"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Walking and Talking with Secretary Duncan

While too little focus is aimed at the substance of education reform claims and the criticisms of the reform movement, critics of misguided education reform are often discredited for their tone.

Beneath the political civility of political appointees, such as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, however, are equally offensive implications, which compound the lack of evidence for their claims.

On one level, Duncan seems content to speak in empty slogans instead of facing the hard problems facing U.S. children and our public schools. He has worn out, it appears, "game changer" so now he has moved on to a new catch phrase (fresh on the heels of his "white suburban moms" fiasco):
"Both South Korean and U.S. citizens believe that the caliber of teacher matters tremendously, and the great teachers make a huge difference in children's lives," Duncan said. "The difference is: they act on their belief. We don't. We talk the talk, and they walk the walk." (Arne Duncan: School Expectations Are Too Low in the United States)
Now, Duncan argues, not only are white suburban moms delusional about the achievement of their children, but also all parents in the U.S. simply don't measure up: "Parents in the United States do not demand the same kind of educational excellence as those in other countries, he said."

Duncan's claim is based on raw rankings of international test scores; thus, if we apply Duncan's logic, I wonder if he is willing to walk the walk with that talk?

If U.S. parents and students aren't demanding as much as parents and students in other countries, then does that mean that African American, impoverished, and Latino/a students score lower on standardized tests due to their even greater failure to demand excellence? Is it really true that the achievement gaps related to race, socioeconomic status, and native language are exclusively or primarily linked to desire and effort?

That's the logic Duncan is employing.

To me, both Duncan's direct accusation and the implication above are offensive—regardless of his language, tone, or smirk.

Why is this man smirking? (original photo from article addressed in this blog)

Neither are true, of course, as Stephen Krashen has exposed about the entire talk.

If we remain fixated on tone over substance, Duncan still fails the test because behind his sloganism lies patently offensive implications that serve only to distract us from the real issues related to equity and poverty.

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