Throughout the history of public schooling in the US, teachers have more often than not been blamed for the failures of our public schools. Under the Bush administration, for example, the teachers’ unions were marginalized during the writing of the No Child Left Behind Act, and Bush’s education department’s distain for teachers was exemplified by Secretary of Education Rodney Paige referring to the teachers unions as “terrorist organizations.”
One might hope that teachers and teacher educators would fare better under an Obama administration. However, early indications are not auspicious. During the media debate over who should be the Secretary of Education designate, Linda Darling-Hammond, who served as Obama’s education advisor during the campaign, and as a Stanford professor is one of the more well known and respected educators who has worked in the nitty-gritty of school reform, was cast by most of the media as a defender of the status quo. For example, the New Republic called her “Obama’s old-school, pro-union education guru.”
Instead, the media and political conservatives argued that Obama should choose from those who have landed leadership positions in school districts not because of their education but corporate background, such as Joel Klein, Michelle Rhees, and, the eventual choice, Arne Duncan, the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. In my book, High-stakes testing and the decline of teaching and learning: The real crisis in education, Pauline Lipman and I devote a chapter to dissecting how, under Duncan, the Chicago Public Schools have become increasingly privatized, decision-making power shifted away from the elected school board and parents and teachers, and towards an unelected corporate board, and students subjected to even more high stakes standardized testing.
While Obama’s education platform contained much with which I agreed, since his election the rhetoric has once again turned to blaming teachers and teacher educators as defenders of the status quo, many of whom have worked hard at developing successful schools, and, instead, corporate executives have been hailed as the “true” educational reformers.
Gerald Bracey, in an excellent blog at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gerald-bracey/the-hatchet-job-on-linda_b_155104.html, describes how once again the corporate and media elite succeeded in framing the problem in education as caused by teachers and teacher educators. The debate over the Secretary of Education designate and the eventual appointment of Arne Duncan does not bode well. In response, we need to figure out how to get parents’ and educators’ voices heard.