Editor's note.

Author:Bardi, Jennifer
Position:Recent news, Donald Trump and religious right, missile strikes on Syrian airfield - Editorial

I doubt the words "college" and "heaven" have ever been intertwined in this magazine. (You may recall your college days as halcyon but humanists typically don't do heaven.)

However, those two words sprang up in early March when President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos held a photo op at a private elementary school in Florida. They were promoting their plan to invest in school vouchers, something they call "school choice." (According to the evangelical playbook, it's the good kind of choice. Reproductive freedom is another story.)

"Who are we?" the principal of St. Andrew Catholic School asked when Trump and DeVos entered a classroom. "We are scholars," the students responded. "What are our goals? Where are we going?" the principal asked. "College and heaven," said the young students in unison. And, cut. Clearly the president thought the scene went great. Inviting students to pose with him for photos, Trump said, "Come on kids. We're going to make you famous." Just a few days before that visit, during his Joint Sessions speech to Congress, Trump said he would "seek to enrich the mind, and the souls" of American children. Yes, the president is perfectly happy to do business with the religious right (see Mike Kuhlenbeck's analysis herein). And privatizing education is nothing if not a business move.

DeVos gave the keynote address at an event I attended at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, on March 29. I wanted to ask her about college and heaven, and if she shared those goals for our students. I wanted to ask her how school choice could possibly steer clear of the Establishment Clause given the reality that (according to the National Center for Education) 80 percent of private schools in the United States are sectarian and most of those are Christian. "I'm not a numbers person," she said with twinkly smile in response to another question--one of just two she took from the audience (and from clearly friendly sources). But we all know the Trump administration is full of numbers...

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