"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Not to be Outdone, Arne Duncan Embarks on His Own "Magical Mystery Bus Tour"

This is from the Department of Education's Twitter Feed on Friday, September 2:

Arne Duncan (@arneduncan)
9/2/11 2:53 PM
First look at the bus for next week's Great Lakes Back-to-School Bus Tour #EDTour11 http://t.co/cGUgTWm

Obviously Duncan won't be traveling on this wrecked bus. This bus is a visual metaphor for the reforms Duncan has offered. (For the sleek looking bus he uses, click the link on the twitter feed).

I wondered if Duncan recycled one of President Obama's buses from his recent Mid-Western tour (being "green" and recycling is an important DOE goal and the path to prosperity for students) but I discovered Duncan has made a bus tour before. He may very well be recycling last year's bus. What is that "important DOE goal"? It comes from a Philadelphia meeting with Joe Biden and federal agency heads in a "Middle Class Task Force" meeting:

"Vice President Biden's focus on the middle class is directly aligned with our focus on improving education and college access. This is about the American Dream and it starts with education. The green jobs of tomorrow demand a quality education today," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. (February 2009). With the closing of Solyndra and half of billion dollars of taxpayer money gone, should the Education Secretary be focusing on different sectors in which to steer educational goals for American students?

Duncan's first bus tour was in August 2010. What was the purpose of the tour?

The blue charter bus emblazoned with a federal logo, images of smiling teachers and slogans such as "Courage in the Classroom" pulls up to school after school.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is on a campaign to cheer on America's teachers at a time when a sizable number are skeptical of President Obama's education agenda. Duncan faces a curious situation. In the past year and a half, he has dispensed tens of billions of dollars to sustain schools through fiscal crises and to fund ideas to improve. On Tuesday, he awarded nine states and the District $3 billion for education innovation. As the school year starts, he will unload another $10 billion for education jobs.

The first tour was to mollify teachers and what is the current bus tour focus?

The “Education and the Economy” Back-to-School Bus Tour takes Secretary Arne Duncan and senior ED staff to more than 50 events throughout the Midwest. During the tour, Duncan and staff will promote the valuable work teachers, parents, and administrators do every day to change students’ lives and, ultimately, invest in our nation’s future. Arne will be meeting with educators and talking with students, parents, administrators, and community stakeholders. Among the topics that Secretary Duncan and senior staff will discuss include the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, K-12 reform, transforming the teaching profession, civil rights enforcement, efforts to better serve students with disabilities and English Language Learners, Promise Neighborhoods, the Investing in Innovation (i3) fund, STEM education, increasing college access and attainment as well as vocational and adult education.

How much carbon footprint will Secretary Duncan be using on this tour? Do you think he will be successful rallying support for nationalized curriculum, unfunded debt to states, turning schools into social service agencies and saddling students with college debt they can't afford to pay back because there are no jobs available for those college educated students America so desperately needs? Where is the idea of personal responsibility of parents and students in his message?

Here is a pre-tour analysis of President Obama's bus trip from a Pittsburgh newspaper:

It's important to projecting an image that the president empathizes with people's needs, and to show leadership, political analysts say -- and that's one reason presidents choose bus tours or use factories as backdrops for speeches. Yet, sometimes utilizing such props fails.

Just insert Arne Duncan's name in place of the word "president" and you've got the gist of Duncan's bus tour. It's difficult to believe Duncan's tour will be successful when none of these educational reforms are from local districts or taxpayers. It's difficult to behave empathetically when it is your federal agency that is mandating reforms on the taxpayers who have no choice!

If Secretary Duncan was truly empathetic to people's needs, the Federal government would step down and let local communities dictate their educational services and direction. If he would do that, the DOE wouldn't have to be spending money on gasoline driving a bus preaching an empty message. That would certainly be a "green" move in the right direction.

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