Saturday, April 12, 2014

Duncan to Rest of US: Shut Up

Last week Arne Duncan and John King shared a bill at the National Action Network gathering in NYC. King's message was "Blah blah blah standards tests blah." Same old, same old. Duncan, however, field tested a new message that translates basically to, "All youse normals, just shut up."

John King's history as NY High Commissioner of Educationy Stuff is that of an old school politician-- he says dumb things and does dumb things-- and he never fails to disappoint. But while Duncan is consistent in his pursuit of bad policy, he's a new school post-Reagan pol who understands that if you say good things, you can just go ahead and do bad things that don't match. Except, of course, that he also gets bad cases of the dunderheads, and then dumb things just fall out of his mouth. So I didn't pay much attention to what King had to say; I could probably write it for him. But as quotes started to appear from the Random Noise Generator that is Arne's mouth, I perked up.

Part was pure boilerplate. "I challenge you to support your governor as he challenges the status quo and tries to raise standards, raise expectations, and evaluate and support your teachers and principals."

At the risk of setting off the redundant redundancy alarm myself, let me repeat that neither King nor any of the other Purveryors of Reformy Nonsense are fighting the status quo. The PoRN stars have had years upon years to show us all how their complex of standards based test driven high accountability baloney will save us all, and it isn't happening. NY is special because it has had every single element the PoRNs want-- the charters, the TFA, the testing, the teacher evaluations, the centrally produced teacher-proof CCSS curriculum materials (okay, they haven't killed tenure yet)-- and yet none of those programs has produced anything remotely like success. In New York State the reformy nonsense IS THE STATUS QUO.

King is not challenging that status quo. He is challenging all the people who hate the status quo he and Cuomo have bolted into place.

As a side note, I'll point out that apparently Arne's list is a bunch of things that King is going to do singlehandedly. There is no call for everyone to pitch in and help, no "we're all in it together to lift up the public schools that belong to all of us." Nope. Just "support this guy while he does these things." (He also tagged Cuomo as a brave national leader.)

Arne has been trying out a new talking point lately. It's on display in the latest #AskArne video (which, for the love of God,you should not watch, but I summarize it for you here). Here's the version he used in NY.

It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be rocky, there is going to be mistakes. People need to listen, they need to be humble in this and be nimble and make changes. But to sort of stop and go back to the bad old days simply doesn’t make sense to me.

This new rhetoric is familiar to anyone who, at the age of six, slipped on the ice, fell down, got up, and exclaimed, "I meant to do that. Shut up."

A year ago, in settings such as his infamous "How To Present The News About CCSS The Way I Want You To" speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the PoRN position was, "Anything you've heard about problems with CCSS stuff is a lie. This stuff is great, and we must implement it exactly the way it's laid out"

Last winter we had moved on to "Stay the course. Don't lose momentum! It's starting to work!"

Now we're swinging around to, "Well, of course there will be some problems and mistakes. We totally expected that. It's absolutely part of the master plan for implementation to involve the screwed up torpedoing teacher careers and crushing eight-year-old spirits." Okay, it doesn't generally get as specific as that last part, but our new talking point is basically, "Yeah, when I fixed your carburetor, I totally expected the front end of the car would burst into flames. That's how it's supposed to work. Shut up."

"People need to listen. They," Arne advises, "need to be humble...and nimble..."

People? Which people, I wonder. Not King, who we are supposed to cheer for, nor Cuomo who is a brave leader. Nor did Duncan use that oh-so-obscure construction "We." There isn't a bit of Arne's talk to suggest that what he means is "We reform pushers need to stop and check ourselves, our ideas, and our plans. We need to listen to the people who have been affected by our work and really consider how it's playing out on the ground. We need to be humble enough and flexible enough to be able to say that even though we really believed in a program, it needs to be changed in light of the reality that our children are facing." I mean, geeze, Arne-- if I can see all the way from rural PA what you should be saying, why can't you?

 When, in the same speech, Arne characterizes parent concerns as "drama and noise," it becomes even clearer who is actually supposed to be doing the listening. And it's not Arne. No, when someone says, "I need to be humble and listen," it means "I have to do better." But when someone says, "You need to be humble and listen," it means, "Shut up. Remember your place. Stop all your drama and noise."

The "bad old days" flourish is, as always, insulting. I invite Arne to try it out in, say, Massachusetts where the bad old days featured better standards and better results than the current reformy mess. The only thing I like about the "bad old days" construction is that it's an admission that the "status quo" line is a lie. How can we "return" to the bad old days, if they are what we are fighting against right now?

It seems like a screw-up, but I'm sure it's exactly what he meant to say. I'll shut up now.


  1. I just started this at Petition2Congress. It is very easy to sign, copies are automatically sent to President Obama, and your own senators and your representatives. Please take the time to read and the petition entitled: STOP COMMON CORE TESTING. Thank you.

  2. Wow. That is harsh, man. And I love it.

  3. I am so very tired of old and middle aged white men telling me to shut up. It's even worse when they are tall, because they seem to think that their height alone gives them more brains and authority. Um...NO.

    1. Is it at all helpful to know that they want everyone to shut up? No, probably not.

    2. Gee Sarah, would it make you feel better if young black women told you to shut up? I would imagine, given this race-laden bilge you just spewed, that a veritable multicultural melange of people would love to tell you to shut up. Does it make you feel important, as a white person, to make specific disparaging references to white people? Does that earn you some "cred" or something?

    3. Jim, your comment is not exactly sensitive to the extent to which many woman have been, throughout their lives, ordered about by arrogant, privileged white men who, in our society, still disproportionately wield power over the lives of others. She speaks of white men because it is still, disproportionately, white men who hold and exercise such power. That should be obvious enough.

    4. This is an important step up for me as a blogger. I try always to grow in audience and achieve those milestones that might mark me as a "real" blogger. And now at last I am closer to legitimacy because I have finally landed my first troll. I'm a little verklempt.

    5. And just to be clear, I didn't mean Sarah. The world could use dozens more Sarahs

  4. Yes. Thanks for representing our truth without holding back. Don't know how people (including teachers) be in denial of what is happening right before us. And I am so with Sarah Darer Littman! It makes me ill that all the non-WASPy men and all women and children are being represented by a homogeneous group of over 40 white male businessmen. It's just not what our whole country, whole lives are about. The rest of us have to take this country back while there are still a few resources that haven't been exploited!

  5. Those old white, arrogant men need to hear from you - NOW.
    Please read and sign the STOP COMMON CORE TESTING petition in the comment above. This is NOT an education debate or discussion with reasonable opponents. It is a POLITICAL BATTLE. The powers that be will only act if their power is threatened. VOTE against any candidate who supports this madness.

    1. Racist and sexist much? Oh wait, it's progressive when you disparage white men.

  6. Love your blog. Good work. I do my best to get the message out to the 'ordinary folks' (not just teachers) and posted this and another at Oped News. I am merely a teacher who was at the apex of a successful career when the assault on public education began with the removal of the voices of the veteran educators. I retired in order to escape with my sanity and my benefits, and have been writing for 15 years about the teacher abuse that was step one in the process. However, I also write about LEARNING, not teaching, because you see, I (and all of us veteran teachers) actually know what it takes to "teach" OR as the real standards researchers with whom I studied would say, "what it takes to enable and facilitate learning." Currently I am renovating an office in my home, and perusing 40 years of teaching materials and all the research I did with the new standards, so that I can write a series "speaking as a teacher" (using the diary tool) at OPED. In it, I hope to explain what teachers really need to have in their practice, in order to enable the brains of emergent learners to acquire BOTH SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE.

    Meanwhile, I am linking to those articles and blogs that inform ordinary * folks about the shenanigans passing as 'reform', and I am delighted to have discovered your site, thanks to Diane. Now, Maybe others will discover your 'style' through my links. If you wish to know more about me, go to or take a look at my old site and my old blog, written when I was under attack at may I recommend the essay : NO CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS*, because I wrote about the abrogation of Due Process ten years ago, and it continues today as the prime way to remove teachers.
    This is the link to my essay that spells out the PROCESS BY WHICH WE ARE ALL DEPRIVED OF DUE PROCESS:

    Peter, please take a look at the site of Lenny Isenberg in LA, to see what utter destruction the lawlessness has brought to public education and to the lives of wonderful, and brilliant people like Lenny. (

  7. Excellent and important post, Peter: The arrogance fairly drips from their reformy jaws as they salivate over the profits that await when they retire from politics to become stockholders in Microsoft, Pearson, and the Walton Foundation