Thursday, April 10, 2014

What? Is Duncan really bailing out on Common Core?

“I believe the Common Core State Standards may prove to be the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education.” -- Arne Duncan, June 25, 2013
“I’m just a big proponent of high standards. Whether they’re common or not is sort of secondary.” -- Arne Duncan, April 8, 2014 report to House Appropriation Committee
Stephanie Simon at Politico reports that Common Core is losing it biggest supporter, Sec. of Education Arne Duncan. 
It was less than a year ago that Education Secretary Arne Duncan delivered a no-holds-barred defense of the Common Core in a speech to newspaper editors. He cited example after example of the benefits of common standards: Teachers in different states could use the same lesson plans; children of military personnel could move across country “without a hitch” in their schooling; and, first and foremost, “a child in Mississippi will face the same expectations as a child in Massachusetts.” In short: “I believe the Common Core State Standards may prove to be the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education,” Duncan said.
 -- That was then. This was Tuesday: “Just to be very clear with this group,” Duncan told the House Appropriations Committee, “I’m just a big proponent of high standards. Whether they’re common or not is sort of secondary.”
 I don't believe that Duncan was ever bought in to all that Mississippi/Massachusetts rhetoric. This latest distancing dance is in fact, Duncan's way of placating his friends on the right who are leery of anything that even smells like big gummint enforcement of civil rights law. While Duncan has consistently ignored critics of CCSS on his left or progressive side, his ear is finely tuned to the right where denunciations of Common Core, and especially of Duncan using federal funds to incentivize the standards, are growing louder.

CIVIL RIGHTS ACT AT 50... It was a half-century ago that Pres. Lyndon Johnson, who was in the habit of referring to African-Americans as "niggers", signed the Civil Right Act, that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. An amazing event I remember well. I'm sure that there will be plenty said by press and politicians this week about how much or how little progress we've made since then. If you look at the state of Louisiana, where racial segregation and discrimination has moved from law (thank you LBJ but mainly the Civil Rights Movement) to policy (thanks to Gov. Bobby Jindal), it seems like we've even regressed in many ways.

Duncan never had Holder's back in La. 
The second part of Simon's Politico post today is about Atty. Gen. Eric Holder's suit against Jindal and La.'s use of vouchers to roll back attempts at racial balance in public schools.  Simon reports that a federal judge ruled late Tuesday that Louisiana must give the Department of Justice spreadsheets identifying the thousands of students who apply for vouchers so each year, so DOJ can monitor whether the program upsets racial balances in public schools. That's a small victory (I think) and all well and good.

But while we're on the subject of Sec. Duncan, the man who more than anyone else is fond of telling us that corporate-style school reform is the "civil rights issue of our generation", it's significant that Duncan has never had Holder's back on this. Remember Duncan's radio interview on Sept. 14, 2013, when he proclaimed loud enough for Jindal to hear him, that he was opposed to "forced integration." When asked if he supported Holder's civil rights suit, Duncan pleaded ignorance.

If indeed, education is the civil rights issue of our time, it should be clear by now that Arne Duncan isn't the one to lead that struggle. He needs to go.

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