The last time I had a chance to interact with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan happened not too long ago over an Elluminate session where some of the best and brightest educators interacted with him and some of his advisers. What transpired gave me a different level of understanding of the bureaucracy that happens in American politics as a whole. Even if you can build the type of cache with the right people, and have the right conversations, and facilitate it the best way possible, the person at the top, prepared with every and all types of responses, will give you the blandest, cellophane response. Some politicians are in their posts for a reason: they can dodge questions like the skinny kid in dodgeball.
He’s the one that stands behind the fat kids until there’s no one else, and yes, I was one of the fat kids.
This came to mind because Arne Duncan (and his people) play host to a Twittersphere chat under the #AskArne hashtag on Wednesday, August 24th, 2011. Educators attuned to the web have taken notice and wondered aloud the types of questions they might ask one of the most influential secretaries of education ever. Those of us who took a second to read the announcement responded the way any critic should: why limit educators at the forefront of technology to only 140 characters? Why would anyone participate in a conversation that’s (again) filtered and unnatural to the flow of a truly critical need for dialogue? Why would anyone actually ask him a question knowing he’s probably given his responses to these questions through his website, his blog, and his associates?
Isn’t this an added boon for him so he can tell the public that he’s been “listening to teachers” and “asking the right people?”
This comes on the heels of the news that he apparently quoted a book I had the pleasure of participating in: Teaching 2030: What We Must Do for Our Students and Our Public Schools – Now and in the Future. While the deference to the book is surprising, considering it mostly comes from the mouths of accomplished teachers from across the nation, his actions (and often, lack thereof) speaks volumes about his belief in the voice of those who suffer under the current education system. In other words, the kids in Atlanta, East St. Louis, Harlem, Los Angeles, Philly, Milwaukee …
The list is longer than the hashtags I hope you use instead of #AskArne. I propose we:
No need to call me radical for wanting the best for our students, and holding “well-meaning” politicians accountable for their accountability systems. I also think it’s important to have conversations with people who you don’t agree with in hopes that people can come to an agreement on the direction of whatever endeavor you enter. Genuine engagement has to be there. Just know that when people ask me to ask a question, I’ll do what my students do when they don’t like a teacher: “I ain’t askin’ him nothin’.”
Jose, who can’t believe there’s only two weeks until my new class comes through …