Neither to Praise nor Bury

[This test is from a Speech I gave at a rally at Harvard Square on may 26th in response to Arne Duncan being recognized by the Alumni Association there.
Friends. Cantabridgians, Countrymen, lend me your ears,

We have come here to neither praise Arne Duncan nor to bury him. We have come not to question his honor but to question his being honored — being honored by that time-honored institution across the street. We are told by the Harvard Alumni Association that Arnie Duncan is deserving of honor, but since they, his classmates from the class of ’86 who elected him Chief Marshall, have themselves successfully raced to the top, they have an understandable interest in honoring Arne Duncan, one of their own.

Duncan has now brought that same competitive spirit that got him and his classmates into Harvard in the first place, down to the pre-university level; down to schools, kindergarten through grade 12. Everyone is urged to join the race – children, teachers, schools, school districts, even state departments of education. The rewards for success on all these levels are huge – from grades in school to monetary incentives, to financial support to more money and, eventually, status and power.

But what about those who don’t get there first or perhaps don’t get there at all? None of the reforms which Duncan proposes will increase the number of those who reach the top – not more tests, not charter schools, not radical school closings, not tying teachers’ careers to student test results, and so on. Nor will they result in a well-educated citizenry. The well known achievement gap is getting wider, not narrower.

We stand here today as advocates for transforming schools into Institutions which can truly nourish and sustain all children in the belief that all are capable of reaching the top. We need to build on the new consensus growing in the nation to speak back to Arnie; we are here also to honor all those out there who have been speaking up and out – the Davids confronting the Goliaths with their millions and billions; We are honoring the Fair Tests with their 2-person staffs standing up to the testing/publishing Goliath.

Yet Arne Duncan says that more and better tests are what the children of this country need – and Arne is an honorable man. Can we doubt his solutions? To quote his friend and fellow basketball player, YES WE CAN!

One Response

  1. thank you for this – and for all you've done and do.

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