Sunday, December 28, 2008

Arne Duncan: Obama's Pick for Secretary of Education

I am finally getting around to learning some things about this guy. I googled him and started with this article on the alternet site, which not surprisingly critically examines some of the "reforms" he enacted, but also emphasizes that Duncan's own ideas about education reform were "hamstrung" by Mayor Daley and his initiatives.

Catalyst Chicago, a Chicago education site, talks more specifically about the ways in which Duncan and his team improved or tried to improve the Chicago public schools. This article, "Duncan's Track Record," reviews his initiatives and includes links to other relevant articles on the Catalyst Chicago site, which often go more in depth about the specific reforms. This was the most helpful site to me.

& Alfie Kohn went off about three potential Secretaries of Education in The Nation, before Obama made his choice. Not surprisingly, Duncan was not Kohn's pick. Understandably, he goes off about how maybe an educator should be Secretary of Education. The alternet article summarizes Duncan's experience as "Duncan, 44, was just 36 when he was appointed to replace Paul Vallas, who left Chicago to head Philadelphia's public schools. He served as Valla's deputy but had no prior credentials as an educational administrator." It does not appear that he was ever a teacher, though his official Chicago Public Schools bio does say that while he was a professional basketball player in Australia, "he also worked with children who were wards of the state." That gives me a lot of confidence, and removes any concerns I might have had about putting this guy in charge of education and No Child Left Behind. He's almost as qualified as I am!

This Wall Street Journal article helped clear up some of the political reasons for the choice, though. It's also an interesting article because of the political power it attributes to Teach for America and those pesky self-righteous know-it-all-right-out-of-undergrad TFA teachers: "Mr. Duncan is certainly no bomb thrower. His role instead will be to harness the entrepreneurial spirit of young idealists in the [Democratic] party, like DFER and the tens of thousands of young people who join Teach For America each year. This group, which continues to attract highly skilled young people, is fast creating the new Democratic elite in the education arena while challenging the education establishment."

I guess we'll see what Arne does and doesn't do.

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