Arne Duncan is in Denial

If you were at all confused by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Open Letter to America’s Teachers, where he suddenly found a new appreciation for the teaching profession and acknowledged that “the No Child Left Behind Act has prompted some schools—especially low-performing ones—to teach to the test, rather than focus on the educational needs of students,” you can now find clarity in Arne’s more recent comments. Duncan was quoted by Jonathan Alter in an opinion piece for Bloomberg View (owned by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg) that is unsurprisingly critical of one of Bloomberg’s biggest critics, Diane Ravitch. Duncan couldn’t contain himself when Alter asked him about Ravitch, saying “Diane Ravitch is in denial and she is insulting all of the hardworking teachers, principals and students all across the country who are proving her wrong every day.”

Ravitch’s book The Death and Life of the Great American School System is a brilliant work that carefully picks apart the arguments of those that look to high-stakes testing, charter schools and merit pay to improve education. In attacking Ravitch, Duncan is attacking one of the most outspoken advocates against teach to the test policies. Duncan’s strategy is to assure teachers he understands the problems we are dealing with, while attacking those that actually work to change those problems and continuing policies that perpetuate and exacerbate them. As David Reber has pointed out, even Arne’s initial letter contained buzzwords and catchphrases to reassure the wealthy interests with real power over education policy.

The truth is that Arne Duncan is in denial and he is insulting all of the hardworking teachers, principals and students all across the country who are proving him wrong every day. This is the message from those who are protesting his policies from Cambridge to Chicago to Providence and beyond. And it will certainly be the message when thousands of educators gather at the Save Our Schools March in Washington, D.C. at which Diane Ravitch (not Arne Duncan) will be one of the keynote speakers.

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