(cross-posted from Dailykos)

This in response to Duncan’s dishonest ,  concern-trolling (“Oh, I feel your pain”) trash of a letter he wrote during the National Teacher Depreciation Appreciation week.

h/t Diane Ravitch

In a rare instance in the last 2+ years, about 12 teachers including veteran teacher Anthony Cody got to talk with Duncan for a whopping 30 minutes ! Cody sums up their experience during the call thus :


The funny thing about the conversation was that the whole time, they seemed to think we had questions, and their job was to answer them. We had actually approached the conversation from a different place. We thought perhaps they might want to ask US questions, or hear our ideas about how to improve schools.

This typically reflects the attitude of the condescending, elitist & out-of-touch (CEO) Duncan towards teachers. Demeaning/degrading teachers ,while getting inputs from every Tom, Dick & Harry who is a non-educator about miseducation reform. So, not surprisingly , the furious teachers pounced on when they got a chance to comment at ed.gov in response to Duncan’s letter . To quote Diane Ravitch, Duncan’s letter was “as if it were addressed to the turkey community on Thanksgiving Day.”


Sample comments :

Brian :

The education policies of this administration are the single reason why I will not vote to reelect Barack Obama in 2012. I believed in hope but it was hype. I believed in change but Race to the Top is even worse than NCLB. I’m a teacher and have been for fifteen years and for the first time I’m actively looking for work outside of teaching. I co-direct a National Writing Project site, a program that was defunded by this administration. My children attend city school, which has been abandoned by this administration.

The things you say here are, as Hamlet once said, “words, words, words,” but there is no substance behind them. Honoring teachers requires much more than saying that you honor them.

Your education policies are destroying good education in our country, hurting our poorest citizens, and amount to political point scoring at the expense of our children.

Jonathan :

Mr. Duncan,
You say teachers “deserve to be respected, valued, and supported.” I am a teacher and I do NOT feel respected, valued, or supported.
Your policies, and Mr Obama’s, or Bush’s prior, are transforming the education profession not into a dignified career of service, but into a revolving door. More and more, we are loosing great and veteran teaches, and more and more all we get is very young people who come into the teaching profession as a job where they stay no more than five years, until the day they find something better to do, or a ‘real’ career. You expect teachers to do sooooo much more, with sooo much less ($40,000 a year maximum, no pension, no tenure, no support). What other professionals (lawyers, doctors, etc. would work for $40,000 a year? Would YOU Mr Duncan?). This trend is leading us to the following scenario: upper middle class and wealthy children will have a great education in private institutions with the best teachers (those who get the respect, are valued, and get the support they need). Lower income families will take their children to public schools because they will not have a choice, and they will receive a very poor education (by teacher aficionados) that will condemn them to poverty for the rest of their lives. And America will continue falling behind compared to the rest of the world.
So yes, transformation, but for the worse. You are transforming teaching from a career to a job that barely anybody wants to do anymore. And you know why? Easy: we do not get respect, we are not valued, and we do not get the support we need.
Shame on you Mr Duncan.


Like many of my colleagues, I am deeply disappointed with Secretary Duncan’s policies, and am frankly offended that he thinks teachers are gullible enough not to see through his patronizing letter. It is all well and good that he “hears” us, the fact is he is categorically ignoring what we have to say. The Department of Education has made it abundantly clear that professional teachers are not valued in the least. Alternative credentialling, charter schools that do not require staff to have credentials, and the like, demonstrate that fact clearly enough. No Child Left Behind has destroyed arts, science and social studies instruction at the elementary level, and now threatens it at the middle school level, since the test scores are all administrators worry about. My principal announced in a staff meeting last year that science didn’t matter, so the message is very clear to us down in the trenches. The political games that are played with education in Washington, as well as in my state, sicken me, because we will not be able to get this generation of students back to fix the damage that has been done by the high-stakes test mentality. People: Children are not factory products. You cannot apply a business model to them. The only thing I can really think is that somewhere, someone very influential has decided that there is money to be made by privatizing education, so all the recent policies are directed at demoralizing professional teachers, gutting collective bargaining, and paving the way for corporate control of schools by large charters. Is that what our country really wants?

John :

Mr Duncan, your words are disingenuous at best. Your efforts, and the president’s, have done nothing but demoralize teachers and turn them into the enemy in the public eye. The truth of this is obvious across the country in Wisconsin, Idaho, Ohio, Indiana, etc. You have done more to damage public education then even the Bush administration did with NCLB. You and the president are pursuing a policy with a vision that is as wide as your eyes and as far as your nose because if you really cared about public education you would recognize that the problem goes hand in hand with a host of other issues in a child’s life, not the least of which is poverty.

You say you support public schools, but make them compete for desperately needed PUBLIC funding. To even have a chance at the money, teachers, districts, and states have to agree to the draconian reforms of a reform movement that has largely been debunked by research (Annenberg Foundation at Brown University last year as well as a study from the Brookings Institution, also from last year, to name a few.). Nothing about these studies and others or arguments by experts like Diane Ravitch to the contrary seem to affect your thinking because I believe your ultimate goal is not to improve public education, but to privatize it.

This is NOT an education reform movement. It is a privatization movement by people who stand to make a lot of money by “reforming” public schools.

As to your spokesman who said that what I’m saying is not what the majority of teachers think, I can only say that if the staff in my district is anything like teachers around the rest of the country, you are sadly mistaken.

Christine :

Thanks for nothing. Your words don’t match your actions.

Think about this:

When soldiers go into battle, who gets the blame if things go wrong? Do you ever hear on the news that the reason we’re still fighting in Afghanistan is because those soldiers just can’t do the job? You don’t. We all know that they are doing the best with what they have been given in a tough situation. If anyone were to be blamed, it would be the generals or those who decide to send soldiers to war. We all know those soldiers have a tough job in dangerous conditions and can only work with what they are given. Ultimately, their success or failure comes back to those who make policy and plans. If the raid in Abbottabad had gone wrong, it would have been the fault of the President who ordered the mission.

When teachers go into the classroom, who gets the blame if things go wrong? Do you ever hear on the news that the reason we have failing schools is because those teachers just can’t do the job? You do. We all “know” because we’ve all been in school that they are doing mediocre at best with what they have been given in a tough situation. If anyone were to be held blameless, it would be the legislators, school boards or administrators. We all know those teachers have a cushy job in low stress conditions and can only work with what they are given….what??? This doesn’t sound right?

Ultimately, the success or failure of our schools comes back to those who make policy and plans. If the raid in Abbottabad had gone wrong, it would have been the fault of the President who ordered the mission. The raid on American education has commenced. We blame you, we blame the president, and every citizen who has bought into the ridiculousness of rhetoric that has declared America’s teachers public enemy number one.

We are the soldiers on the front lines of education. We serve. We are professionals. We have pride in what we do.

These and much much more. Some of them are long enough to be a diary by themselves.

These days, it must be difficult to be the PR person for Dept of Ed . Because Justin Hamilton has the unenviable job of cleaning up after Arne Duncan – and go look for his lost bearings. And Duncan comes unhinged more often these days. It is so tough that Hamilton ends up loosing few of his own bearings responding to the teachers’ attacks. Diane Ravitch :

Duncan’s press secretary reacted to the outpouring of criticism by asserting that the negative response did not represent “how the broader teaching community feels about it.” That opened a new opportunity for bloggers to excoriate both Duncan and his staff. The appeal to the “silent majority,” wrote a social studies teacher, reminded him of Richard Nixon’s claim that a “silent majority” supported his policies in Vietnam.

Folks, this is what the revolt of the peasants looks like. It is for real. Amid all the attacks on teachers (and public sector employees) by Republicans in various states, teachers refuse to run crying “Daddy” (like a frightened child) to Obama and the Dems. They refuse to believe in the “lesser evil” crap any more and seeing the Obama/Duncan right-wing education deform horror show for what it is.
Ravitch again :

An urban teacher complained bitterly that Duncan had failed to stand up for teachers when their job security was under attack;
Many teachers hold Duncan’s policies accountable for the public disrespect now directed at teachers in the media. Consequently they can’t find it in their hearts to trust Arne Duncan when he thanks them for their service. They’ve learned to respond to what he does, not what he says.

(Note : Meanwhile the out-of-touch National Education Association leadership is ready to get into the abusive relationship again – that is an early endorsement of Obama. The union leadership apparently hopes to get a seat at the table without realizing that they are the Turkey on the plates of those at the table. I hope the fury of rank-and-file members will instill some sense into the leadership. )

The teachers are mad as hell and can’t/won’t take it anymore . Way to go teachers ! Time to hold the administration accountable.

Action : Please read and sign the petition from the grassroots group Parents Across America for real education reform.