Arne Duncan and I agree about something.
It's only one thing, but considering the horrid hash of the interview that Duncan gave Allie Bidwell at US News, that's one thing more than I would have expected.
It's a bit baffling, really. Duncan's only skill as Secretary of Education used to be that he could talk a good game, even if his words bore no connection whatsoever to the actual policies he pursued. Nowadays, he can't even do that. (I will note that via Rand Weingarten via twitter, Duncan apparently pleads having been misquoted in some portions of the article.)
But at one point in the article, we find this:
Part of the reason students in other countries outpace American students
on these exams, Duncan said, is simply because they are more serious
about education, not just in their cultures, but in their policies.
Okay, now that I look at it again, I realize that I agree with half of one thing that Duncan said, because the imbedded assumption that students in other countries outpace American students, is an assertion vague enough to be both meaningless and easily disproven. But the other part of Duncan's point has merit.
I agree that we Americans are not serious about education, both in culture and in policies. However, while Duncan and I may agree on the point, we have completely different ideas about what proves it.
If we were serious about education, we would not allow our public school system to be hijacked and dismantled by rich and powerful amateurs.
If we were serious about education, our media would direct its questions about education to teachers. We would all know the names and faces of the best teachers in this country, and they would be the ones being offered 50K a pop to talk about schools.
If we were serious about education, we would not stand for having it "measured" by means as frivolous and meaningless as the barrage of high stakes tests we subject students to.
If we were serious about education, we would fight like hell to keep the federal government's grubby grabby hands out of our state and local systems.
If we were serious about education, we would make heroes out of the people who provide it and protect them from the attacks of people who didn't know what the heck they were talking about.
If we were serious about education, we would make sure that schools had the top funding no matter what, even if that meant that other segments of government had to hold bake sales.
If we were serious about education, we would treat as a bad joke the notion that well-meaning untrained rich kids had any business spending a year or two in a classroom for resume building.
If we were serious about education, we would laugh the Common Core out of the room. Hell, if we were serious about education, we would never have proposed the Common Core in the first place.
If we were serious about education, we would never entrust our nations educational leadership to men who have no training or experience in education at all and who only listened to other men with no training or experience in education at all. If we were serious about education, we would demand leadership by people who were also serious about education, and we would demand leadership based on proven principles and techniques developed by people who truly cared about the education of America's students.
In short, Arne, if we were serious about education, we would not have you and your cronies running the Department of Education and popping up as "leaders" in the national discussion of education any more than we would be asking Robin Williams and Justin Bieber to straighten out the war in Afghanistan. If we were serious about education, we would send the whole wave of privateers masquerading as reformers scuttling back to their hedge funds and corporate tax havens.
So, I agree, Arne. We are not serious about education-- not in country, not in our policies, not in our media, not in our government.
The good news? I think we're getting a little more serious every day.