In the creepy picture below, there are two snakes that are fairly obvious and not particularly well camouflaged. If you study the photo a little longer, you will see a third snake that I missed when I first looked. Do you see it?
Would you have seen it if I didn’t mention it?
To begin with, I have never seen a photo showing venomous snakes of different species just chillin’ together in the same space. It might be common and I just haven’t noticed.
I don’t go looking for such things.
I’m just speculating, but perhaps it is one snake’s birthday and they’re sharing a birthday rodent together. Maybe the snakes grew up together as “brothers from another mother” living in the same den and foraging in the same wood piles. It could be Ladies Day Out at the local watering hole. I’m just not sure.
On the other hand, I am sure I don’t want to encounter any of these fellows during my next hike in the woods, as a group, or even individually. I’m not a big snake fan … or a small snake fan for that matter.
Yet, if I was forced to deal with one of these guys next time I go to the woods, I’d prefer to tangle with the rattlesnake on the left than I would the Copperhead to the right or whatever the hell that third snake is in the middle.
My rationale is simple.
First, even if I don’t see him first, the rattlesnake will likely alert me of his presence with his unmistakable tail rattle a few steps before I get to him.
In my previous meetings with rattlers, I’ve found this audible warning to be a nice gesture on their part – much preferable to them plunging their fangs directly into my calf muscle without warning.
It’s like a friendly, “Hey, dummy, I’m right here. I mean you no harm because you are too big to eat. However, if you continue my way, I will not hesitate to inflict upon you a painful, venomous, potentially life-threatening bite. Yet, in the spirit of mutual respect, IF you turn around now and leave me alone, we’ll call it good.”
I know – that’s a lot to say in just a few rattles! He might just be saying, “RUN or DIE!”
On the other hand, Copperheads are sneaky little bastards who like to hide in the foliage and bite you in the ankle or hand just because you get a little close and have a heat signature.
Maybe this is just me, but I would almost always opt to deal with the big snake in plain view, rattling its tail with unambiguous intentions, than the sneaky one lurking in the brush or under a rock waiting for me to be a little careless.
With the rattlesnake, I can take appropriate action to protect myself because I can see and hear it clearly. I know what the snake is doing and can keep my eyes on its movements. I can choose to avoid the snake or attack it. If something bad happens at this point, my own carelessness or lack of action will be partly to blame.
This goes for humans, too.
Relative to public education in America, we have many friends.
The vast majority of Americans are proponents of a strong and viable public education system. Most of our fellow citizens are well-meaning and care about their local teachers and schools. They support their schools with their tax dollars, their time, and their advocacy.
Unfortunately, education also has its share of snakes in the grass – individuals who hide in the periphery, influencing policy with money and connections – that seek to strike when we least expect it.
Our new secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, fits this profile.
DeVos is someone who has spent most of her adult life working to end public education as we know it. For decades, she has preferred to operate in the shade, particularly on a national level, using her and her family’s considerable wealth to promote a different vision for education in America.
“Ms. DeVos’s efforts to expand educational opportunity in her home state of Michigan and across the country have focused little on existing public schools, and almost entirely on establishing newer, more entrepreneurial models to compete with traditional schools for students and money. Her past donations and advocacy go almost entirely toward groups seeking to move students and money away from what President Trump has called ‘failing government schools.'” ~ K. Zernike, New York Times
Yet, like a snake in the grass, Ms. DeVos has been throwing her poison primarily from a camouflaged position.
That is now changed. DeVos and her beliefs about public education are now in plain view of the American people.
A few years ago, Oklahoma also had a state education leader who was not afraid to present herself in the open. She routinely spat venom about our public schools and teachers. She struck out often with the narrative of failing schools, uncaring teachers, and spoiled administrators. She was not a big fan of public schools and was proud to say so.
The good news is this story did not end well for the snake. She got the shovel.
Like Janet Barresi, Betsy DeVos speaks her mind and is quite clear about her plans and intentions. She rattles her warning often about the need to privatize education and give parents more choice in the form of charter schools and vouchers. DeVos has been transparent relative to her larger goals in education reform, once comparing her work “to a biblical battleground where she wants to ‘advance God’s Kingdom.'”
As a result, we have no excuse for being caught off-guard. Betsy DeVos is no fool and it would be dangerous for us to believe so.
Sometimes the best way to see a snake in the grass is to cut the grass.
Can you find the three anti-public education snakes in this picture?
They’re not hard to identify. When it comes to these type of snakes, it IS common to find them chillin’ together in the same space.
As with a rattlesnake encounter, we must now take appropriate actions to protect ourselves. The snakes are not hiding in the grass anymore. We see and hear them clearly. Their actions and intentions are in plain view. We would be wise to keep our eyes firmly fixed on their movements and be continuously on guard.
Unlike the rattlesnake, we cannot afford to simply back away from this group. They will be attacking. We would ignore them at our own peril.
We must also guard ourselves against the slippery words of DeVos and her friends.
They will spout their concern about the poor and less privileged in society and how public schools have failed to meet children’s needs. They will do this while simultaneously ignoring the real challenges related to the education of urban youth: broken homes, lack of resources, neglect and abuse, crime, gangs, drugs, inequality, and generational poverty.
They will sound harmless to many and will seek to deceive. We won’t be surprised. We’ve heard it all before.
A snake will always be a snake. It is their nature. We must tread carefully but tread we must.
One winter a Farmer found a Snake stiff and frozen with cold. He had compassion on it, and taking it up, placed it in his bosom. The Snake was quickly revived by the warmth, and resuming its natural instincts, bit its benefactor, inflicting on him a mortal wound. “Oh,” cried the Farmer with his last breath,
“I am rightly served for pitying a scoundrel.” ~ Aesop’s Fables
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