How to Cure A Sick Horse

by theschoolprincipal on May 6, 2011

[Arne Duncan was U.S. Secretary of Education during much of the Obama administration.]

Arne, Arne, Arne,  (make that Arnie, Arnie, Arnie)

When you’ve got what you think is a sick horse, you don’t spend all of your time and money on what’ s coming out the  end of the horse. You concentrate on what’s going into the other end — his mouth. What have you been feeding that horse? Certainly not the right stuff.

Arne, if you concentrate on the end results, all you’ll have is a big mess. And, Arne, that’s exactly what you’ve got. School rheeform is a mess. It’s not working. No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Blueprint are failures. They haven’t worked during the last ten years, and they’re not going to work in the future. If you keep going down this road, Arne, that poor beast is not going to get well. Some of us even think that you and your business pals want that horse to die.

Well, today is the end of Teacher Appreciation Week.  You really let yourself in for it, didn’t you? Sabrina Stevens Shupe used the right word. Your letter to teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week was “duplicitous.”  She was correct when she said actions speak louder than words: Though you often have nice words to say about teachers, what you do is more important, and your actions thus far do not indicate that you respect, value, or support teachers and our profession as much as you claim. The two don’t match, Arne. You need to walk your talk, big  guy.

Other than the fact that in 10 years No Child Left Behind has not improved public education, and RTTT and Blueprint have only made it worse — you don’t seem to comprehend that perhaps the most important skill of a leader is the ability to listen.  We know you don’t listen because although members of Save Our Schools March scheduled a meeting with you some time ago  — you said you wanted to listen to them — you did all the talking and ‘splaining. We’ve watched you again and again, Arne — on TV, at schools — lots of speechifying – but no listening and no hearing.  No input, Arne. You’re not getting input. You’re  just like that sick horse. The input is off the mark — there isn’t any. But the output, what comes out of your mouth — is a big mess. (Yeah, I know, but I just had to mix up that metaphor.) And YOU’re not getting any better either, Arne. With over a couple of years  experience now, what have you learned,Arne?  You seem incapable of learning from experience — yet you’re in the “business” of education, Arne. How can that be?

It’s been a fun week,  Arne. You’ve given us lots of laughs and lots of jokes at your expense. The buzz has gotten so big that a couple of days ago Joy Resmovits, a reporter for the Huffington, was compelled to write a piece encapsulating the week’s events. We loved it even more because three of the people quoted in Resmovits’ article are all members of Save Our Schools March  & National Call to Action: Diane Ravitch, Anthony Cody, and Sabrina Stevens Shupe. We’re onto you, Arne, and we, along with thousands of parents, students, and teachers, are coming to DC July 30. We’re done, Arne. We’re not going to let you mistreat our horse anymore.

In your defense, Arne, Resmovits quotes your p.r. fellow, Justin Hamilton, the same spokesman who rewrote an explanation of President Obama’s words three times trying to convince Anthony Cody that President Obama  hadn’t meant what he said about testing. Arne, say to Justin: He’s the President, Justin. How condescending and disrespectful, Justin,  to tell the President of the United States what he means when he speaks.

And the buzz got so big that yesterday Valerie Strauss of The Answer Sheet fame in the Washington reprinted a post that first appeared in The Hechinger Report. It’s by Aaron Pallas,  professor of sociology and education at Teachers College of Columbia University. In it, Professor Pallas explains to you what we heard when we read your open letter to America’s teachers in recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week. Remember, Arne, your actions have spoken much louder to us than your words. I hope you read it, Arne. I really do.  I know you don’t like to listen, but maybe you like to read. Try to learn something. Be aware, monitor, and then adjust thyself.

So here we are at the end of Teacher Appreciation Week. Teachers are both the salt of the earth and generally the cream of the crop of America. I’m talking about hard work, ethics, dedication, and common sense. Teachers who stay in the profession don’t go into it for the money. For most of them it’s a calling and a passion. They want to help kids and they do it against all odds. The demeaning of the teaching profession these last few years has been a sacrilege and is simply inexcusable.

As far as you are concerned, Arne, it’s been a good faith effort on our part, Arne. We’ve tried with you, we really have. We tried to take you to the watering trough, but we couldn’t get you to drink.  Oh, you know that  horse I was talking about Arne, the one you think is so sick?  You recently announced to the media and the American  public that over 80% of American schools are failing. By the metrics of No Child Left Behind, which mandates that 100% of American children must be on grade level by 2014, yes perhaps most of our schools are failing.  But that bar too high to jump was established ten years ago by idealogues  who believe in utopia. You know that, Arne. I know you do. So how could you possibly have made a major statement like that which is still reverberating throughout the national media — who believe you and aren’t delving into the facts — as late as yesterday? Sometimes we think you’re in cahoots with DeVos and Broad and the Koch brothers, Arne, and that you’re using the shock doctrine to dismantle public schools right along with them. We really do. Why would you have made a statement like that, Arne? Why?

The majority of schools in the United States were doing fine before NCLB came along. For the ones that aren’t, teachers and parents want REAL reform. Rheeform, Bushform, Broadform and Gatesform have just about killed that horse. If we continue to use these false reforms, meaningful reform will never happen. Don’t make our sick horse any sicker. We must get rid of No Child Left Behind and its step brethren, RTTT and Blueprint. They can’t be modified and repaired. We have to get corporacracy and the business model out of the school reform movement.  Guffaw, guffaw. It’s so nonsensical and right down the rabbit hole — shades of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass that it just makes me want to guffaw — and I haven’t guffawed in a long time. But it’s not funny, Arne. It’s not funny at all.

P.S.  What a delightful read from Mr.D’


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lisa Paige, PhD
May 8, 2011 at 11:55 am

Tell us how you really feel! Oh, my, what excellent writing: impassioned, clever, honest, uber-direct, and informed. This piece should be reprinted by the millions and disseminated by airplanes flying low over schools nationwide … and also over polling places in every state on primary day.


2 Ms P
May 6, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Excellent! The bottom line is that a man with not one day experience in a classroom is now attempting to reform our profession. He doesn’t have our best interest at heart and he has no idea what is really best for the children. We absolutely must speak out and do all we can to stop him.


3 theschoolprincipal
May 6, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Mr. D,

Your screed was not a screed – mine is much more over the top than yours. I congratulate you – excellent and entertaining; points right on the mark. Let’s keep at


4 Mr. D
May 6, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Excellent sentiments! Let’s hope Arne reads them!

BTW, Thanks so much for the link to my profanity-laced screed LOL.


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