Today, however, I believe he has outdone himself:
That said, my own nominee for secretary of state would be the current education secretary, Arne Duncan.
Yes, yes, I know. Duncan is not seeking the job and is not the least bit likely to be appointed. But I’m nominating him because I think this is an important time to ask the question of not just who should be secretary of state, but what should the secretary of state be in the 21st century? [emphasis mine]Tom, you might also point out the man is in no way qualified in the slightest to conduct foreign policy. He has less experience in foreign affairs than he does in education - and that's really saying something: he has never taught, never been a public school principal, holds no advanced degrees in education (or anything at all), and was completely unqualified when he was hired to run the Chicago magnet schools in 1998.
His tenure in Chicago was a disaster; any notion that Duncan made Chicago's schools better is a mirage. Heck, even current Mayor Rahm Emanuel seems to think Duncan's rule was a train wreck.
Today, Duncan's policies are contradictory and incoherent. Under his tenure as SecEd, teacher morale has hit rock bottom. Yet Friedman, despite this record of clear and abject failure, wants Duncan to be our ambassador to the world. Why?
Let’s start with the obvious. A big part of the job is negotiating. Well, anyone who has negotiated with the Chicago Teachers Union, as Duncan did when he was superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools before going to Washington, would find negotiating with the Russians and Chinese a day at the beach. A big part of being secretary of education (and secretary of state) is getting allies and adversaries to agree on things they normally wouldn’t — and making them think that it was all their idea. Trust me, if you can cut such deals with Randi Weingarten, who is president of the American Federation of Teachers, you can do them with Vladimir Putin and Bibi Netanyahu.Because, you know, Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, is exactly like Vlad Putin! I mean, it's just so obvious!
(May I also point out it's not very hard at all to cut a deal with Randi Weingarten these days.)
The fact is that CTU doesn't agree with Duncan' ideas, and went on strike this past fall to make the point. Duncan did nothing to bring CTU and CPS together; it was Lewis's hard-nosed insistence that CPS knock off the reformy nonsense that led to a deal where CTU got much of what they wanted.
So Duncan's past actually argues against giving him such an important job. And I really love this:
At the same time, as our foreign budget shrinks, more and more of it will have to be converted from traditional grants to “Races to the Top,” which Duncan’s Education Department pioneered in U.S. school reform. We will have to tell needy countries that whoever comes up with the best ideas for educating their young women and girls or incentivizing start-ups or strengthening their rule of law will get our scarce foreign aid dollars. That race is the future of foreign aid.I would dearly love to see Arne Duncan explain to Bibi Netanyahu that Israel's foreign aid is now cut off because they filled out the forms incorrectly.
It's very telling that Friedman, one of America's preeminent pundits, thinks Duncan's awful tenure as SecEd and Chicago superintendent recommends him for an even higher office. But that's how much time and attention these guys pay to education policy: they are tourists, riding in air-conditioned tour buses on a safari of public schools, occasionally shouting at the kids: "Hey, suck on this!"