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Thompson: Duncan & Other Reformers Should Apologize (Like Tony Bennett)

Mike Kline FlickrIt is hard to realize you are wrong on something important in the middle of a busy school day. But, many, many times, settling in at home, a light went on, and I realized that I owed a student an apology. 

Perhaps I’m naïve, but if President Obama would apologize for imposing the full, untested and dangerous corporate reform agenda on schools, wouldn’t teachers be as gracious as my students were when I would say, “I’m sorry?” 

Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has issued a series of non-apologies, criticizing the way that testing sucks the oxygen out of schools, but he has made little effort to curtail its damage.  

Why can’t Duncan and President Obama acknowledge that their policies were as insulated from education reality as those of the famously “tone-deaf” Indiana Chief for Change Tony Bennett?  The IndyStar’s Tim Swarens’ reports, in I Was a (Bleep) Candidate, that the hard-charging and defeated reformer is now remorseful and contemplative. Bennett is now candid about the way his daughter, a teacher, pushed back against his attacks on her profession. He admits, "I saw anyone who disagreed with me on an issue like vouchers as a defender of the status quo." 

Oops! I guess I’m still naively hoping that true believers will face up to the harm done by their self-righteousness and scorched earth politics. Tom LoBianco of the AP Press reports that Bennett now has no comment regarding the inspector general's report on his 2012 campaign activities that has been forwarded to federal prosecutors.

But, my optimism remains. I still wonder if Duncan could act as decisively in addressing the testing mania as Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard. When two teachers’ open letter, explaining why they refuse to comply with the mandate for excessive testing, went viral, Ballard’s first response was unfortunate. He asserted that opt outs aren’t an option for teachers. Soon afterwards, the highly-respected superintendent announced two task forces to looking into the testing burden and concerns over the new value-added teacher evaluation system. 

OK, I have a tendency to grasp at straws, expecting the best of people. But, if Oklahoma can lead the way in rejecting failed policies, I can’t give up on the Obama administration. If Arne Duncan could utter an apology, I bet we would gain new energy in trying to improve schools - this time, in a collaborative manner. 

Oops! I did it again. Duncan's hiring of former New York Education Commissioner John King provides one more reason to believe that he will never admit he was wrong. –JT(drjohnthompson)

Image courtesy Mike Kline CC 2.0


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I agree with you John.
It's hubris, the Best and the Brightest syndrome.

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