently. Here is a sample. (And yes, there will definitely be a test.)



Betsy DeVos will enjoy this entry, which pairs two things she seems to like — not understanding schools, and Jesus — into a single fun package! As she said in 2001:

Our desire is … to confront the culture in which we all live today in ways that will continue to help advance God’s Kingdom.

This may in fact have been a line originally intended for Saved!, which was released just three years later (coincidence?), so how could Betsy DeVos fail to appreciate the film?

Everyone else will appreciate its healthy skepticism toward Jesus School and Mandy Moore’s legitimately hilarious performance.

Pump Up The Volume

pump up the volume

When asked whether she’d commit to funding public schools rather than privatizing them, Betsy DeVos told Sen. Patty Murray:

We acknowledge today that not all schools are working for the students that are assigned to them. I’m hopeful that we can work together to find common ground and ways that we can solve those issues and empower parents to make choices on behalf of their children that are right for them.

This is exactly the sort of milquetoast, meaningless response one might expect from Mark Hunter, Christian Slater’s nebbish high-schooler in Pump Up The Volume, who morphs into the guerrilla-radio personality Hard Harry by night to rail against The Man.

Perhaps Betsy DeVos (whose full name we will continue to deploy, because it’s fun to say and vaguely sounds like some sort of colloquial expression a kindly older Italian man would offer if he saw you trip on a cobblestone, roughly translating to “Oopsy Daisy!”) will follow his lead and become Bad Betsy. Bad Betsy (DeVos) will then shrug off the shackles of the Administration and channel her rage through pirate radio to a sea of hungry teenage listeners desperate for revolution and a chance to unleash the sleeping giant of their collective power.

Probably not! But she should watch Pump Up The Volume anyway, if for no other reason than to actively wonder why Henry Rollins and Bad Brains are playing “Kick Out The Jams” and U.K. Surf covering The Pixies.

Perhaps this is what is wrong with our schools, or perhaps the 90s were just a strange time. Either way, Betsy DeVos will benefit from checking it out.

Battle Royale

battle royale

Ruminating on her own scholastic experience, Betsy DeVos once wrote,

I mean, I was bored all the way through high school. I can only imagine how much more boring it is today, when you check all of those new technologies at the door and go sit in rows of desks and listen to somebody talk at you for 30 or 40 minutes.

We relate, Betsy DeVos! So boring.

But Battle Royale offers a cogent alternative, and one worth considering in your new position. Every year, you could pick a class, send them to the wilderness armed with randomized weapons, and force them to murder each other for survival!

It sure beats a lecture, and I have a feeling Steve Bannon will love this idea.

Zero for Conduct

zero for conduct

At a rally in Michigan, Betsy DeVos proclaimed of her vision:

It won’t be a giant bureaucracy or a federal department. Nope. The answer isn’t bigger government. The answer is local control.

And how! In Jean Vigo’s 1933 masterpiece Zero For Conduct, local control is taken extremely seriously by the students. Unfortunately for Betsy DeVos, this is a private boarding-school rather than the publicly-funded hellholes she disdains, and that absurd control is seized by the kids rather than the corporations, but the point stands.

It’s as though know-nothing charlatans shouldn’t be glorying in their privilege and unjust authority over impressionable youth, but rather treating them as equals in a humanist project, without starving their schools of funding to pay sham companies to teach them lies.

There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.



When Betsy DeVos had to ask for clarification on the difference between “proficiency” (i.e. how well students are doing according to outside metrics) and “growth” (i.e. how improved they’ve become on their own terms), she stumbled. It was embarrassing to watch, and underlined how outside of mainstream educational discourse she is.

Had she watched Brian De Palma’s Carrie, this would not have been a problem. Sissy Spacek struggles in school — thanks to shyness, brutal teasing, and a somewhat Betsy DeVos-like mother — but grows, on her own terms and in her own time, to excel at setting everybody on fire with her mind and/or ovaries. Easy!

So we hope that helps out! Other selections to consider might include The RevenantBearsCare Bears 2: A New GenerationThe EdgeGrizzly, and Day of the Animals. None of these have anything to do with school, but then neither does Betsy DeVos, apart from being the Secretary of Education for some reason. They’re just a few bonus titles that came to mind.

Anyway, happy viewing, Betsy DeVos! I can’t imagine how this could go poorly.

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