Number 1 in the World, Mr. Duncan? Really? You Have Got to Be Kidding Me

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Schools Matter

Number 1 in the World, Mr. Duncan? Really? You Have Got to Be Kidding Me

Arne Duncan proclaimed a couple of days ago that he wants the U. S. to be #1 in educational achievement but that we have "a long way to go." But that's okay, boys, we're in a hole, so keep digging.

Since Duncan came to Washington to sit as ED's titular CEO while the Gates and Broad Foundations run the show, the hole has gotten deeper as new shovels are brought in to replace the old ones. The urban schools that were blown apart by NCLB's ticking time bomb have been turned into corporate segregated charters run like prisons, and more public schools are exploded each spring as the scores come in, telling us where the poorest children in America will be added to the penal charter list, as two-year temps from TFA and alt-cert neophytes take over the duties of teachers.

Meanwhile, the Gates-Broad team hire the high priest of the stats world to devise ways to use unreliable and invalid tests to keep or fire teachers, despite the mountain of scientific evidence and common sense that tells the rest of us that this is unfair, unethical, and just a bad idea. Other Gates goons are working to shut down or re-make teacher education programs to focus on those same test scores. Still others are being farmed out to conservative and neolib state legislators and governors looking for ways to take away teachers' collective bargaining rights, due process, and any remaining shreds of academic freedom.

Meanwhile back at the school, children are choking on the growing mountain and tests that fatten the corporate leeches who publish them. Children learn to read by racing through nonsense syllables and despise reading by the time they get to middle school. Librarians are fired and book collections dumped or allowed to collect dust. Students are paid to graduate a year early to save money, while class sizes swell to overflowing.

And with the number of schools increasing every year as the NCLB explosive device ticks on, Duncan is sent out to announce more and harder tests will be waiting if NCLB is ever reauthorized. Pre-tests, post-tests, and practice tests in between, all geared to a core curriculum designed to leave everyone equally unprepared for the tests of living.

All of this is occurring in an atmosphere of Zero Tolerance and No Excuses, with the human rights and civil rights agenda a relic of a bygone era. Resegregation, repression, constant surveillance, and a cold uncaring have settled on our schools and teachers, with parents even now being graded for their willingness to keep their children in a meaningless academic choke hold.

Number One, Mr. Duncan? See what other countries have done to become #1, and then tell me you're not kidding. See how many turned adequate funding of school programs into a contest of winners and losers. See how many destroyed their teachers' professional standards and unions, and how many encourage the media to treat teachers like dirt. Check to see how many of those countries have the disparity between rich and impoverished that we do in the U. S., and how many ignore the needs of the poor beyond the school walls. How many of those top countries have our percentage of children living in poverty? Check to see how many make it more difficult for their teachers to get advanced degrees by making loans more difficult to get and to pay back.

Meanwhile, do continue your never-ending road trip of stumbling through your lines written by someone else. See how many of those black men that you are constantly recruiting are willing to enter what once was an honored profession but is quickly becoming another Walmart job. Keep digging, Arne--I can still hear you talking.

Jim Horn

Jim Horn is Professor of Educational Leadership at Cambridge College, Cambridge, MA. He is also an education blogger at Schools Matter @ the Chalkface and has published widely on issues related to education reform and social justice in education. With co-author, Denise Wilburn, his new book, The Mismeasure of Education, was published in July 2013.

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