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Arthur Goldstein, a veteran high school teacher in the Néw York City public schools and a master blogger, does not agree with Beltway insider Andrew Rotherham that it is too soon to judge Arne Duncan’s tenure as Secretary of Education.
Goldstein does not agree. Goldstein judges Duncan to be not just a failure but a public official who inflicted harm on students, teachers, principals, and public schools.
“Wow. I wish I agreed with that. But with the entire country embracing Race to the Top, Gun to the Head policies like Common Core, I’m not feeling the love. The high-stakes testing and developmentally inappropriate tasks for our children (and not his, or Duncan’s, or Obama’s) are intolerable. That’s not to mention the junk-science teacher ratings that have been foisted upon us, rejected by none other than the American Statistical Association.”
Duncan brought us the “education wars,” with newly energized “reformers” opposing unions, tenure, and public schools, while boasting about the superiority of privately managed charters, especially those that demand robotic compliance by students and teachers.
“I’m not sure the education debate can get any nastier. For one thing, our unions are under attack, and SCOTUS may reduce us to virtual “Right to Work” status. For another, accomplished though King may be, I’ve seen precious little evidence of thoughfulness from him, Diane Ravitch goes so far as to call him “brilliant” based on his academic credentials. But King is remarkably thin-skinned and unable to deal with criticism. He thinks it’s beyond the pale when people comment that his signature programs, Common Core and junk science, are not good enough for his own children, in private schools.
“Furthermore, John King shows little evidence of being able to play well with others. He actually canceled a series of public meetings when people dared disagree with him. In fact, he went so far as to call teachers and parents special interests. That’s what we get for advocating for the kids we love, I guess. In Spanish, they say, “Tiene doctorado pero no es educado.” This means, roughly, he has a doctorate but he isn’t educated. In Spanish, being educated means not simply sitting through some classes, but rather behaving well. King’s been to Harvard but treats the people he ostensibly serves with a sorely limited scope ranging from indifference to outright contempt.”
Just for the record, I said that King was “brilliant” based on his remarkable ability to earn simultaneous degrees from Harvard Law School and a doctorate from Teachers College, while apparently working at an Uncommon Schools charter in Massachusetts. Maybe I should have said “astonishing,” “amazing,” or “incredible.”
The fact is that John King managed to antagonize more parents and educators than any of his predecessors. He moved fast and furiously and created a tidal wave of opposition. He was widely viewed as arrogant and hostile to those he was hired to serve. There was no question he believed in his mission of testing and rating; he did not think that listening was part of his job.