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The Arne Duncan Era Has Not Been Good for Students


The Arne Duncan Era Has Not Been Good for Students

Diane Ravitch

Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post has written a sympathetic article about Arne Duncan and the waning of his powers as Secretary of Education. He is a nice guy. He is a close friend of the President. He cares about individual children that he met along the way.


Mr. Duncan has certainly tried to correct an impossible situation. The time to test is before the educational year begins, so the levels can be ascertained.
After 180 hours in the classroom, both student and teacher are well aware of their educational levels of achievement, but not how far the student has come unless they can refer to an initial position.
Schools are intimately tied to community, changing one without changing the other is impossible and we are a consumer oriented anti-intellectual community.
Almost no one here takes school seriously. Mexicans do, though, which is encouraging.


Thank you, Diane Ravitch for being such an informed spokesperson on the privatization of U.S. public schools and explaining how the same corporate messaging that’s used to take over other public functions–under the delusional and deceptive notion that what’s done by private interests FOR profit is somehow superior to what’s done by dedicated public servants–has been used to undermine public schools and the basic education promised to each successive generation.

Note how Bushrod, first up to post gives Duncan the nod… managing to ignore, downplay, or render invisible every one of the scathing outcomes of the system he was propped up to put into place. The Koch Brothers’ have unlimited funds through which to fund think tanks. These, in turn, farm out to unemployed persons of moderate intelligence, if that, the Necessary Talking Points that then show up in all sorts of forums… as if there by some authentic expression of actual opinions. Liars, Inc = P.R. firms and their enablers.

Duncan is just the latest Yes-Man to the corporate agenda and privatization of all formerly publicly held (which means possessed by We, The People) assets.


“In our dream we have limitless resources, and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hand. The present educational conventions fade from our minds; and, unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive rural folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or of science. We are not to raise up among them authors, orators, poets, or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians. Nor will we cherish even the humbler ambition to raise up from among them lawyers, doctors, preachers, statesmen, of whom we now have ample supply.”
– Frederick T Gates, advisor to John D. Rockefeller

University of CHICAGO = John D. Rockefeller

This pile has been steaming for over a century.


And of course we have William Gates of Microshaft fame, exhorting everyone that we need more STEM graduates. Yes, those who have toiled to get educated and pass all the tests in order to get a job at Microshaft, only to be laid off with thousands of others, must be very grateful for the charter schools. Work hard, get educated, get laid off, and then be blamed.


Babbitt used to sneer at teaching and teachers as those who couldn’t make it in business, now, as many traditional paths to business humbug are drying up, he sees an opportunity. Education has become a great magnet attracting every variety of huckster, flim flam man, and snake oil salesman/woman in the country. They don’t need no stinken degrees, no PhDs, just a business model, and only they profit, surely not students.


Do you mean Bill Bennett?


No, I was alluding to the main character in Sinclair Lewis’ novel by the same name but Bill Bennett will fit.


Refresh my memory. How many millions of dollars did Bill and Belinda Gates spend getting their Washington State charter school initiative voted in ?


My research focuses specifically on how cultural narratives on education propel policymakers toward legislation designed to support a world view of neoliberalism and economic competitiveness. And yes–minorities and those whose cultures do not support this model are left behind. Our discourse has to keep repeating the fact that human children are not born to become little standardized work units, and that communities want their children to have a well rounded, meaningful, culturally relevant education that will enthrall, excite, and motivate them to become lifelong learners and global citizens. Whew. That was long-winded, but that’s my life work.


Privatized schools are better than public 28% of the time, worse 32% of the time, so why should we give them a penny?


OK, my mind went to Clinton’s Sec. of the Interior Bruce Babbitt…


Duncan pushed charter schools before and after he became CEO of Chicago Public Schools:

"CEO of Chicago Public Schools

Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Duncan to serve as Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools on June 26, 2001.[5] Opinions vary on Duncan’s success as CEO; one prominent publication notes improved test scores and describes Duncan as a consensus builder,[6] while another finds the improvements largely a myth and is troubled by the closing of neighborhood schools and their replacement by charter schools, and what it describes as schools’ militarization."

No surprise that Duncan perpetuated that onslaught against public schools and corresponding support of charter schools while Ed. Secy. The Race to the Top and Common Core simply carried on the underfunded, ill-thought-out NCLB (Bush et cie) and added ridiculously expensive and patently disastrous testing protocols that financially overburdened public school districts that were FORCED to administer absurd amounts of tests that pressured teachers to teach to the test thus adversely impacting long-term learning. Wonder how much he has invested in testing service providers? Enough to retire on, perhaps?

He and William Bennett (under Reagan) have served to seriously undermine our public school system, K through University…all for what: their personal profit and/or to implement their personal agendas?


Very good, I forgot all about Bruce.


I’m a retired person who happened to teach in secondary schools, both public and private, for about 6 years…I know the slow slide of public education
intimately. Duncan has an impossible job. Have you been in public urban schools, ever SR? Your writing skills are obvious, your social brass questionable.


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It works in Finland.


The way it seems to me now is that privatization of schools is the final frontier for the Reagan period. When I first learned of it back in the 1980’s I was immediately revulsed. I have been amazed how otherwise sensible people don’t find it disturbing. I feel that stopping it and hopefully ultimately reversing it is really our last big hope for keeping the United States as a place people want to come to, rather than a country people with means often choose to leave now days.