Posts Tagged ‘Arne Duncan’

Students First NY InJect Racial Politics Into Battle over Common Core

December 11, 2013

It was with deep and increasing sadness that I read the steady stream of emails coming in real time from my colleagues attending New York State Commissioner of Education’s John King’s Common Core “listening tour” which set up base in Brooklyn last night. The sadness did not stem from the fact that my colleagues were essentially silenced by a calculated maneuver by Michelle Rhee’s Student First NY organization to ensure no voice but theirs was heard by bussing people in early in order to gobble up all of the speaking slots, even as they reportedly repeated the same lines over and over again.
I expect such anti democratic machinations from all corporate education reform front groups, that much the more from anything associated with a ruthless monster like Rhee. What saddened me was the conscious injection of race into what us is ostensibly meant to be an airing of pedagogical policy. The line of thinking I read about again and again and again was that if you opposed the Common Core Standards – presented somehow as a matter not of pedagogy but of civil rights — it was because you are a racist and you did not want children of color to succeed in school.

That’s it.

This is very, very ugly and purposely divisive stuff. Indeed, it could scarcely get uglier or more divisive.

But in a way it makes sense: an ugly, brutal and suicidal sense but sense anyway. It is a kind of toxic combination of cynicism and desperate hope, one in which you have the city systemically starving schools in impoverished and minority neighborhoods and the predatory cunning of the corporate education reformers of which Common Core is a crown jewel preying off of that poverty.

For when you ram into existence, by some of the most insidious and antidemocratic processes possible, a billionaire backed experiment on the children of an entire nation; an experiment created by some of the most arrogant and ruthless souls on earth (Bill Gates, David Coleman); an experiment based on nothing but endlessly repeated rhetoric and slogans (“making kids college and career ready”) and one that that has been greeted by parents and teachers alike with incomprehension and disgust, you would do well to have evidence of the amazing success you claim such an experiment brings.

But since the creators of the Common Core — in an act of unprecedented and unconscionable hubris — did not even bother to field-test the thing, there is no evidence to be had of anything anywhere.
So what do you do when people start asking questions? How can you defend the indefensible? How do you support something with no evidence to support it with?

You can’t.

But you can try to change the argument. Ergo: the problem with the Common Core is not with the Common Core (which is perfect at conception) but with anyone and everyone who opposes it for any reason, no matter how sound. According to the New York Times, people oppose the Common Core is because they are Tea Party nut jobs or left wing conspiracy nut jobs. Or because they want teachers to coddle their kids. According to Arne Duncan opposition stems from the fact that suburban moms just can’t handle the reality that their kids are dumb and their schools sucks as badly as they really do.

All of this is ugly but it also silly. To introduce the element of race into this discussion in a nation where racism has been its most disgusting and perhaps most permanent reality is anything but silly.

Such a move is meant not to promote dialogue but to end it. No decent person wants to be called a racist or to be accused of promoting racist policies, which is what many at last night’s “forum “ apparently claimed opponents of the Common Core are doing. This line of thinking has no more credibility that those of Arne Duncan or Joe Bruni or Bill Keller and it should be given no more credibility. What is credible and what must be heard is the very real anguish and near despair that produced such thinking. It did not come out of nowhere.
In a few hours John King will hold another “forum” in downtown Manhattan.
I have no idea if Students First NY or some other billionaire backed front group will attempt to pull a similar stunt but this time around I will be in attendance, as will many of my friends and colleagues and I hope to speak to the issue at hand and not be drowned out by confusion and ugly corporate sponsored obfuscation.

Reign of Error – Book Review – Truthdig

December 6, 2013

Reign of Error – Book Review – Truthdig.

Are New York Times Opinion Writers Too Coddled?

November 25, 2013


For the fourth time in as many months the stately New York Times, “the paper of record “ and all that, has published yet another remarkably uninformed opinion piece attempting to defend the deceptively named Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by discrediting those who refuse to genuflect before them.

A vast and unprecedented national experiment on American’s children, paved by sound bites and steamrolled into reality by billionaires and testing companies, the recently implemented CCSS has been furiously rejected by an ever-increasing army of parents, disgusted and dismayed at what it is doing to their children. The standards, you could say, are going over like a lead zeppelin. Except that is, at institutions like the New York Times whose writers see light where parents see darkness and crazed Tea Partiers where others see concerned parents.

And once again the New York Times, here in the person of Frank Bruni, comes to the rescue with an article titled, “Are Kids Too Coddled? ” Like every one who attempts to defend an untested experiment, Bruni, like NYT’s writers Bill Keller, Paul Krugman and Charles Blow before him, has very few hands to play. One is to repeat ad nauseum the standards creators’ stated goals of inducing critical thinking skills, making students college and career ready (as if they are the same thing) and preparing them to compete for jobs in the super savage new global economy. One must repeat these aspirations as if they are hard proven facts. Indeed, as if constant repetition makes them into hard proven facts. As of now, defenders have nothing to offer but hope, a quality that has lost a lot of its market value following the election of Barack Obama. A second strategy, and one favored by the Times and Arne Duncan, is to attack the credibility of all those who dare question the Most Holy and Sacred Core.

Bruni was inspired to action by parental reaction against Arne Duncan’s latest insult. You know, the one about the “white suburban moms” whose kids the Common Core is exposing as “not as brilliant as they thought they were.”
Bruni looks not at the CCSS itself, of which he apparently knows only what is claimed for it in press releases, but instead follows “the fevered lamentations over the Common Core” to “ look hard at some of the complaints from the parents and teachers and factor in the modern cult of self-esteem.”

In short order, Bruin determines that the problem with the CCSS is not with the CCSS itself – a self evident impossibility for New York Times opinion writers — but that parents are surrendering to the impulse to coddle their kids.


Even as I share Mr. Bruni’s disdain for the once faddish “cult of self esteem, “ I can honestly say that I have seen very, very, little evidence of such a cult in all my years teaching. What I see daily, however, is lots, and lots and lots of evidence of the cult of the Common Core. That which one shall not question. That which thou shall obey. That which knoweth all. And as for coddling, musing over their anemic arguments, I could not help but wonder if the editors of the Times are coddling their opinion writers — at least when they are writing about the Common Core.

I’m not joking. Consider Bruni’s article. Bruni begins with an anecdotal story about a silly decision made by administrators at a school near Boston, fattens it up with more meaningless anecdotes about sports leagues where no one loses and high schools with 30 valedictorians that have no conceivable connection with the rage and disgust parents feel about the effects of the CCSS on their kids. Or the intrinsic data mining. Or the high stakes testing that are part and parcel with the scheme and of which Bruni says nada. Zilch. Nothing.
As a non-coddling editor (or even a high school English teacher) I would never accept Bruni’s specious attempt to wed the wholly unconnected scenarios. I’d send him back to work. Not, it seems, the Times.

Consider that the Times were apparently fine with the fact that the only two people Bruni actually bothered to speak to — education entrepreneur and “architect of the Common Core” David Coleman and Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy — could not have been more predicable or less challenging interviewees. Or had greater stakes in seeing criticisms of the CCSS dismissed as political lunacy or psychological weakness.

Were the editors of the Times worried that talking to real parents who have concluded that the CC is damaging to their children might be damaging to Bruni’s self esteem?
Consider Bruni’s s bi-partisan expansion of nut-job opponents of the CCSS complementing fellow Times writer Bill Keller’s earlier depictions of CCSS opponents,as Tea Partiers. Were the editors concerned that indisputable facts from some of the “ left-wing paranoiacs” ( Diane Ravitch, for example, along with millions of American parents) who Bruni sees “imagining some conspiracy to ultimately privatize education and create a new frontier of profits for money-mad plutocrats, — (many of whom who are named as benefactors of Tucker’s NCEE and every other “reformer” front group) “might shatter Bruni’s fragile sense of reality ?
Note to Bruni: Former Assistant Secretary of Education and Diane Ravitch’s new book, Reign of Error, is subtitled, The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.)

Are the editors of the Times so concerned with sheltering the psyches of their opinion writers that they allow them to publish on vast, far reaching and shadowy issues like the CCSS while not requiring them to do the slightest bit of research into who funded such programs and why? And how they dare impose such a thing on an entire nation without as much as a field test ?

Will America be allowing pharmaceutical companies to do the same if desired by Bill Gates and the Business Round Table ?

I don’t know about you but such lousy writing and thinking sure smells like coddling to me.

Addendum: I learned only after I had written this piece that Bruni is a food critic, a fact that partially explains his complete ignorance of the subject on which he pontificated but does not excuse his arrogance. The fact that the New York Times allowed a food critic ample space in which to babble on about education is merely a continuation of their unstated but apparent belief that just about everyone is an expert on education excepting the people actually engaged in it on a daily basis, which is to say, teachers or, through their children, parents.

Post script: Herein is a link to an article in a mainstream news outlet reporting a secret meeting of millionaires and billionaires, among them Gates, Bloomberg and Jeb Bush, all whom are deeply involved and invested in “education reform. Mr. Gates claimed the meeting concerned the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which it may well have done. But anyone who has been in anyway following anything that has been done in education for the past decade knows the Bill and Melina Gates Foundation has bankrolled and largely dictated just about every aspect of it. They also know that Arne Duncan takes his marching orders from Gates and that the Common Core is largely the product of Gates and his Foundation. Indeed, it is impossible to conceive of “education reform” without the Foundation. This, despite the fact that Gates is a private citizen and the DOE is a vital public trust.
Given this, I would love to hear Mr. Bruni and anyone else who speaks so contemptuously of “left wing paranoia” explain this little gathering of concerned citizens.

On Arne Duncan (and Co.) and the Inerrancy of the Common Core

November 19, 2013

The public parental eruption against the deceitfully named Common Core State Standards taking place across New York State and elsewhere has generated not only plenty of press but, in the past few days alone, a couple of incredible statements from suddenly on-the-ropes defenders of the standards. These statements, grotesques and weasel worded as can be, have led to “he- said- what!”- like moments from sea to shining sea.
The first is the instantly infamous statement by a “fascinated” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who said the following: “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.”

A punch in the gut, indeed.

Mr. Duncan

Mr. Duncan

Of much lesser note but of similar train of thought were the following words from Timothy Daly, the president of the New Teacher Project, a group, according to the New York Times, “focused on teacher effectiveness and aligned with the reform movement.” Daly is commenting on the ceaseless display of parental outrage directed at New York State Commissioner John King, a ceaseless proponent of the Common Core who happens to be an African American. For Daly, the last fact seems to be the major factor if not the only factor in the parental rage and disgust.

“This is the first African-American leader of the State Education Department,” Daly said. “And to watch him be shouted at and insulted by largely white audiences in the suburbs is discomforting and it is jarring that, not only has it happened, but it has happened repeatedly.”

King himself sees no such causation and was good enough to say so publicly.

Mr. Daly

Mr. Daly

Both Duncan and Daly begin and end from the standpoint held by (or pretended to be held by) all reformers: that is of the absolute inerrancy of the CCSS. To them, the CCSS is a document created by souls so divinely inspired and all knowing that they had no problem whatsoever requiring state commissioners to sign on to their standards before they were even written; to them this is a document so perfectly executed that not a single article within it, not as much as a comma, can be altered once “adopted” by a state; to them this is a document so wise and prescient, so supernaturally imbued, it required no field testing of any kind before being imposed on the children of an entire nation. To them, that is, though they would never use such language, the Common Core State Standards, like the Bible or the Koran in the eyes of certain religious fundamentalists, are infallible.
To even question the sacred standards, then, is to blaspheme.
This, at least, is the manner in which the CCSS have been presented to the public, and this the manner with which they have been rammed down the throats of American teachers who are obliged to ram them down the throats of American children. The CCSS are to be understood as perfect unto themselves Accordingly, any and all problems with them merely expose secret fears (like Duncan’s white mom discovering her child’s hidden mediocrity) and spiritual failings (like Daly’s charges of suburban racism against Commissioner John King rather than rage over what King’s policies were doing to their children) that are to be overcome with love and kindness and perhaps some Professional Development.
And herein lies the problem with presenting your product as perfect from the womb and imposing it on the children of a nation when the parents of those children begin to take notice. You cannot possibly defend it. You have nothing to fall back on. No research. No evidence. No data. ( Second in sacrality only to the Common Core itself in education reform land ) No nothing.
There is only
rhetoric and public relations campaigns and full-page ads by the Business Round Table and the Chamber of Commerce and the like.
And only time before parents begin to understand the CCSS as a vast billion-dollar experiment with their children –in short, a shyster’s gamble with their children.
And that time, it seems, has come.

From this standpoint both the statements of Duncan and Daly are absolutely appalling and completely apposite. They have no other card to play. They cannot defend their beloved CCSS with anything of substance because they have nothing of substance on which to defend it. Theirs is a faith based education policy that dare not let that be known. Their only hope is to attack and attempt to de-legitimize the concerns and character of all in their path. We should expect more such obscene statements. And we should welcome them for they expose the vast con being played on American families and their children — not to mention the taxpayers.

The reformers have no where else to go. Falsehoods can only beget more falsehoods.
And with every such statement more and more people will begin to glimpse the truth about how education reformers really see America’s children. And therein lies our hope.

What Right Does the US Department of Education Have to “Monitor” Diane Ravitch ?

August 18, 2013

Dr. Diane Ravitch: a dangerous woman

Dr. Diane Ravitch: a dangerous woman

I usually avoid the Huffington Post at all costs and will continue to do so until they begin to actually pay the writers whose labor is making its owners very rich, but I make an exception this morning due to information in an article that came to me in a sideways fashion via a fine post by Paul Thomas. In his post, Thomas eviscerates an adhominen attack on Diane Ravitch by one Peter Cunningham, former Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach for the U.S. Department of Education under Arne Duncan. The catalyst of Cunningham’s sophomoric attack is Ravitch’s soon to be published, eagerly anticipated and apparently just as eagerly feared new treatise, Reign of Error. Cunningham’s words are nothing but a preemptive attack on Ravitch’s person, which Thomas handily displays as utterly unfounded and barely meriting a response. There is a reason that, for teachers, Ravitch has emerged as the most respected, revered and, yes, beloved figure in America. And that reason is character, above all the character it requires to admit you were wrong and set out making it right because it is the right thing to do.

What should merit a response, however, is what Cunningham’s first sentence reveals about how the U.S. government apparently now routinely monitors its critics and pays people like Cunningham to do so. Consider only Cunningham’s opening sentence:

During the Obama administration’s first term, I served as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach in the U.S. Department of Education, where one of my jobs was to monitor criticism of our policies and develop our responses. One of the people I monitored pretty closely was Diane Ravitch.


I find this an extraordinary and disturbing statement, not merely for its content but for the equally disturbing and extraordinarily casual tone.
The US Department of Education “monitored ” Diane Ravitch ? And others ? Who are they ? To what end ? Does this mean that the DOE, like the FBI and the CIA and the NSA is building dossiers on those, like Dr. Ravitch, who have the temerity to point out their inconsistencies, absurdities, failure and lies?

Hi!  I'm Arne Duncan and I'm watching you.

Hi! I’m Arne Duncan and I’m watching you.

I suppose I should not be surprised that an administration that would shred the constitution to preserve the NSA’s ability to have total surveillance over every American citizen would so casually monitor education critics but I am.

I am also disgusted and wonder, how many more critics did Mr. Cunningham “monitor? ” What does it mean to ‘monitor” somebody? Do taxpayers know that their money is paying for this ? Does Congress ? What has this to do with education ? Is there now a Monitoring Departing in the DOE to keep an eye on dissidents ? Where have we arrived when this kind of stuff is allowed ? How do we put an end to it, now ?