by David Safier
When Obama chose Arne Duncan as his Ed Sec, he chose someone who straddles lots of educational camps. Obama is a blank educational slate in lots of ways as well.
So the question isn't, will they get their agenda through? The question is, what's their agenda?
Today's article about Duncan's talk to a group of students concerns me, not so much for the ideas as for the tone. Too much "I eat nails for breakfast," not enough nuance.
Sure. Let's have more class time for students. But the tough-guy tone — the tough-love tone — doesn't sit well with me.
He also lauded Denver's pay-for-performance teacher pay system, which some Democrats and teachers' groups oppose.
Then I see an article in Education Week, Obama Echoes Bush on Education Ideas.
To be sure, his economic-stimulus package shows he is ready to pump far more money into education than Mr. Bush did. And Mr. Obama says he opposes private school vouchers, a consistent Bush agenda item.
Still, some observers see little difference between the two so far—and aren’t happy at the similarities.
Duncan is working to get a little media attention by talking tough instead of squishy. There's a "man bites dog" quality to Duncan sounding like a holdover from the Bush administration, which earns him some press. I get that. And the ideas themselves are OK, so long as they're fleshed out in reasonable ways. But if this signals the direction of Obama's educational agenda, I'm not going to be happy.
Like everything else with this new administration, this is a work in progress, and education certainly doesn't have the urgency of averting economic collapse. Duncan is floating some trial balloons here. And maybe he's hoping to ease the fears of educational conservatives before he launches into a more progressive educational agenda. Then again . . .
We'll see. We'll see.