In summer 2018, Arne Duncan published a
memoir. After presiding over nearly a decade of academic stagnation and the
failure of high-profile initiatives, there are many lessons he might have
shared. Instead, he seems to have learned little while in office.
Here are three things Duncan never learned, but which reformers should take
to heart. One: It’s hard to persuade people you disdain. Duncan shrugged off
anxieties about the Common Core is the product of moms who fear “their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were.” Two: It’s tempting to ignore
inconvenient realities. Many parents thought tests were more focused on
measuring schools than on helping their kids. They had a point! But Duncan
dismisses such concerns. Three: It’s easy to blame bad messaging for policy failures.
Duncan has trouble thinking of anything he’d have done differently, insisting
that any setbacks were the product of poor PR. The disappointments of Duncan’s
tenure have valuable lessons to teach — but only if we’re willing to learn them. What lessons do you think school reformers need to learn? Let us know in
your comments. Also, let us know what other topics you’d like our scholars to
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