Andrea Mitchell, always a reliable amplifier of administration PR, gave Arne Duncan yet another opportunity to try to peddle his wares recently.
Arne wanted to stand up for Common Core in the face of the GOP pre-pre-primary beat-em-up on the standards. As reported by Ben Kamisar at The Hill, Duncan is framing his pitch with one of his favorite spins-- it's all about the expectations.
“When you dumb down expectations to make politicians look good, that's one of the most insidious things that happens.”
Of course, another insidious thing that happens is when politicians raise expectations to make themselves look good, but don't actually deliver any of the support needed to meet those expectations.
It's also insidious when politicians raise expectations and back them up by holding other people responsible for meeting them. Imagine how different education would reform would play out if we just changed half of the following sentence. Instead of
Where we find failing schools and students, we must hold teachers and school districts responsible for their failure to properly teach those students
we could instead say
Where we find failing schools and students, we must hold politicians responsible for their failure to properly support those schools with needed resources.
Duncan's belief in the magic of expectations is well-documented. It just isn't well-founded in reality. High expectations are great-- when realistic. High expectations are great-- when they are applied to the people and government agencies that are supposed to provide the resources needed to meet those expectations.
But among the many things that Duncan fails to grasp is the result not of high expectation, but the placement of blame and punishment when those expectations are not met.
When a child fails to meet expectations that were set unreasonably high by politicians, who should be held responsible?
When a child struggles to meet expectations because her school and community are starved for the resources needed to help her achieve, who should be held responsible?
Duncan continues to fail to understand the system that he has perpetuated. Politicians did not lower expectations "to look good" under NCLB-- they did it to avoid losing badly-needed money for poor, struggling schools. Duncan continues to ask as if public education has twisted itself into a test-obsessed mis-directed pretzel on some sort of random whim, and not as a predictable and not-irrational response to the policy of test-and-punish pursued with gusto by this administration.