Reply to Gary Stager’s HuffPo Post on Duncan

The comment thread on Gary Stager’s HuffPo article on the Duncan appointment wouldn’t allow this long response, so I’m posting it here.

Gary,

I’m still informing myself (and as others have noted, your links are now more of my homework), so I’m going to withhold judgment somewhat.

I will say that all the reading I’ve done so far – and I’ve been reading a lot – confirms that Duncan’s record in Chicago is far from miraculous.

But I’ve read some ‘benefit of the doubt’ types who note that Duncan’s hands may have been tied by the Daley machine. Since Duncan’s appointment is now a fait accompli, we can only hope he’ll surprise us under Obama.

I’ll also note that, a propos the tempest around gay-basher Rick Warren’s selection for the inauguration, Duncan gave strong support to a “gay-friendly” school in Chicago. (Yes, I’m aware such an idea smacks of “separate but equal,” but wrote here about why I still think it’s a good idea.) While not an educational feather, it’s still a refreshing one to see in a cabinet member’s cap.

We may as well add that Duncan is on record as condemning the lack of funding for NCLB, its stick-instead-of-carrot posture (which could be changed), and its low-cognition assessments. If he “reforms” NCLB along these lines – and yes, many more – I can think of worse outcomes.

In the end, the decisions on education under the Obama administration are Obama’s responsibility; what he said regarding HRC at State pertains to education as well: “I’ll make the decisions.”  And while I’m as nervous as the next guy over so many of his moves lately, I guess I’m holding out hope that all the recent theater is outside-the-box tactics in a longer-term strategy that will make progressives proud. His campaign – a masterpiece of proving the nay-sayers wrong – makes me think more than twice that I can unriddle his long-term plan. So maybe he is selling out or simply making stupid choices; but maybe he’s not. He’s so damn poker-faced and close to the chest, it’s beyond me to know at this point.

I also take heart in the fact that he tapped Darling-Hammond to lead his transition team, and by choosing Duncan instead of a Rhee or Klein, arguably signaled his opposition to those more extreme edubiz proponents. I also take heart in the possibility that BO is so enamored of the “cabinet of rivals” idea in the Lincoln book he’s been touting lately that his appointment of Duncan might not equal an endorsement of Duncan’s record. Again: fait accompli – I’ll cling to any shred of hope until actions in office shred it beyond clinging.

This is all a long-winded way of saying you may be right, but until we see more, you’re not yet. Let’s hope you never are :)

Parting shot: To me, the money quote of your article was this:  “Perhaps we need federal legislation requiring a fully qualified superintendent in every school district!”

I’ve been thinking the same thing since I began watching the Texas Board of Edu-Creationism try to jimmy Genesis into science classes and, worse yet, textbooks nationwide (Texas standards wag the national textbook industry dog: if Texas votes to deny Darwin, all the science textbooks will aim to please. I still pray somebody stateside takes on the Smart Mobs idea to protest this putsch).

So I’d revise your money quote to add Board of Education members to the list of politicians requiring expertise in education. Failing that, we’re prey to anti-primate jackasses evermore.

2 thoughts on “Reply to Gary Stager’s HuffPo Post on Duncan”

  1. I’m one of those left-handed all-or-none buttheads who catastrophizes everything, so take this with a grain of salt….

    I think Duncan is a bad pick, and I have plenty of reasons why. But Leslie, my wife/friend/lover/philosopher points out the following:

    1) Bush is going
    2) Things will get better
    3) It’s OK to criticize, we’re headed towards a more open government–and Obama, while not perfect, at least will defend his choices.

    So I am waiting for the defense. On the other hand, Leslie (again, wisely) notes that it’s no offense to criticize the President, that this new guy might even welcome it.

    Hokey smokes, we might even become America again.

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