November 27, 2013

Oh, Arne...I Think You Shoulda Stuck To Ballin'

Let me be the first to go on record as saying this teaching gig wasn't where I thought I'd find myself at almost 40.  A lawyer or architect, perhaps, but not this thankless (except by my hormonal, twitchy fan club of 12 year-olds) and underpaid profession.  And, yet, here I am...

So it goes with Arne Duncan.  He's the Secretary of Ed dude for the WHOLE country.  All of us.  As in, from sea to shining sea...or inner-city project to the foothills of Appalachia.  He is numero uno in the food chain. (um, in case you haven't guessed, I am not numero uno.  I am, like, numero 145 quadzillion.  I am a minion.)

I'm betting Arne wishes he could take this back, but maybe not.  Maybe he is so amazed by the man he sees in the mirror he is totally okay with what he said.  What he said was, "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."  I believe he said he was 'fascinated' by their response.  He was talking about white suburban moms.  I think I'm one of those, but I could be poor, rural Appalachian trash. Either way, I'm going to pretend it was me because it might as well be.

Short little history on the man running our nation's educational system...He was raised in Hyde Park in Chicago.  You might recognize that because it also happens to be where the President is from, too. Hyde Park is racially diverse and is pretty much all liberal.  

Growing up he attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.  It's pretty fancy. Check it out here. He was graduated from Harvard with a degree in sociology.  I am pretty damn sure that is why he was fascinated by those white suburban moms.  Sociology is the study of human behavior, after all.  

So, what does a man with a Harvard degree in Sociology do after graduation? Well, if you're Arne, you head to Australia to play basketball.  While ballin', he also worked with troubled children as a social worker.  Not a teacher...a social worker. (Props to my social worker friends, but I don't do what you do and you don't do what I do.)

After returning to the States, he began working with the Ariel Education Initiative.  Conveniently, a childhood friend was the person who appointed him to this position.  The initiative is the offshoot of an investment firm.  His job was to mentor struggling youth.  It wasn't too successful, though, and the school closed.  Never fear, though, because he reopened it as a charter school.  Charter schools receive public money,  but have more freedom in what/how they teach.  

After a short time, he was chosen as CEO as the Chicago Public Schools. From what I've read, his ran the system like a business.  Which is fine...if you're making grills or radiator caps.  He closed neighborhood schools, displaced staff, and opened up charter schools.  He was, truly, the CEO...not a director or a superintendent, but a market-brained CEO.  Again, if you're the CEO of a company, go rock that life.  Show me the money, Arne.  Kids don't work that way, though.

Why am I telling all this?  I don't hate Arne, but I have serious problems with the people steering the education of my kids.  I am beyond lucky because my school system is amazing and our director 'gets' it.  Others aren't so lucky.

Food for thought...Einstein's brain weighed less, was wider, and had different grooving than the average human brain.  Why do we expect that not to be true of kids today?  All kids are not alike...You don't stamp them out at the factory. 

Bottom line is you, Arne, have not taught in a classroom.  You married a PE teacher from Australia.  Your mom ran an after-school program, and your dad was a professor.  I'm not real sure how that qualifies you to be the Secretary of Education, but I suppose someone thought it was a good idea....So was the Edsel.

I can get on-board with the criticism of grade inflation.  There are plenty of teachers feeling pressured to "support" grades with fluff material just so Johnny's dad won't come barreling into the school asking for a job/head on a platter.  Go back and look at your own middle school grade card...according to mine, I wasn't the brightest bulb on the strand.  Next time your kid doesn't bring home straight A's, think on that.  Your kids' grades aren't your claim to fame despite what your stupid bumper sticker says. Quit living vicariously.

And I will proudly say I had no clue what to do when it came to college.  Kids need to be better prepared, but college should not be a given.  It should be, by God, an institution of thinking.  It should be hard.  Hello?  It's college! It's where you go to learn about the stuff you want to learn about, not what someone like Arne thinks you should learn.  

I'm going out on a limb here, but I think this has become a huge pissing contest between us  and the world. "Oh, yeah, you have this many college graduates?  Well, we're gonna have more!"  For the love of God, quit using developing brains to make yourself feel better.

So, that said...I hope you figure it out, Arne.  For the sake of the nation's children...for the sake of those kids I birthed over the past 13 years....and for your own sake.  Screwing up a whole generation of kids would be quite the burden to bear.

P.S. On a sidenote, I don't think CC is the devil.  Matter of fact, I can see benefits.  It's not creating a legion of little baby socialists.  However, the same way I can't fit into my best friend's size 4 jeans, one education can't fit all kids.  Diversity is more than the color of skin.

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