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A Letter to Arne Duncan

May 7, 2011

Good letter to Arne Duncan by teacher Sabrina Shupe.  Mr. Duncan’s reign as Obama’s Education Secretary has been contentious to say the least.  Mr. Duncan seems to talk about supporting teachers but as Ms. Shupe points out his actions are quite different from the words which emanate from his mouth.  This is troubling…


Dear Secretary Duncan,

Actions speak louder than words. Though you often have nice words to sayabout teachers, what you do is more important, and your actions thus far do not indicate that you respectvalue, or support teachers and our profession as much as you claim. Among other things, you have:

  • Praised the mass firing of all teachers in certain ‘failing’ schools, despite a lack of evaluation or evidence to justify such an action. This is like a doctor performing major surgery with an ax instead of a scalpel. You watched it, and applauded. How is that respectful? Did you stop to question if those teachers had been supported to be successful? How can you claim to value teachers when you praise school officials who treat us as if we’re disposable?
When Sabrina is referring to Mr. Duncan’s “nice words” about educators she is referring to Arne’s May 2nd, 2011 Open Letter to America’s Teachers in Education Week.  I read that letter and I have to admit to being a bit disappointed by it.  I was raised in such a way where it was important to do what you say you are going to do.  When I read Mr. Duncan’s letter: was continually thinking that the words behind the letter were written by someone who will never be challenged by the ideas he is attempting to purport.  In other words, Mr. Duncan issues platitudes but the meat which should be surrounding the bones of his words is not present.  Mr. Duncan’s actions have spoken quite loudly and they lead any intelligent and questioning individual to wonder about his sincerity.  Take the link to Mr. Duncan’s letter and view the Comments section below his letter to see what I mean.  It looks like Arne Duncan is NOT trusted by those he has been chosen to lead at the national level.
Comment Samples:
As usual, Duncan ignores the core of the critique from teachers (and parents.) There is too much standardized testing, and high stakes decision making based upon test scores, but this problem will not be cured by more and supposedly “better” standardized tests.There is not enough focus on inadequate classroom conditions under which many teachers struggle to teach — including excessive class sizes, especially in our highest needs areas.Yet Duncan has proposed that class sizes should be allowed to further increase, showing a high level of disrespect for the views of teachers, who overwhelmingly respond in surveys that the best way to improve their effectiveness would be to reduce class size.

Until Duncan acknowledges the experiences and priorities of teachers and parents, and reverses his destructive policies, this sort of superficial rhetoric will have little impact on our views of his administration.

I hope the revisit the topic of Arne Duncan and his value to education and teachers in America more in the future.

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