Saturday, January 30, 2010

People Will Try To Make Hay Out Of This

While I don't believe we should even have a US Department of Education (thank you, Jimmah), if we are to have one, the Secretary can't always be Satan. President Bush's two education secretaries, who, for those who keep track of such things, were a black man and a white woman, were detested by anyone who was anyone in education (so I must not be anyone, because I liked them both). The current secretary, Arne Duncan, can't be Satan, as he was chosen by the Chosen One.

Yet, since he, like everyone who's not involved in education, sees that we can and should do better in education, well, he's Satan, too, in the eyes of most in the field. I'm wondering what, if anything, the NEA will have to say about this comment:

I’ve spent a lot of time in New Orleans and this is a tough thing to say but I’m going to be really honest. The best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.

Ohmigod! He didn't really say that, did he? Let's call for his resignation! Before we get our panties in a bunch, though, let's read his next couple sentences:

That education system was a disaster. And it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that we have to do better. And the progress that it made in four years since the hurricane, is unbelievable. They have a chance to create a phenomenal school district. Long way to go, but that city was not serious about its education. Those children were being desperately underserved prior. And the amount of progress and the amount of reform we’re seeing in a short amount of time has been absolutely amazing. I have so much respect for the adults, the teachers, the principals that are working hard. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to students at John Mack high school there.

I didn't think "Searchlight Harry" Reid was out of line for using the word "negro", and I don't think Duncan is out of line for saying what he did. Anyone with an ounce of integrity has to admit that he, like Reid in the instance I mentioned, is correct.

Now, if one of President Bush's secretaries had said something similar, well, the press would have exploded; instead, with Duncan, we get a blurb on an ABC blog. This story might get a little traction, but certainly not as much as it would have under a Republican administration.

To be honest, I hope the NEA and other usual suspects do criticize Duncan for saying this. It would show, yet again, that they don't really care about education or about teachers, they just care about getting more money for their own self-aggrandizement. And if they think they can score some cool points by attacking the Secretary of Education for saying something as obvious as the nose on his face, you can bet they will.


EdD said...

Even though he might occasionally say the right thing, I still have a problem with Arne Duncan being Secretary of Education. He is not and never has been a classroom teacher, only an administrator. It would not even occur to BO to appoint an Attorney General who was not a lawyer or a Surgeon General who was not a doctor. but he didn't hesitate to appoint a non-professional to be head of the
Department of Education.

Ellen K said...

So the best thing to happen to New Orleans' children was that Katrina forced their families to move to Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri to enter school systems there? I will say that many of the children we received from NOLA have issues with gangs, fighting, authority, work ethic and more. If this is the result of their early education, then maybe this guy is right. Nevertheless had a conservative or a Bush appointee said it, he would have been crucified on the West Lawn of the White House.

Curmudgeon said...

I've got to disagree. Having the Secretary of Education posit that the hurricane was the best thing that ever happened to New Orleans education is way over the line, in my opinion. While not to the point of needing to call out Godwin's Law, it is of that nature.

Death and destruction on a massive scale is not a good thing, even if you could possibly find "fault" with the people of New Orleans for the disaster. As Arne points out, the progress in four years is unbelievable -- no kidding. When you start from scratch, there's nowhere else to go.

While "They have a long way to go" "They were not serious about education before" "desperately underserved" may be correct (and that's debatable, too, since not ALL were so) but it is nanny-state, elitist, and condescending. "That city was not serious about its education" is pretty simplistic. In their situation, I'd tell the Secretary where he could shove his opinion, and offer him my boot to help insert.

How many other areas of the country have similar educational problems - should we ask for an earthquake to solve San Francisco's problems, sea-level rise to solve New York's, and a ten-day tornado-driven basketball-hail ice-storm to solve Vermont's? (we're tough - takes a big disaster to bring us down)

Okay, I'm being extreme. Maybe Arne should have said that "Katrina wiped out a lot of good along with the bad, but that in a time of so much personal devastation, the people of New Orleans have shouldered this great burden and have taken the opportunity to completely revamp their whole system as they build from the ground up."