This letter was sent by Krashen to Time Magazine.
Duncan’s Background and Duncan’s Plans
Sent to Time Magazine, September 5, 2009
What I learned from “Can Arne Duncan (And $5 Billion) Fix America’s
Schools?” (Sept. 14) is that Secretary of Education Duncan’s only
experience in education is helping out in his mother’s after-school
tutoring program, which was somehow enough to get him an
administrative position with Chicago public schools.
I also learned that when he was head of Chicago public schools, he
tried a number of odd schemes, all known to be ineffective, to improve
performance (e.g. charter schools, bribing students, merit pay,
closing down schools). These schemes resulted in “modest gains,” a
description that is much too generous, according to an article in USA
Today on July 12.
Duncan’s plan now is to use these discredited approaches nationwide,
and expand the Bush administration’s testing program, also shown
repeatedly to be ineffective.
All this is because he thinks American schools are “dysfunctional,”
despite analyses that show that the problem is poverty, not the
quality of our schools: American students who do not live in poverty
do very well on international tests when compared to students in other
In her book, “Caught in the Middle: Nonstandard Kids Caught in a
Killing Curriculum,” published in 2001, Susan Ohanian, an experienced
and award-winning educator who has actually taught in public schools,
pointed out that:
“The pattern of reform â€¦ has spread across the nation: Bring in
someone who has never been involved in public education; proclaim that
local administrators and teachers are lazy and stupid; use massive
testing to force schools into curriculum compliance” (page x).
Since this passage was written, this pattern of reform has clearly
spread to the highest levels.
Just tonight I listened to John Grisham talk about the attitudes of people in the South toward the death penalty: they love it.
The same attitude applies to schools: make ’em learn if you have to beat ’em, but get tough. The teachers are pinkos (except the ones in my kids’ schools) and lazy …….. do you think I’m making this up? This has been the Neocon line for years now. A good many Americans like this sort of “get tough” talk. Bush “got tough” in Iraq and cost us dearly. What will Obama do in Afghanistan.? It looks like his choice of education sec’y bodes ill.