I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Incoherent World of Arne Duncan, Part VI (Last)

I've been breaking down Arne Duncan's interview with Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger all week:
  • Part I: Duncan's signature program, Race To The Top, has little evidence to back it up.
  • Part II: The real legacy of Duncan, Rhee, and Klein.
  • Part III: Arne has a lot to learn about what makes teachers tick.
  • Part IV: Duncan's totally befuddled thoughts about testing.
  • Part V: Duncan doesn't understand poverty or logic.
And so we come to Arne's final words of wisdom:
Q. You’ve said Newark has potential to be a national model. Why?
A. You have a mayor who is actively engaged. A lot of mayors run from education because it’s difficult and challenging. He’s running to it. I have a lot of confidence in (Superintendent) Cami Anderson. You have resources. The district is a manageable size. Newark has a chance, in the next three to five years, to go to a new level.
Q. There is strong push-back against Anderson’s reforms in Newark. What do you make of that?
A. There is lots of cynicism and fear. These communities have been lied to for years. They’ve heard promises and nothing has changed. So people don’t believe it. I had one group say I was going to sell the buildings for condos. They honestly thought that.
I doubt very much they said that; the people of Newark aren't stupid. What they probably pointed out was that there is a project in the heart if the city, Teachers Village, which is using taxpayer funds to install charter schools into a brand new commercial facility that will make already wealthy developers and investment banks even more money.

Or maybe they were referring to Anderson's override of the duly elected school advisory board's veto of a plan to give district buildings over to charter schools with records of segregating students by class, special needs, or ability to speak English.

And I wonder if they clued the Secretary of Education in on the fiasco of Newark's decline in its state evaluation under its state-appointed superintendent - and how that evaluation moves the city further away from regaining local control.

Newark has been lied to for years. But there is nothing the state or the feds are doing now that would lead any sane resident of the Brick City to shed their "cynicism and fear" when it comes to schools.

One last thing:
Q. What keeps you up at night?
A. I sleep pretty well. But the stakes have never been higher. When I was in high school in the South Side of Chicago, my friends could drop out and get a decent job in the stockyards or steel mills, and own their own home and support a family. Those jobs are gone and they’re never coming back. If you drop out today, you are condemned to poverty and social failure. The lack of urgency about that is striking. So how do we shake the complacency? That’s what keeps me up. [emphasis mine]
You might think, from that passage, that Arne Duncan graduated from a hard-scrabble high school on the South Side, sitting at a lunch table with Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown, watching his classmates go off to the meat packing plants. You'd be wrong: Duncan went to the elite and progressive University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. A private school whose current director opposes much of what Arne Duncan is pushing right now.

Of course, Duncan sends his own kids to a suburban public school where he gets to vote for the school board and doesn't have to live under mayoral control and where his kids undoubtedly spend far less time on test prep than in Washington D.C. or Newark. He enjoys all of the rights and privileges of a parent who is empowered by democracy to participate in his community's schools and make sure they don't simply become test-prep factories.

But I guess what's good for Arne or his kids isn't good for the deserving children of Newark...

As to those disappearing jobs: if even our college educated young people can't get decent work, what makes Duncan think the schools can fix the economy? Maybe that poverty and social failure needs to be addressed as more of a problem than simply school failure.

I take no pleasure in saying this, but the only conclusion I can come to from looking at this interview is that Arne Duncan is an unimpressive education leader. He doesn't understand the research, he has a shallow grasp of policy, and he is inclined to make his judgements on ideology rather than on fact and logic.

But I'm glad Tom Moran did this interview. I'm glad we got a good look into the brain of Arne Duncan. It's led me to reaffirm what I've felt about this man since shortly after he started on the job:

Arne Duncan needs to go.

1 comment:

G. Gales said...

This man attended a school founded by John Dewey but advocates aggressively anti-progressive education solutions for everyone else. Nearly every one of these "reformers" is an outright hypocrite. None of them would dream of sending their own children to the test-prep mills they are actively creating. Arne Duncan is the reason I will not vote for Obama or any other corporate-ed reform facilitating Democrat/Republican. I'm interested in a political party that will use its power to resist the corporate take-over of the last democratic institution in America, public education. The Democrats are greasing the wheels and as long as those of us who know what's up continue supporting them we should expect more of the same, forever. A vote for Obama is an endorsement of Duncan, Rhee, Cerf, Eli Broad, Gates, and all the rest.