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A Top Ten of @ArneDuncan Inanity: Obama’s Basketball Buddy Drops Ball on Ed

So what happens when a President chooses a basketball buddy as Secretary of Education? Really, Obama… what did you expect when you chose a non-educator, non-expert to lead American education? A leader who left Chicago in shambles, whose school “turnarounds” didn’t work. Disappointed by his latest inanity at the Mom Congress, I have selected ten quotes from Arne Duncan’s reign as Secretary for a top ten.

It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary,” Duncan said. “You’ve bet your house and where you live and everything on, ‘My child’s going to be prepared.’ That can be a punch in the gut. Source

Really Arne? You are going to attack the independent/swing female voters the Democratic party needs in coming elections? Over Common Core? You realize that TAMSA kicked policymakers’ a___ in Texas for similar antiquated and disingenuous thinking about high-stakes testing?

The vast majority who drop out of high school drop out not because it’s too hard but because it’s too easy. Source

Talk to students Arne. They will tell you that high-stakes testing is discouraging. They will tell you that class after class of test-prep is dull. See all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts on dropout here.

I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. Source

Reformers ideas in New Orleans have been a failure. It’s just that simple. For more information and research go here.

We’ve been able to do things – for example, close schools for academic failure. It is hugely difficult, it’s hugely controversial and it’s absolutely the right thing to do. That simply does not happen in other cities, because of a lack of political will. Source

Turnaround hasn’t worked in Chicago or Texas or elsewhere.  Why? Read here.

Teach For America made teaching cool again in low-income communities for a whole generation of talented college graduates. Its record shows that poverty need not be destiny in the classroom. When it comes to teaching, talent matters tremendously. Source

Despite receiving hundreds of millions of federal dollars, Teach For America (TFA) is not as good as advertised. As I argued in the New York Times, they are essentially a temp agency. Click here for more on TFA.

As you all know, KIPP has selected Houston as ground zero for education reform. It’s here where you are trying to create a critical mass, a tipping point of high-performing schools that will transform the entire Houston public school system. Source

I have written extensively about the attrition in KIPP Houston and charters schools in Texas (See “Work Hard, Be Nice?”: A Response to KIPP) For all posts on KIPP go here.

Parent trigger is an important tool… There are lots of things parents can do…parent triggers are a piece of that. Source

There are purposeful and monied interests behind the parent trigger movement that are not focused on parental empowerment but instead have ulterior motives. See Parent Trigger

Essentially, the Times took seven years of student test data and developed what is called a “value-added” analysis to show which third- through fifth-grade teachers are making the biggest gains…The results may be soon posted on the newspaper’s website in a searchable data base by teacher name — taking transparency to a whole new level… I am a strong advocate for transparency. This is one thing that NCLB got right. Source

Value-added models are the opposite of transparency. The use of VAM models by policymakers may be the most convoluted conversation in educational policy today. See Politicians v. Experts: The Latest on “Value-added” Modeling

Diane Ravitch is in denial and she is insulting all of the hardworking teachers, principals and students all across the country who are proving her wrong every day. Source

Arne Duncan’s quote should read “Arne Duncan is in denial and he is insulting all of the hardworking teachers, principals and students all across the country who are proving him wrong every day.”

We’ve seen more reform in the last year than we’ve seen in decades, and we haven’t spent a dime yet. It’s staggering how the Recovery Act is driving change. Source

What’s really staggering is how ineffective President Obama has been on Education. Maybe because George H.W. Obama’s education platform: Republicans should be flattered and Democrats ashamed?

President Obama, please learn a lesson from President Clinton. He selected the best and brightest for his administration and dealt with the drama and disloyalty at a later date. Because you are hiring only those that you trust, they have turned out to not be the best people for the job and unable to execute (see also healthcare rollout). If Hillary was our current two term president, would Arne Duncan be the Secretary of Education?

Also, California. Thank you for poking Arne Duncan in the eye. I wish Texas would have had the gumption. Turns out that California is tougher than Texas when it comes to standing up to Arne Duncan.

p.s. Please feel free to include any Duncan inanity that I missed in the comments.

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About Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig (500 Articles)
Julian Vasquez Heilig is an award-winning researcher and teacher. He is currently a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State Sacramento.

15 Comments on A Top Ten of @ArneDuncan Inanity: Obama’s Basketball Buddy Drops Ball on Ed

  1. I wish I had the exact quote but I knew we were trouble in 2009 when Duncan addressing a conference in Providence told the gathering that DOE was using multiple measures because in addition to test scores they were using value added too.

  2. from Mark Naison

    Arne Duncan loves to drop verbal bombs,
    First he praises Hurricane Katrina,
    then shows hate for suburban moms!
    But parents and teachers are now wise to his ways
    We’ll soon send him packing
    Back to the city he once betrayed.

  3. Monty J. Thornburg, Ph.D. // November 19, 2013 at 7:20 am // Reply

    It’s ironic, isn’t it? Or is it? A long view, and, think about Religion!

    President Obama’s and Secretary of Education Duncan’s views and beliefs are consistent!

    Single payer or market based solutions? These questions are hotly debated in both k-12 education and in health care.

    In k-12 education, historically for the past 150 years, public k-12 education has enjoyed the advantages and disadvantages of a single payer system! Public school system’s most important “practitioners” the teachers, mostly woman, were “public servants” under public scrutiny and they received sub-market pay for their services in their “profession.” The public k-12 “economic’ system,” remains dominant but has been under attack for the past 30 years from the left and the right politically.

    That is under attack by “privatization” advocates for Vouchers and Charter schools, including President Obama and Secretary of Education Duncan. Prior to Horace Mann’s and others important contributions, going back 150 years, private schooling for the wealthy and even voucher systems for the poor in some large Eastern cities existed, particularly for Catholic’s.

    In Health Care, historically, it’s been the reverse. Private, non-profits, and public hospitals filled a void for those who could not pay market prices to the most important “practitioners” the doctors. Health care has operated as a private enterprise and supported is by a private, powerful association, the AMA. In Health Care, in the past thirty years, advocates of “privatization” managed to take over even the “non-profit” and “public” health care sectors, thus leaving a huge population in America ultimately without any services. That group was referred to as the “doughnut hole” when President Obama and the Democrat’s, Affordable Health Care Act was passed. Again, the Catholic’s and many other religious organizations also filled a void in medicine and cared for the poor too.

    In Health Care, in contrast to k-12 education, there isn’t a long and tortured history of First Amendment right’s battles. The U.S. Supreme Court with its 1964 “school prayer” decision, and with other separation of church and state decisions over many years, has politically exacerbated a split between the so called “conservative right” or “moral majority” with so called “secularists” over issues in k-12 education. This is in contrast to health care where the debate favors private and market based economics. When contrasting health care and k12-education, in terms of ideology, we find that President Obama’s and Secretary Duncan’s views or beliefs are consistent. That is, historically, the beliefs in Thomas Paine’s 1776, “libertarian political/economic” message to America remains with us. It remains with current leaders on both the left and the right, both democrat and republican- and ironically too, with the Tea Party.

  4. CitizensArrest // November 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm // Reply

    Duncan’s speech at the AERA conference must be included in this, it’s a top ten all by itself.

  5. Duncan’s scripted blurbs are just as awful as the remarks he makes when he’s winging it, including, “all students, must be college- and career-ready because jobs in the knowledge economy will require more than a high school diploma.”

    This is supposed to be justification for requiring that all students begin preparing for adulthood in KINDERGARTEN, when 5 year olds have very few clues about what college, career or being an adult even mean. Forget about kids being in the now, having their childhoods and enjoying the journey of development. Everything is about getting ready for the future and becoming a worker in “the knowledge economy.”

    And as for that “knowledge economy” bit, OMG. Does this man read ANYTHING about our employment statistics?

    “millions of college graduates over all—not just recent ones—suffer a mismatch between education and employment, holding jobs that don’t require a costly college degree.”

    And then there is his, “competition is now global, not local”

    This guy really needs a local wake-up call. For the last two decades already, thanks to Obama’s mentor, Clinton, á la NAFTA, and US corporate leaders, millions of jobs have been outsourced by American companies to foreign countries with workers who are willing to accept slave wages. NO education is required for that competition. College graduates have been competing against other Americans IN THIS COUNTRY for employment, because there are just not enough decent paying full time jobs here for workers, including college graduates.

    I am so tired of hearing Duncan’s canards. He is all pie in the sky and seriously needs to become alert to the truths about the employment prospects that college educated Americans have been facing in real life, as we struggle, with all of our degrees, just for basic survival.

    Note to Duncan: MILLIONS of college educated people are unable to make it into the middle class today!

  6. Reblogged this on Transparent Christina.

  7. And his grammar is awful, too! So it’s a double bad – nonsense ideas rolled up in a bad presentation.

    e.g: “their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were”

    or this: “I think it’s incumbent upon education leaders to not run school systems that work good for buses but that weren’t good for students.”
    or this, the most egregious of all: “So me and my team have a very, very full plate.”

    These last two are from the Diane Rhem show, ( when he also incessantly used the awful phrase “you know”.

    Having this man in charge of education is painful at so many levels.

  8. Monty J. Thornburg, PhD // November 20, 2013 at 1:23 pm // Reply

    Influence: Much more than Basketball buddy. Three questions.

    Question (1): Does one’s (formative) high school experiences influence one’s view on public education later in life?

    Question (2): Why have William Bennett and Pat Buchanan had such tremendous impact on public education when they didn’t attend public high schools themselves?

    Question (3): Is Arne Duncan following in Pat Buchanan and Wm. Bennett’s footsteps?
    Biographical History:

    William Bennett, First Sec. of Education appointed by President Reagan.
    Pat Buchanan, Pres. Nixon’s Advisor, Conservative Republican Political Strategist.

    Both Bennett and Buchanan: Are graduates of Gonzaga College High School: Washington D.C., “A bastion of educational privilege in Washington, D.C.”

    Arne Duncan: Sec. of Education under President Obama. Duncan didn’t attend a Catholic High School but rather the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, another, “Bastion of educational privilege” in Chicago.

    The cost of tuition in those high schools is much more than even “public college education” tuition in many states.

    Some historic perspective:

    Pat Buchanan:

    Was former senior advisor to Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan a member of the “Sons of Confederate Veterans” with family roots in Mississippi. He was born to a Catholic family and graduated from Gonzaga College High School in Washington D.C. When Nixon took the Oval Office in 1969, Buchanan worked as a White House adviser and speechwriter for Nixon and vice president Spiro Agnew. Buchanan coined the phrase “Silent Majority” and helped shape the strategy that drew millions of Democrats to Nixon; in a 1972 memo he suggested the White House “should move to re-capture the anti-Establishment tradition or theme in American politics. His daily duties included developing political strategy, publishing the President’s Daily News Summary, and preparing briefing books for news conferences. Buchanan remained as a special assistant to Nixon through the final days of the Watergate Scandal.

    William Bennett:

    He served as United States Secretary of Education from 1985 to 1988 graduated from Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. He also held the post of Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under George H. W. Bush. Remember Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say NO!” translated Zero Tolerance. Now we have the “School to Jail Pipeline.” In 2000, he co-founded K12, a for-profit online education corporation which is publicly traded and one of my students “attended” it for a year. In 1981 President Ronald Reagan appointed him to head the National Endowment for the Humanities, where he served until Reagan appointed him Secretary of Education in 1985. Reagan originally nominated Mel Bradford to the position, but due to Bradford’s pro-Confederate views Bennett was appointed in his place. He is known to take a conservative position on:
    1. school vouchers, 2. curriculum reform, and religion in education.

    As Education Secretary, he asked colleges to better enforce drug laws, supported a classical education rooted in Western culture, and derided multicultural courses. He frequently criticized schools for low standards. In fact, in 1988, he called the Chicago public school system “the worst in the nation. Bennett dubbed k-12 education, “the blob” or bloated educational bureaucracy. He has espoused: (1) Competency testing for teachers, (2) Opening the teaching profession to knowledgeable individuals who have not graduated from “schools of education, (3) Performance-based pay, (4) Holding educators accountable for how much children learn, (5) A national examination to find out exactly how much our children know, (6) Parental choice of schools.

    Does any of this sound familiar today? Now, 30 years later?

  9. Horace Manic // November 22, 2013 at 5:41 am // Reply

    Don’t forget to add this one to Arne’s Greatest Hits: “We should be able to look every second grader in the eye and say, ‘You’re on track, you’re going to be able to go to a good college, or you’re not,’ ” NY Times (

  10. My most unfavorite dumb remark by Arne Duncan? when he said class size was a “sacred cow” and he would take it on — despite the fact that lowering class size is one of the few reforms proven to increase learning and narrow the achievement gap. Then when Romney made essentially the same claim during his campaign, Obama attacked him for it! see

  11. Reblogged this on Cloaking Inequity and commented:

    In honor of Arne Duncan’s demise.

  12. Praise. The. Lord. Now, let’s give Mr. Duncan a teaching job immediately – how about middle school 8th grade English or Science, filled with a bunch of kids (38 per class) on “invisible” IEPs and 504s, with kids drawing male genitalia all over the walls (because of the accommodations in their fake 504s), and helicopter parents eager to discuss with him how he will singlehandedly get Chase into Harvard on an athletic scholarship despite his ADHD right NOW! Or, go teach inner city South L.A. with absolutely no support whatsoever, while the kids taunt him as racist because he’s teaching “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

    Come on, Mr. Duncan. We KNOW you are anxious to get in the trenches with us and show us how real teaching to the Core is done!

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