Close Reading of Arne Duncan’s Feb. 7 Speech: Either we are with him or we defend the status quo?

This series of posts responds to excerpts from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s speech “Fighting the Wrong Education Battles” on Feb. 7 to the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  The bolded part is Sec. Duncan’s speech.  The plain text is my response.

“In the wrong education battles, the perfect, too often, becomes the enemy of the good. And the dysfunctional status quo persists, hurting children and teachers—and ultimately, our country’s economic competitiveness as we continue to under-educate far too many of our nation’s youth.”

Mr. Duncan, There are two aspects to this paragraph I found troubling.  First is assumption that fighting against the amount and use of standardized tests means defending the status quo.  This is erroneous.  Much needs to change in education, particularly as we learn more and more about brain research and we have increased technological options to assist in targeted differentiation.  Just because I am against your use of standardized testing does not mean I am for the status quo.   (Hmm… this strikes me as similar to one of your opening paragraphs.  I think you should examine your own beliefs and assumptions in that either-or part.)

But the other aspect I get frustrated by is the constant refrain that RTTT will increase our “economic competitiveness.”  What kind of economy are you picturing?  This reminds me of one of my  collected Tweets.


I hold with those like Yong Zhao that our best assets are our creativity and questioning.  I would advocate more project-based learning, which lends to collaborative critical-reasoning and creativity, our best national asset.  While researchers and academics will say that teaching critical thinking will increase test scores equally, such instruction is less controllable, less documentable, and therefore more worrisome with RTTT.


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