Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Now that the initial flurry has subsided regarding Arne Duncan’s nomination as Secretary of Education, I thought I would add my two cents worth.

It is interesting to me to read and watch the two sides in the Democratic party argue and bicker about the future of NCLB and reform in education.  No wonder it appears to outsiders that educators can’t get their act together.

Many felt that Linda Darling-Hammond from Stanford had the inside track to the Secretary’s office.  I for one am not at all suprised (nor disappointed) that she was not nominated.  Her focus is narrow and she is a consumate defender of the status quo.

Mr. Duncan is a mystery to many.  Many have made a big deal out of the fact that Mr. Duncan and the President-Elect play pick-up basketball together.  So what is wrong with having a Secretary of Education that personally models physical fitness?

Mr. Duncan has a reputation as a collaborator who seems to work very well with both sides of the great reform debate.  On the one hand, he advocates for merit pay (the boon of organized teacher’s unions, although they have softened their stand on this as of late) and on the other hand has a reputation of having excellent relationships with the teacher’s unions (not a bad thing, in my opinion).

So what can we expect out of the Department of Education under Arne Duncan?  The bottom line is we don’t know.  He has been vague to this point (as has President-Elect Obama) on the issues that have consumed us for the past 6-7 years.

I suspect (and hope) he will both please and upset both sides by doing what he thinks is right.  It is my sincerest hope in the end that his guiding principle will be finding what it right for kids.  To me, that has been the missing element all along!

San Diego Teacher raises money by selling ads on his test

I am not making this up.

Here is the link:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97802710

I am speechless.  He allegedly has the support of his principal and superintendent for showing creativity.

What appalls me is that Congress is debating another bailout of billions of dollars for businesses that have mismangaged for years, but we can’t support education to a point where a teacher has enough money to print the tests (that by the way are a result of the mandates of the same congress!)  What is wrong with this picture?  Is it just me???

Lasting Impact


On a more personal note, I am posting a message that I just received from a former student.  I have not seen or heard from this student for over 15 years.  I post it here to make a point…you never know the impact that you will have on one or more students in the course of conducting what seems to you to be normal business.  I remember this student, but truthfully our relationship was no more nor less than any other student with whom I worked in those years.  I am humbled by his comments and again reminded that we do make a difference but we often never know with whom or as a result of what.

I have deleted names and places to maintain anonymity.

i am glad to see you are still working with the school systems i looked up to you as a school dean you gave me inspiration in myself when i was told i wouldnt become anything you were so good to students unlike other staff that put me down there were others that cared but not like you and when you left it really made it hard at XXXXXXXXXXX for me because i had no encouraging words from a great man like you other students may not of told you but you brought joy to our school you interacted with students and you showed us you cared me and some of my freinds still to this day talk about your kindness and caring attitude and i thank you so much for keeping me in line buy the way i married someone i went to school with XXXXXXX now known as XXXXXXXXX and ithank you for being there for her when she neede somone she has been through alot and because of you it kept her going even though me and her didnt not hang out that much because we were 2 different crowds i always worried about her know she is in my life and i take good care of her and thank God for wonderful pepole like you and my wife to keep my head up and im sure im speaking on the half of alot of pepole thanx and may God bless

Change and the Department of Education

I suspect we are all waiting breathlessly to see who President-Elect Obama names as Secretary of Education.  I have to be honest that I am not terribly encouraged by the speculations that the pundits have offered nor the trend with other appointments that have already been made or leaked.

It may be just me, but I don’t see much real change, just a throw back to the 90s and the Clinton era, of which I am not a fan!

I believe that the current economic mess is complex, but should really bring education to the fore front of the dialogue, not bury it further back as seems to be the case.  I try to be optimistic, but it gets harder with every new name that is a 90s Clinton retread.  I was actually looking forward to the new and improved governmental operation, but alas, it seems that it is not to be.  New faces, same story.

I hope the choice of a new Education Secretary will break this trend.

But, enough ranting!  On with educating tomorrow’s leaders!

Globalization

Much has been written about globalization and the shrinking world.  Thomas Friedman declared that “The World is Flat” and made a case for viewing the world in an age of increasing interactive technology and communication as a flattened playing field with emerging players from the Pacific rim and central Asia.  Critics have tried to take their pound of flesh out of Friedman’s ideas; however, the reality remains: the world has changed.

I recently made my third trip to China.  I traveled there twice in 2006 to deliver seminars on American education to groups of practicing school principals and superintendents.  During this trip I attended an international conference on teacher education, delivered a lecture on using Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences to “leapfrog” China into the 21st Century as a first world power (see http://www.leapfroginstitutes.org/what-is-leapfrog/ for details), and participated in a seminar discussing the transition of Chinese higher education to a liberal arts model.  It was an invigorating and tiring trip.

My first two trips gave me a realization that China is serious about taking its place in the world as a formidable force.  This trip really drove home the concept.  I interacted with several Chinese teachers who have a passion for education and students that is sometimes sadly lacking in the US.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those who delights in teacher bashing.  I think as a rule American teachers are abused by the media, under paid, definitely under appreciated, and thoroughly disrespected by a large portion of the population.  And yet, I long to see the passion and sparkle in the eyes of some teachers that I saw in the Chinese.  I met one teacher, Johnson (the Chinese adopt Western names to make it easier for use: another sign of their seriousness of becoming an equal on the playing field.  We’ll have this discussion later), who radiated when he discussed teaching and education.  He embraced Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach and almost treated it as if it were holy scriptures.  In a word, he was passionate!

The Chinese have much to learn.  They still have an education system that is teacher centered where the teacher delivers the material and the students repeat back the “right” answer.  There is little to no creative and/or critical thinking being taught.  They are great “memorizers”, but not great creators.  Lest we get too puffed up with our own sense of self worth, the Chinese are not satisfied.  They want to be the creators.  They want to be the problem solvers.  I do not believe that I am too far fetched to say that it would not surprise me if the Chinese find a cure for cancer in my lifetime (I’ll be 51 next week).

The lessons for US education are many.  We need to bring our education system into the 21st Century.  Critics argue that the system is broke and proponents argue that the system and results (students) are at worst holding their own and at best are leading the pack.  As bizarre as it may sound, I think both are right.  I think what we do, we do well.  The question is, are we doing what we need to be doing? and the answer is a resounding NO!

China is serious about correcting the flaws in its education system, are we?

The Power of Belief

The late Donald O. Clifton (http://www.strengths.org/donclifton.htm) stated, “Our greatest contribution is to be sure there is a teacher in every classroom who cares that every student, every day, learns and grows and feels like a real human being.”

The epitome of this statement is 10 year old Dalton Sherman who, as one of those students, gives credence to the power of Clifton’s words.

It is humbling and exciting when a ten year old says it much better than I could!

Watch, learn, and please comment!

Did you know?

This has been widely viewed and used.  My purpose here is to share it if, by some chance, you have not seen it.  Much of the posts that will follow have their roots in the information included in this video.