The Department of Education was the laughingstock of social media Sunday, Feb. 12, after publishing a tweet that misspelled the name of author and civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois. To make matters worse, the department followed up the major faux pas with an error-laden apology tweet.
While attempting to quote the late African-American historian, the DOE mistakenly spelled his last name “DeBois” — a close resemblance to the last name of newly elected Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. DeVos’ appointment as the new governess of U.S. education, which almost didn’t happen had it not been for a historic tiebreaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence last week, was widely contested due to her limited experience in the public education system.
Education must not simply teach work – it must teach life. – W.E.B. DeBois pic.twitter.com/Re4cWkPSFA
— U.S. Department of Education (@usedgov) February 12, 2017
The DOE’s “DuBois” error remained unaddressed for nearly four hours before the department caught it and issued an apology via Twitter. But, the apology tweet wasn’t well received, as it too contained a spelling error.
“Our deepest apologizes for the earlier typo,” the original apology tweet read before a second one was published.
Although the agency was quick to correct its second mistake, the damage had already been done.
So the US Dept. Of Education misspelled W.E.B. DuBois name earlier, then made a misspelling in their apology tweet. Is America being punked? pic.twitter.com/C7wbyQuUh6
— Tariq Nasheed 🇺🇸 (@tariqnasheed) February 12, 2017
Dear @usedgov … your apology also has a typo. Please learn to spell. It's vital for the Dept. of Education, don't you agree?? pic.twitter.com/XgBoahVX3v
— Wanderlust (@CeEstMagnifique) February 12, 2017
The NAACP, which DuBois co-founded in 1909, was quick to mock the DOE for its mistake, tweeting, ” ‘In The Days of Loose and Careless Logic, We Must Teach Thinkers to THINK’ – William Edward Burghardt DU Bois.’ ”
Other critics saw the typo as a foreshadowing of what would become of the department with an inexperienced leader like DeVos at the helm.
Welp, this is a foreshadowing of what #BetsyDeVos is going to usher in @usedgov. FFS! It's #BlackHistoryMonth too!
👉🏾W. E. B. Du Bois👈🏾 pic.twitter.com/QKhYAuyp6i
— Khary Penebaker (@kharyp) February 12, 2017
I see they left Ms. "DuVos" in charge of the @usedgov Twitter feed pic.twitter.com/SW0scGm49u
— Jason Tocci (@JasonT) February 12, 2017
Looks like @BetsyDeVos is in charge now! pic.twitter.com/paajsZsUSL
— Mike Flacy (@mikeflacy) February 12, 2017
Some highlighted the irony of the DOE’s misspelling of the noted civil rights leader’s name during Black History Month.
The dept of education misspelling a black author's name during black history month smh. You can tell they don't care about our history frfr
— 👑 (@patiencesosweet) February 12, 2017
*Dept of education voice* : today as part of black history month we recognize the accomplishments of debois as they are back in town.
— vidhya (@kid_vidh) February 12, 2017
Devos' Dept. of Education just misspelled W.E.B. Du Bois' name during Black History Month. https://t.co/SPNHf8J4vL pic.twitter.com/kCf8jJD5g1
— someecards (@someecards) February 12, 2017
our Dept of Education can't spell W.E.B. DuBois' name correctly… happy Black History Month guys! 🙃🤷🏽♀️ https://t.co/rzdyOguf9w
— Sara Brnić (@SaraBrnic_) February 13, 2017
Still, others were simply appalled that the Department of EDUCATION tweeted a misspelling in the first place – especially a tweet that featured an attributed quote from a noted icon like DuBois.
Is it funny sad or sad funny that our Dept. of Education misspelled the name of the great W. E. B. Du Bois? https://t.co/egi6Nn15gp
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) February 12, 2017
I am glad my public school teachers taught me how to properly spell the names of noted scholars!!
— Maris Kreizman (@mariskreizman) February 12, 2017
.@usedgov *W.E.B. Du Bois
All good. Not like this is the official Twitter for the US Department of Education. 😒
— Ryan Wyatt (@Fwiz) February 12, 2017
I guess spelling was not part of the curriculum
— Jeramie Rain (@jeramiedreyfuss) February 12, 2017
It's either a terrible mistake or a perverse foray into humor. His name is W.E.B. Du Bois. Screenshot saved.
— Jeffrey Guterman (@JeffreyGuterman) February 12, 2017
The DOE faux pas comes just weeks after President Donald Trump left many wondering if he really knew who Frederick Douglass was after questionable remarks he made about the writer and abolitionist during a Black History Month meeting at the White House. VP Pence also commemorated the start of BHM with a cringe-worthy tweet noting the accomplishments of former President Abraham Lincoln.