Is Obama Getting Bad Advice on His Appointments?
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What is Duncan's connection to the president-elect? Duncan was once captain of Harvard's basketball team and still plays backyard roundball with his Hyde Park neighbor Obama.
But Michelle Obama put a limit on their friendship: Barack Obama was one of the only state senators from Chicago to refuse to send his children into Duncan's public schools. My information is the Obamas sent their daughters to the elite Laboratory School where Klein-Duncan teach-to-the-test pedagogy is dismissed as damaging and nutty.
Mr. Obama, if you can't trust your kids to Arne Duncan, why hand him ours?
Duncan is proud to have raised test scores by firing every teacher in low-scoring schools. Which schools? There's Collins High in the Lawndale ghetto, with children from homeless shelters and drug-poisoned 'hoods. They don't do well on tests. So Chicago fired all the teachers. They brought in new ones -- then fired all of them, too: The teachers' reward for volunteering to work in a poor neighborhood.
It's no coincidence that the nation's worst school systems are run by non-experts like Klein and Duncan.
Obama certainly knows this. I know he knows, because he has chosen, as head of his education department transition team, one of the most highly respected educators in the United States: Professor Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University.
So here we have the ludicrous scene of the president-elect asking this recognized authority, Darling-Hammond, to vet the qualifications of amateurs Klein and Duncan. It's as if Obama were to ask Michael Jordan, "Say, you wouldn't happen to know anyone who can play basketball, would you?"
Classroom Class War
It's not just Klein's and Duncan's empty credentials that scare me: It's the ill philosophy behind the Bush-brand education theories they promote. "Teach-to-the-test" (which goes under such prepackaged teaching brands as "Success for All") forces teachers to limit classroom time to pounding in rote, low-end skills, easily measured on standardized tests. The transparent purpose is to create the future class of worker-drones. Add in some computer training and -- voila! -- millions trained on the cheap to function, not think. Analytical thinking skills, creative skills, questioning skills will be left to the privileged at the Laboratory School and Phillips Andover Academy.
We hope for better from the daddy of Sasha and Malia.
Educationally, the world is swamping us. The economic and social levees are bursting. We cannot afford another Way-To-Go Brownie in charge of rescuing our children.