Obama’s Secretary of Education

Obama’s victory is an amazing if belated triumph. It’s been a long time since we’ve had someone who is as thoughtful, reflective, responsible, and knowledgeable in the presidency of any color or party. Obama is an intellectual in the best sense of that word.

And, one of the ideas Obama’s been playing with just so happens to be one I too am fascinated by. How do top-down and bottom-up join together to make policy, not just run campaigns.

It’s pleasing to see the names of people like Diane Ravitch and Linda Darling –Hammond come up as possible Secretarys of Education. They do differ on many issues but they are open, experienced, and independently thinking leaders who understand the needed tension amongst local, state and federal authoritie. When I read that the list might include Joel Klein of NYC and others like him beholden to top down reform and to simple minded test accountability, I shudder.

The so-called New York miracle is as phony as the Houston, Texas miracle that ushered Rod Paige in. We cannot afford a repeat of this. NYC’s “reform” has been at best a waste of precious years, and at worst a disaster. Test scores have not risen, nor have graduation rates, nor has the content of education (which has merely been narrowed to test prep), nor the culture and climate of our schools, nor the achievement gap, meanwhile economic and racial segregation have grown apace. We’ve got hard data to demonstrate all of this.

The folks Joel Klein hangs around with are not leaders in the field of schooling, education, or youth building but precisely the folks who gave us our current fiscal crisis. Their knowledge of accountability, even in business, is shabby at best. There is very little first-hand knowledge of the public schools that educate the vast majority of our children among his associates and those he hires to make big decisions. The voices of parents, teachers and principals have been drowned out by a system that makes clear they do not know or care what “they” think.

If we are to capitalize on this time of hope, we most raise our voices as to the need of an education leader who understands and is willing to rectify the imbalance between “we the people” and those who want to tell the people what to do.

There are lots of steps for folks to take now. Signing petitions (see below) is only one; and that’s if you agree with me! Writing influential people you know in your own voice is another. But the choice of key people in D.C. is on the agenda right now because we’re in transition time and people do count. The real message of Obama’s victory is not to wait for Obama or anyone else to tell us when and what to act on, but, to organize where we are on issues that count in our own terrain.


Best, Deb

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