Betsy DeVos Cancels Solar Eclipse

I don’t know if you have gotten this letter yet. Seems a little strange to me but I guess that is where we are now: 

Department of Education LogoAugust 16, 2017

Dear Fellow Educator,

I am writing this letter to announce that the Department of Education is canceling next week’s so-called “solar eclipse.” This is not because others in the administration feel that this eclipse is a holdover from the failures of the Obama administration but because it is completely against the new direction that education is taking in America.

Not all states are getting the total solar eclipse so it is unfair that the Department of Education should support it. This is clearly a states’ rights issue and observation of the eclipse should be decided at the local level on a school district by school district basis.

Also, the eclipse is taking place at different times in different parts of the country. It is a total eclipse in one state, partial in another, and one state is observing at one time and other states at another. In other words, it is totally unpredictable. And why are the STEM disciplines fetishizing the solar eclipse? Why aren’t there any lunar eclipses to provide a balanced view? Experts tell me that during the eclipse the moon will move from right to left across the sun which is an obvious politicizing of what is supposedly an educational event.

There are STEM instructors who are using this eclipse in assignments. This makes the experience of the eclipse a learning artifact assessable in student portfolios which makes the eclipse a clear violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).  In addition, the assignments present ADA concerns as the learning artifact is accessible solely as visual media.

A solar eclipse leaves many of our online students at a disadvantage. I talked to my IT people about the affordances, objectives, and outcomes of the eclipse as a learning object. They said that they were using the Canvas LMS and that plunging the world into darkness and lowering the temperature by 25 degrees was more of a Blackboard thing, but that there were some promising possibilities in Second Life and other simulators.

We are currently setting up a commission to examine this issue to address any eclipses that might occur in the future. This commission will propose a special voucher that school districts will be able to apply for on a case-by-case basis if they wish to participate in any possible subsequent eclipses.


Betsy DeVos

United States Department of Education

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