Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told an audience at Harvard University that President Trump “does not want a well-educated citizenry” and “does not want people who can think independently.”
Speaking at the Harvard Kennedy School on Tuesday, Duncan, who served under President Obama for most of the previous administration, said the Trump administration’s “silence and inactivity” on school reforms are “deliberate.”
The Crimson reports Duncan also blasted the state of teacher training, referring to a survey in which two-thirds of education school graduates indicated they didn’t feel prepared to begin teaching.
“If two-thirds of doctors said they were unprepared to practice medicine, we would have a revolution in this country,” he said. “But we don’t value teachers. We don’t value education.”
Duncan argued that the issue of education is not salient in elections and public policy debates. He cited stagnation in multiple areas of student achievement, including math scores and college completion rates, as factors contributing to the decline in America’s standing as a world leader in education.
When pressed about several policy decisions he made as former President Barack Obama’s education secretary from 2009 to 2015, including the introduction of Common Core and the controversial federal grant program Race to the Top, Duncan mostly defended his record of advocating for “higher” content standards and greater teacher accountability.
The former secretary of education concluded the discussion by commenting on gun violence and its effect on urban schools, reflecting on his own childhood experiences in Chicago and his current non-profit work. He emphasized the importance of youth advocacy in the wake of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. and said it has stirred public activism despite relative inactivity following several previous school shootings.
This is nothing short of remarkable coming from a guy who, aside from putting his own children in private schools, oversaw a bureaucratic expansion unparalleled in the history of the Education Department — with little to show for it.
Do you know what the $4 billion in Race to the Top grants got us, education-wise?
Here’s what I know: It got us precisely that for which Duncan is chiding Trump. The more time teachers are spending teaching to canned tests written by faceless educrats and scored via ridiculous rubrics, the less they’re working to create that “informed citizenry.”
If American teachers can for one moment set aside their visceral hatred for anything “Trump” and/or conservative, they just might realize that the policies of the current DoE — less federal intervention and meddling, diminishing racial bean counting, and due process rights — are precisely what they’ve wanted for decades now.
IMAGE: US Department of Education/Flickr.com