WASHINGTON — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday made her first public appearance since being sidelined by a cycling crash, turning up in a wheelchair at an event about youth entrepreneurship and criticizing parents of the millennial generation who have obsessed on “safety and security” rather than allowing children to take “calculated” and “interesting” risks.

She also said school experiences for children have not changed much from decades ago. “It’s only more protected and more safe,” she said.

DeVos underwent surgery this month for what the Education Department said at the time was a broken bone. On Thursday, DeVos said at the event that she had broken her pelvis and hip socket and that it was “very painful,” Politico reported. She also said: “But it will heal. I just have to stay off of it for quite a few weeks, so I’m getting around with other means.”

DeVos appeared onstage for a question-and-answer session at the headquarters of Gallup, the management consulting firm, at the second annual briefing on “Business Startup Challenges and Youth Entrepreneurship,” which was co-hosted by Gallup and the Lemonade Day national youth entrepreneurship nonprofit organization.

DeVos has frequently criticized public schools for not changing over time, and she is a champion of alternatives to traditional public schools.

Taking questions from Joe Daly, a partner at Gallup and a member of Lemonade Day’s board of directors, DeVos offered her opinion about why entrepreneurship among young people has declined.

Daly reported polling data that said young people have become less entrepreneurial since 1977 but mostly in the last decade. And the millennial generation is “on track to be even less entrepreneurial” than Generation X and baby boomers.

“Well,” she said, “you certainly are the ones with data, but I have some sort of instinctual ideas about it. I think they are quite broad and varied. For one thing, generally speaking, younger people have grown up in a more protected environment. We’ve heard lots about helicoptering parenting and making sure nobody gets hurt doing something, and we don’t take too many risks so we don’t fail.

“It’s a general aura of safety and security over taking calculated and taking interesting risks around things,” she said. “I think that in, that general aura has lent itself in many ways to that reality. I think that we’ve had sort of an ossified approach and system to track everybody through the same sorts of experiences and, you know, there’s not a lot of real difference in the way we do school today versus decades ago. It’s only more protected and more safe.

“And so I think, generally speaking, we have to become more OK with taking calculated risks and encouraging young people to try new things and to not protect them from everything.”


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