Sunday, April 12, 2015

Am I Ready for Hillary?

So now it has officially begun, again. Hillary Rodham Clinton is running for President. Let the questions begin. But the questions I'm interested in are not the stupid ones (Was she behind a nazi commie plot to blow up Benghazi?) or the horse racey ones (Will Hillary become inauthentic in a more authentic way?) Clinton, for a variety of reasons, receives a lot of stupid animosity for a lot of stupid reasons, and there are chapters of her career that could stand to see a little sunlight. I am not interested in any of that.

My question is, will she be good for public education?

I think we can all agree at this point that it's no longer possible to assume that anybody running under the Democrat standard is a supporter of public schools. Andrew Cuomo and the Obama administration have painfully proven that sad current reality. So it would be useful to know what kind of Democrat Clinton II proposes to be.

There's not much of a record to search through. Clinton's track record hasn't brought her into education issues very often. But there is one huge honking squealing flashing siren wrapped in a fluorescent red flag atop a high-powered blinking crimson light.

It's the Center for American Progress.

CAP bills itself as a progressive thinky tank, but it could also be called a holding tank for Clintonian administration members-in-waiting. Among the folks already attached to the HRC are John Podesta, who rose through a career of political aiding to become Chief of Staff for the second Clinton term. After that he formed CAP and  has run it since. Podesta protege Jennifer Palmieri has also bounced between government jobs and CAP. They are both major players in the HRC campaign.

CAP has hosted many folks related to the campaign, including Clinton herself.  In fact, if you start looking through Clinton's various appearances intended to help stave off controversy, they often turn out to be at CAP. When close Clinton advisor Huma Abedin came under fire, CAP CEO Neera Tanden was one of her staunch defenders.

CAP does an excellent job of hoovering up contributions from wealthy money-wielding folks, and it's a measure of CAP's closeness to Clinton that this money shoveling is seen in some quarters as a means of getting access to what may be the next DC administration.

All in all, it does not seem like a huge leap to think that CAP's positions on education could hew closely to the Clinton II positions. And that takes us back to the sirens and flags and blinkers.

I've looked at some CAP stuff over the past year. Here's some of what we've turned up.

CAP offered a "paper" (because that's what thinky tanks do) providing a roadmap to implementing Common Core. The paper pushes high stakes testing, test-based accountability, computer-based testing, aligned curriculum, VAM, and the fantasy that the new tests will be test-prep free.

When Senator Alexander floated his first ESEA rewrite, CAP was there to call it a failure, primarily because it didn't love high stakes testing enough. Minorities and students with disabilities need the opportunity to take many tests, because that's how they'll achieve more. Also, parents need the feedback in order to know what the kids are doing, and also to make selections from the various school choices available. Any bad idea you've ever hated in the Obama/Duncan administration, CAP has been praising right along.

CAP is not above floating new talking points with a whacky disregard for reality, including a bizarre article that tried to argue that CCSS really helps the female girls, even though the data it cited doesn't support the claims they made. CAP also occasionally turns to TNTP for research back-up, which is like hiring Daffy Duck to work on your dignity and etiquette practice for the Royal Ball.

And CAP was sloppy enough to illustrate an article about how teachers now stick around for more years by slapping up a picture of a TFA teacher who quit after two years to get a corporate job. Fun fact: after being called on it by bloggers near and far, they've left the picture on the article.

In short, there is no reason yet to think that Clinton would change a single, solitary piece of Obama/Duncan education policy. Heck, maybe she could just keep Arne around for another four years. He already knows where the office is, already has furniture he likes.

If Hillary wants my support (and while I may be representative of nobody but myself, maybe there are a few other teachers who are kind of tired of the current administration ed policies-- just two or three of us), then she had better explain exactly what she's going to do differently. I could also say we'd like to know who we're going to get for USED secretary, but hey, we thought we knew last time that we were getting Linda Darling-Hammond and look how that turned out.

But I can tell you this. I have never been a single-issue voter, but my profession has never been so attacked, besieged and crushed under policymakers' boots. So I will not, not under any circumstances, vote for any candidate who gives me the slightest inkling that she (or he) is planning to give me four more years like the last fifteen. I don't care if you're promising me a pony and your opponent is threatening to send locusts to my home town-- if you aren't going to change the destructive, educationally abusive, mandatory malpractice policies of the previous two administrations, I will not vote for you, period, full stop.

That is what I'm ready for.


  1. Totally agree ! We'll see if there is any candidate worth voting for...can only hope.

  2. Dear Peter Greene:

    Once again, when you are in Chicago attending the Network for Public Education event, please try to organize a joint statement among education writers which states that candidates who want teachers to vote for them in 2016 must tell the public their position on education in these subjects: (list of important issues) and arrange to present it at the conference? A newsclip of a huge room full of teachers demanding a clear position statement from candidates might get more attention than each blogger writing the same thing week after week on their blog. It's just splashier.

    I also have a wish that you would ask the Association of Secondary Principals to do a survey asking parents if the Big Tests are “important” to their understanding of how their child is doing in school. Supporters of the tests keep insisting this; you keep saying no that's not true, but no one has any data (except the data inherent in the fact that a certain percentage of parents opt their children out, but that number is small. It doesn't support the anti-test position as well as a survey might.) Better data showing that parents, given a choice of two options, choose “teacher information” over “testing information” might also encourage more parents to opt out, in a snowball effect, also.

    Thank you.


  3. You stole the words right out of my mouth, Peter. I don't really care so much what she says on the campaign trail regarding education, Obama has made me very distrustful of promises for change. When money whispered in his ear, he gave us Duncan. Same thing will happen with Hillary.

  4. I will not vote for her! She is in bed with the corporate education reformers. She's in too deep and it's too late. This is coming from a former HUGE supporter. She has always been my hero for women's rights and for the rights of children to a quality education and healthcare. I can't imagine how much money is entangled that can't be disentangled. I'll vote for a third party candidate. I've been burned by Obama and his friend Rahm Emmanuel and Andrew Cuomo. I feel so completely betrayed by Obama after being so elated in 2008 for what he was going to do for education. I worked on his campaign! I am now a single-issue voter. Frankly, voting for the education candidate is also voting for the middle-class, working poor, marginalized and disenfranchised workers all across the country and union workers. Education affects everyone. Thank you for giving it to us straight.

  5. Theoretically speaking, shouldn't Arne have known something (at least something) about what education truly involves? I have an on-going joke
    with some of my students. It has to do with an idea that a friend and I had to make a movie about life entitled "Tolerating Ambiguity". An acquaintance told us at a dinner party that no one would want to see a movie with that title. My students love that story because it is not only funny every time they think about it, the more they learn, the more they realize that life demands us to tolerate ambiguity. The data driven society we have with do-gooders like Gates funding education "reform" will not tolerate ambiguity (even though their data is ultimately pure nonsense but they believe they can hang their hats on it). The art of teaching and learning and growing has far too much ambiguity for high stakes test enthusiasts. I am not optimistic about any potential candidate's willingness to look at education from a human perspective. It takes too much effort, money and willingness to admit fault to change course. Furthermore, they have unshakable confidence in the power of technology. That is the clincher.