Saturday, August 28, 2010

Raising the Bar

Raising the bar and simply demanding higher standards is hardly innovative or creative. Elevator speeches and interviews such as Duncan's above will only take him down.

This interview reminds me of an excerpt from Getting Change Right by Seth Kahan:

One of the fundamental problems in communicating change is quite simply that most professionals don't know how to hold an engaging conversation, much less teach their supporters how to do the same. The traditional approach is to take a great idea and turn it into a slogan, an elevator speech, and a campaign. This amounts to one-way communication and sabotages engagement. There may be discussions, town hall meetings, and coffee chats, but unless you're spending more time listening than you are talking, you're creating three results that are taking you backward instead of forward.
First, any educator who has a clue about real learning and real children knows that Duncan wouldn't know either if he tripped over them. Second, Duncan sounds so precooked that it is evident to even the most unsophisticated listener that he's left reality in the dust of his cliches - and if it weren't for the billion dollar carrot and stick Duncan is waving around, the nation would have been more than willing to abandon Bush's No Child Left Behind. Thirdly, Duncan is ensuring that he is the primary and sole source of change, and when education historians write about this period of reform, I believe they will identify the Bush/Obama policies as one of the most profoundly undemocratic movements in American education history.

Seth Kahan concludes by speaking directly to Duncan:

This is hard to swallow for those who believe they can succeed by simply mapping out a project and then executing it. Real change is about growing a successful reception and including many players in the dreaming and the realization of new ways of thinking.

Arne Duncan is neither an educator or a listener... this is proving to be a cancerous combination.


  1. Wow. He sounds just like a politicain.

    Oh, wait.

    Keep hammering, Joe. Thanks for speaking out!

  2. Another great post Joe! I think this explains why in a recent speech in Arkansas, Duncan said: "Over the next week, in large and small communities across America we will be meeting with teachers, hearing their voices..."

    He hears the voices, he just doesn't listen. Perhaps his education failed him somewhere; we should all learn to listen, especially to those who have experience with and dedication to the issues at hand. Good listeners make the best leaders.

  3.'s evident that the 'talking points' are down pat. I will say this ~ they have created a revolution ~ in teachers who don't want to put up with the same old education policies that are just shined up for today. It is increasingly difficult to remain positive about remaining in this chosen profession when this is what is happening to our schools & students.

  4. So weird, innovation is the word he kept using, but there were distinct rules for applying for those grants that mandated the implementation of Teacher Incentive pay, more testing, standardization of everything... does not sound very open for innovation...

    Here's a recent article that shows my superintendent with the county's FCAE rep and Arne Duncan The funny thing is that I have spoken with many FCAE members who thought Tripp Jeffers was fighting for them AGAINST the new teacher evaluation tool and high-stakes testing in Forsyth County, but apparently he worked to help implement these disturbing practices...


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