"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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Friday, October 14, 2011

Arne Duncan Searches for His True Calling?

Arne Duncan received bad press this past week regarding his poor speaking ability and rude behavior from LA Weekly:

Lydia Grant, a big education activist in SoCal, asked us to attend U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's two-hour-long town hall in Pico Rivera earlier this week. Duncan had promised big things for the Tuesday event:
The town hall is hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and will include space for the public to ask questions and share their thoughts. The event is designed to engage community leaders from across the Los Angeles region in meeting President Barack Obama's challenge to lead the world in college completion by 2020.

Grant also invited about 200 parents -- and says over 1,000 showed up in total, some traveling all the way up from San Diego. But that didn't stop Duncan from walking out after 20 minutes.

"Everybody was just shocked," says Grant, because the town hall had been "pushed as if parents were going to be able to really tell their stories and get help."

And even for the short time Duncan was speaking and answering a couple questions in the brick El Rancho High School basketball court, according to Grant, the audience could barely hear what he was saying. The only words that really came through were "Jobs Act."

Oh, brother. A straightforward news piece from the Whittier Daily News reads like a campaign flyer:

El Ranch High School student John Barrios, 17, asked what could be done to help schools succeed.

Duncan said the passage of the Jobs Act "needs to happen" because the current economic situation has depleted school district budgets.

"It will keep teachers in the classroom, strengthen our schools and improve the local economy in communities across the country," he said.

If Obama's going to plant someone in east L.A. County -- because he's too scared to show his face outside a Hancock Park gala -- he could at least choose someone who's got the patience to pretend to listen to desperate parents for more than 20 minutes.

According to the Whittier newspaper, Duncan also took some time to praise California Governor Jerry Brown for his passage of the DREAM Act, in case everyone and their mother hadn't gotten word already, and let a couple congresswomen traveling with him talk about what a great job Duncan has been doing.

"It was awful," says Grant. "One-third of the audience got up and left."

Good for them. We would have done the same.

So Secretary Duncan mumbles, talks about the Jobs Act which would require more money (and additional stimulus) for school buildings (not education), and praises other Democratic officials. It's no wonder that even some of the legendary progressive California electorate chose to leave.

Maybe he'll have a better reception at the Obama fundraiser he is slated to host. From Politico:

Duncan raises cash for Obama

Education Secretary Arne Duncan may be the most bipartisan figure in the Obama administration, but that doesn't mean he's sitting on the sidelines during his boss's reelection campaign.

Duncan will headline a fundraiser for Obama in Brentwood, Calif., next week, according to an invitation a source passed along.

The event is $2,500 per person and is the first event in the "Obama Speaker Series."

Do any readers know of other Cabinet members hosting fundraisers for their boss, the President? Maybe Arne Duncan will be more comfortable among those donors who pay to see him, don't ask him tough questions and don't require him to stray off his scripted messages.

Could he not think of anything to talk about after 20 minutes? The townhall was to last 2 hours! Is the Secretary of Education so devoid of ideas other than political talking points for the Jobs Act and Dream Act that he couldn't answer serious education questions? He obviously doesn't have any answers for ".....parents (who) were going to be able to really tell their stories and get help." Maybe a job as a fundraiser among a friendly crowd would be much more fun and satisfying for the Secretary.

(Be sure to read this link to find out who is hosting this first "Obama Speakers Series").

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