"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, May 25, 2012

At what point does spin become lying Arne Duncan?

This week Secretary Duncan participated in the Labor Management Conference in Cincinnati.  It looks like the conference  wasn’t that interesting, because he had a lot of time to tweet about it. The tweets sounded wonderful until you really analyzed them, and put them up against what action the DOEd is taking. Then you realized every one of them was a bit of propaganda straight out of Edward Bernays' manual.

23 May Arne Duncan ‏@arneduncan
We need to value teaching as much as we value law or engineering. #LMConf12

23 May Arne Duncan ‏@arneduncan
We need to change public perception of teaching. It needs to be honored & valued, instead of diminished & dismissed. #LMConf12

First of all, who says we aren’t valuing teaching? Here where the pencil hits the paper we are awash in teacher appreciation programs. Many have just sent end-of-year teacher gifts to school and regularly speak with our children’s teachers, thanking those who are doing a really great job. We already spend more than 50% of our state budget on education. There is no other single budget line item that comes close to that percentage. Most districts approved salary increases during the recent recession when other businesses were holding levels constant or making reductions. So how is that not valuing our teachers or supporting what they do?

For their part,  how does the DOEd explain their support for TFA which is like hiring undocumented workers who will work for the lowest wages and who compete against people who have committed to the teaching profession by spending 5-6 years in school getting a degree in teaching?  How is that valuing teaching? How do they explain the constant harping on the need for common standards which implies, if not directly states, that they believe teachers are incompetent to develop their own quality curriculum.   Perhaps the “we” in his tweet referred directly to DOEd.
23 May Arne Duncan ‏@arneduncan
The media fixates on adult dysfunction in education. Adults here at #LMConf12 are fixated on helping kids.

I haven’t decoded Arne speak to understand what he means by “adult dysfunction” so it is difficult to know how to respond.  Is he referring to teacher dysfunction? Administrative dysfunction? Parental dysfunction?  It almost doesn’t matter because he followed it with that phrase that makes everything possible, we’re doing it to help the kids.  The reality is that the parents and teachers are the only ones focusing on the kids. The huge infrastructure we have built around education has made it difficult for the parents to feel engaged, and close to impossible for teachers to focus on teaching. They are spending all their time collecting the data that DOEd says they need to have.  The latest RTTT appears to want teachers to have individualized lesson plans for each student. While it may sound good, it is logistically impossible and will likely lead to a train wreck  in the classroom.  So explain to us again, Arne, how you are doing things to help the kids?

23 May Arne Duncan ‏@arneduncan
#LMConf12 vision is historic. Thanks to our natl partners for getting outside their comfort zones & having courage to do the right thing.

Again, no clue yet as to what “the right thing” is, but given who their national partners are: American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, National School Boards Association, American Association of School Administrators, Council of the Great City Schools, Council of Chief State School Officers, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, I am apprehensive. Many of these groups brought us Common Core Standards and the charter school blitz. Also, calling something historic, doesn't make it so.

23 May Arne Duncan ‏@arneduncan
It's an amazing sight to see teams from 41 states sharing ideas for supporting teachers and transforming the profession.

FYI - The only district from Missouri that was represented at this event was St. Louis Public School District.

We should all have learned from our president, who vowed to “transform” America in his acceptance speech, to question what we will be transforming into.   The referenced report says, “the shared vision focuses on three main goals, which include ensuring all students are challenged to meet a high bar that prepares them for college, career, and citizenship; narrowing the opportunity and access gap between more and less privileged populations of students; and, preparing all students to be globally competitive. Seven core principles make up the elements of achieving these goals. They include-
  • A culture of shared responsibility and leadership;
  • Recruiting top talent into schools prepared for success;  $
  • Continuous growth and professional development; $$
  • Effective teachers and principals;
  • A professional career continuum with competitive compensation; $$$
  • Conditions that support successful teaching and learning; and
  • Engaged communities

23 May Arne Duncan ‏@arneduncan
Shared vision document released, outlines 7 elements needed to transform teaching http://go.usa.gov/ppV

5h Arne Duncan ‏@arneduncan
We can't come away from LMConf just saying we had good discussions. It's time for action. Let's go.

There’s only two other words, besides “Let’s go” that have a demonstrated motivational effect and that’s why you hear them coming from coach’s mouths all the time: Come on!  Great rhetoric.  Little meaning.

1h Arne Duncan ‏@arneduncan
With student loan interest rates set to double in weeks, it's time to put students ahead of politics

Says the Secretary appointed by  the President whose budget held off that increase until 2013, just after the next election.  Then the interest rate kicked in to exactly what is currently projected 6.8%.  This is hardly keeping politics out of student interest rates.

Only citizens in 1984 were better at double think than Mr. Duncan. 

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