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Arne Duncan left his post last winter, after serving for seven years as Secretary of Education. In this post, Zoe Carpenter reviews his legacy.
The short version is that he opened doors for the booming education business. The longer version is that he did nothing to reverse the resegregation of American schools, but his efforts have been a boon to the testing industry and the charter industry.
Thanks to Arne, many entrepreneurs were encouraged to sell stuff to schools. The U.S. Department of Education is a marketing machine for the tech industry. Wanna buy a new ap? Check with ED. How else to explain the transition of almost every public school in the nation to online testing, even though studies show that students test better when they use paper and pen/pencil? Did anyone ask for that?
Other changes that Arne was responsible for: an explosion of publicly funded private schools (charter schools); Common Core; closing thousands of public schools in black and brown communities; massive collection of personally identifiable student data; data mining.
How many billions were wasted on ed tech and Common Core that might have been spent to reduce class sizes and improve teachers’ salaries or to encourage desegregation?
Carpenter credits Duncan with cracking down on the for-profit higher education industry, but this is an exaggerated claim. Corinthian Colleges collapsed, not because Duncan forced it to, but because it lost market share. Other for-profit colleges continue to lure veterans, minorities, and poor people with promises that will never be kept and to send them off with high debts and a worthless degree. The for-profit higher education industry is still making profits and ripping off veterans and poor people with false promises and worthless degrees.
Arne may have left us with a time-limited parlor game: what was the dumbest thing Arne said?
“Hurricane Katrina was the best thing that happened to the public schools of Néw Orleans.”
“I want to be able to look into a second graders’ eyes and tell whether he is headed for a good college.”
“Teachers have to stop lying to their students and dummying down the standards.”
“The opt out movement consists of white suburban moms who are disappointed to discover that their child is not as brilliant as they thought he was.”
Can we ever forget Arne and his campaign to open public education to the needs of edu-business?