Arne Duncan: Secretary of Education

Posted by Katherine | December 19, 2008 – 8:18 am
Lego education center
Building up education [kokeshi / Flickr]

Obama announced this week that he’d picked Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. The battle over education policy seems to be fought between two main camps: accountability/achievement and unions/funding. The president-elect apparently kept a toe in each one during the campaign, and conventional wisdom says Duncan straddles the divide as well.

Still, Duncan hasn’t won everyone over — and even when people do like him, it’s not necessarily because he restocks the arsenal on both sides.

Graemme Gilmann is a teacher from Oceanside, California. He voted for Obama and feels he’s “light years ahead of Bush in his understanding of education reform.” But he’s uneasy about Duncan’s lack of classroom experience:

I think it is crucial to include the teachers in the debate and give them the power to help formulate public educational policy. Having never actually taught in the classroom, Duncan may lack the experience needed to introduce meaningful and realistic reforms to the system. […]

In my experience, the most effective administrators are those with prior teaching experience who listen to what actual teachers have to say. Teaching is a hard job that offers a lot of insight not readily available to those who don’t teach (like, say, politicians and businessmen). I don’t want to exclude those points of view by any means, but it seems to make sense that teachers should have a key position in forging the future of their field.

Dana Goldstein is a probutcool staff writer for The American Prospect in DC. She explains, on her personal blog, that choosing Duncan means education might be a priority in the next administration:

Any pick of an actual superintendent to head the Department of Education, as opposed to a governor relatively ignorant of the nitty gritty of education debates, is a move by Obama in the direction of serious, hands-on reform. That’s good news, I think, for those of us — regardless of ideology — who hope education will become a first tier issue under the Obama administration.

First tier, perhaps, after the emergency tier of war and economy…


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