To: President Donald Trump
President Obama: Replace Arne Duncan with Linda Darling-Hammond
Mr. President: Prove your support for a deep and rich curriculum for all students regardless of circumstance or background. Fire Arne Duncan and appoint Linda Darling-Hammond as Secretary of Education.
Why is this important?
Dear Mr. President:
You and Secretary Arne Duncan—endorsed in your efforts by Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, and a host of reactionary politicians and pundits—now bear a major responsibility for a toxic agenda of “school reform.”
The three most trumpeted and simultaneously most destructive aspects of the united “school reform” agenda are these:
1) turning over public assets and spaces to private management;
2) dismantling and opposing any independent, collective voice of teachers; and
3) reducing education to a single narrow metric that claims to recognize an educated person through a test score.
While there’s absolutely no substantive proof that this approach improves schooling for children, it chugs along unfazed. Race to the Top is but one example of incentivizing bad behavior and backward ideas about education: It’s one state against another, this school against that one, and my second grade in fierce competition with the second grade across the hall.
Arne Duncan attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools (as did our three sons); you sent your kids to Lab, and so did your friend Rahm Emanuel. There students found small classes, abundant resources, and opportunities to experiment and explore, ask questions and pursue answers to the far limits, and a minimum of time-out for standardized testing. They found, as well, a respected and unionized teacher corps, people who were committed to a life-long career in teaching and who were encouraged to work cooperatively for their mutual benefit (and who never would settle for being judged, assessed, rewarded, or punished based on student test scores).
In a vibrant democracy, whatever the most privileged parents want for their children must serve as a minimum standard for what we as a community want for all of our children. Every child deserves the type of education your children receive.
It is time to set American education on that course, and a strong step in that direction would be appointing Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond as Secretary of Education. A teacher and recognized scholar/researcher for decades, Dr. Darling-Hammond will not be swayed by big money or political expediency or the latest fads. She will be independent, professional and principled. We can then return to the precious but fragile ideal that must power education in a democracy: Every human being is of incalculable value, and the fullest development of all is the condition for the full development of each.