Arne Duncan’s Resignation Letter–Maybe
January 25, 2013 6 Comments
A while ago, a friend of mine and I thought that we could expedite the resignation of Arne Duncan (our current Secretary of Education) if we did all the work of writing the letter for him. That way, all he has to do is sign it!
Well, here ya go, Mr. Secretary! Make sure you sign in blue ink.
Secretary Arne Duncan
Department of Education Building
400 Maryland Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20202
Dear Parents, Students, and Teachers:
When Barry appointed me to this position, I thought it would be easy and a great way to make my mark on the world. You see, I’m a businessman, with experience running a mentoring center and as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Oh, and I’m a Harvard Graduate, which I know everyone is totally impressed by! While I was in charge at CPS, we saw our test scores improve! Well, mostly. Rich, white kids had improved scores.
Poor and minority students actually didn’t improve much, if at all, so I thought it would be a good idea to turn those schools into military-style, highly-disciplined, test-preparation factories. (It’s disturbing to watch all those 7-year-olds running around at recess when they should be sitting in rows practicing their multiple-choice skills.) If that didn’t work, then I just suggested closing the school and letting a charter company take it over. Those folks are great at turning learning centers into what they should be in America: dry, boring workforce assembly lines based on good, cold, hard data from one-size-fits-all standardized tests–made by my good friends at Pearson and McGraw-Hill, by the way.
But I digress. The fact is, when Obama made me the education czar, I felt like a prince. I get to be on TV, I get to be in pictures (next to Obama!), I get to wear tuxedos to great get-togethers, and I get to hear people call me “Mr. Secretary.” I even got to go on tour–like a rock star–in a bus and everything! It’s all very exciting! Once, I got to stand in front of a bunch of empty desks, which the CollegeBoard people set up, and look very serious and concerned. It was a memorial, or monument, or something, dedicated to our national dropout problem. CollegeBoard doesn’t seem to have any idea what’s causing the dropout problem–or how to fix it–but I know they’re not very happy about the fact that fewer students are ponying up the cash to take the AP exams and the SAT test, which are very expensive and make my friends a lot of money.
Here’s what I do know: lots of people have been getting mad at me for the awesome game I invented. I call it Race to the Top (cool name, huh?) and it was supposed to be my fun way to make school boards and state departments of education to compete for cash. It’s not going over as I planned, which is a little surprising. Have you ever seen The Amazing Race? The Bachelor? Survivor? Everybody loves those shows! I figured if I could get schools to jump through hoops (adopt the Common Core State Standards, write a complicated proposal, see how many tests their students can endure, and get rid of schools and fire all those “cool” teachers that won’t teach to the test), it would be the game of the century! You know, like a big Federal education funding lottery!
Then, all the teachers and students and parents started getting testy with me. They said things like, “The Common Core isn’t grade/age-appropriate,” and “Why aren’t my kids getting science/art/music/history/recess?” and “Why are you closing my kid’s really good school in our poor neighborhood just because our poverty-stricken kids don’t think that getting ready to take long, boring tests are a good reason to go to school?” and “Why are you firing our teachers, just because they want our kids to learn about the world and the future, instead of performing like trained monkeys, like Wall Street and Bill Gates want them to?” and “Why are you forcing our kids to hold their teachers’ jobs in their hands with their test scores?” and “Have you ever taught a day in your life in a typical public school?”
Really, it would start to break my heart a little, if I had one. To be honest, I don’t really care about the students, schools, or teachers. You see, my friends, Michelle Rhee, Alan Pope, Joel Klein, Bill Gates, David Coleman, KIPP schools, Teach for America, and StudentsFirst have paid me, er, convinced me to believe that if the public schools totally collapse, they will all swoop down in school-bus yellow capes and save the day!
But, I’m a little tired of being in the crossfire between real educators, who love kids and want to lead their learning, and the education reformers, who tell me that love and learning aren’t going to build the low-paid, easy-to-control workforce we need for the future. I think that Obama’s second term as president is going to be a lot of work. Having to do a lot of work means fewer parties, fewer bus tours, and not quite as much “easy” as the first term. More and more people think my Race to the Top game is worse than that NCLB game, which makes me a little upset. And I don’t have any other ideas (I thought all teachers would love the “carrot-and-stick” business model all my friends told me to use).
Teachers and students are harder to control and train than I thought. They keep talking about “constructivism” and “authentic assessment” and “differentiation” and “student-led models” and other big words that apparently don’t mean what I thought they meant. It’s very confusing and I’m not having much fun anymore.
So, I will resign as soon as the president says I can. In business, it’s polite to give a two-week notice, so this will serve as mine. I hope history will remember me as the “Ed Secretary with the most.” (I wanted that to rhyme, but the Common Core doesn’t really care about poetry.) Hopefully, Barry will find a replacement that is just as fun and carefree and close-minded as me. And I may I suggest the selection process involves a game of one-on-one hoops with yours truly!
All the best on the test,
U.S. Secretary of Education