Education Secretary Announced
After more than a month of speculation and debate, President-elect Barack Obama finally announced that Arne Duncan will be Secretary of Education in his administration.
Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) since 2001, has never been a teacher, but has been deeply involved with education for many years, beginning when he was playing professional basketball in Australia and working with children who were wards of the state. Once returning from Australia, the Harvard graduate became director of the Ariel Education Initiative before joining CPS in 1998.
Duncan has earned a reputation as a reformer who backed paying students for grades, charter schools, and he supported a failed proposal for a gay-and lesbian-centered high school. Despite angering some people with his reforms, Duncan has managed to get nothing but praise from teachers' unions for working with them instead of engaging in constant battles.
Obama faced a tough choice in appeasing the more traditional unions and the reform-minded generation of educators, and Duncan seems to be a good fit to placate both sides. He's a progressive who pushes for reform, but he also works closely with the unions and their allies.
For all of Obama's touting of governmental change, his selection of the Secretary of Education disappointingly is more of Chicago-style "business as usual." During Duncan's tenure with Chicago Schools, there has been little real systemic change - just a continuation of the top-down, test-them-till-they-drop-in-the-guise-of-accountability that George Bush's administration rammed down school district's throats. Real systemic change cannot occur without the voice and ownership of those expected to implement the change. Duncan doesn't get that and it would appear Obama doesn't either. Sadly, teachers will continue to be the whipping boy for society's ills and students will continue to be political pawns instead of valued citizens of and contributors to this country.
See the comments here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/12/16/ifreakonomicsi-levitt-pra_n_151404.html