Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Can Arne Duncan fix American schools?

Just thought I'd use this article to kick to start a new emphasis around here on America's educational system. As I move in to the teaching profession, I look forward to many more conversations on this issue.

This is a balanced, close look at Obama's Secretary of Education designee, Chicago's schools CEO Arne Duncan; from the always reliable Alternet.org.
Is Obama's Education Pick the Sarah Palin of the School System?

By Annette Fuentes, New America Media via Alternet. Posted December 24, 2008.

Education advocates say Arne Duncan's qualifications are slim.

"SAN FRANCISCO -- When President-elect Barack Obama recently named Chicago Schools Superintendent Arne Duncan as his choice for secretary of education, the reaction was a chorus of praise in the national media for a man they hailed as a true reformer and passionate educator. The consensus was that Duncan was great at building consensus, tough on the teachers' union, and committed to the kids. And, incidentally, he was pretty good on the basketball court.

Among community, parent and youth organizers in Chicago, however, the response to Obama naming his good friend and sometime basketball partner as education secretary was not unanimously positive.

'I was on black talk radio last night and people who called in were almost heartsick about it. Their candidate making a pick like this is an enormous disappointment," said Julie Woestehoff , director of Parents United for Responsible Education. "People are concerned he doesn't have the educational background and that he's not even qualified for the position he's in. It's really a slap in face.'"
I don't really feel 'expert' enough to comment upon Arne Duncan's qualifications to be the Secretary of Education. However, I will say this, the title of this article is somewhat misleading. While most of the first page or so focuses on some of the problems associated with the Duncan choice, much of the blame is laid on Chicago's quote "strong mayor politics" unquote i.e. His Royal Majesticalness of Bridgeport, Mayor Dick Daley the Pure.

Most of the second half of the article is more positive on Duncan - so the comparison to Sarah Palin is fairly inaccurate. Quotes like these:
"Jay Travis, director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization [said]: 'We pushed for better engagement with the community on some of these issues. Our recent experiences with Arne have been more positive'"
and
"Duncan also has his boosters in Chicago, and education consultant John Ayers, is among them. 'I'm a big fan of Arne Duncan,' Ayers said. 'The guy is a mensch. He loves working with kids. This is a guy trying to help low-income kids get a good education'" . . .
do not exactly paint a picture of a guy with Palinesque incompetence and venality.

Draw your own conclusions.

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