“Beware the Frumious Status Quo!”
“Beware the Frumious Status Quo”
Both Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Obama are on the defensive this week about their education plans after a group of civil rights organizations challenged the basic elements of the administration’s Race to the Top and Blueprint for Reform plans, adding a powerful voice to the increasingly loud complaints coming from other sectors across the nation about the direction Duncan and Obama are trying to take public education. Obama and Duncan have called their efforts the civil rights issue of the 21st century.
But they don’t want to sound defensive, so they are trying to sound as though they are on the offensive against a fearsome foe – they call it the Status-Quo.
From Obama’s speech today at the National Urban League:
“This status quo is morally inexcusable …I know there’s also been some controversy about Race to the Top. Part of it, I believe, reflects a general resistance to change. We get comfortable with the status quo even when the status quo isn’t good. We make excuses for why things have to be the way they are. And when you try to shake things up, some people aren’t happy.”
From Duncan’s speech to the same group Tuesday:
“We have to challenge the status quo—because the status quo in public education is not nearly good enough—not with a quarter of all students and, almost half, 50% of African-American and Latino young men and women dropping out of high school.”
What’s YOUR Status-Quo?
If we are all going to roll up our sleeves and fight this foe, I’m going to need to know more about it. What is this Status-Quo?
I have some ideas.
Maybe the Status-Quo is retaining students for 15 years, spending over $1 billion on it, learning that it doesn’t work, hurts students, and accelerates the drop out rate, but refusing to quit doing it. That’s what Arne Duncan did here in Chicago. I’d fight that Status-Quo, and will fight expanding testing barriers such as graduation tests.
Or maybe the Status-Quo is 20 years of high-stakes testing (including 7 years under Arne Duncan) marked by press conferences touting annual “progress” in tests results now called “lies” by Fed Ed Head Duncan, while more reliable national results show that Chicago has stagnated near the bottom of large urban school districts. I’d fight that Status-Quo, and will fight more standardized testing and more stakes attached to tests.
How about the refusal to acknowledge the facts about charter schools, dodging them with this cutesy phrase: “We don’t like charter schools…we like GOOD charter schools!” I’d fight that status-quo, if only to keep from having to hear that lame sentence again.
Maybe the Status-Quo looks like the years of failure and stagnant drift during Duncan’s tenure as CEO of CPS, which added thousands of push-outs to an already horrifying drop out rate. But how do we fight that, when Duncan is now trying to make the entire nation follow his lead?
I’m really thinking that the Status-Quo is actually a mythical beast, a Jabberwocky designed to create a generalized sense of fear so that the public will accept the disorder, breakdown, bungling, botched fouled-up mess of a public education system that has already resulted from corporate “reform” and which is only going to get worse if President Obama continues to turn a deaf ear to the people who have the most at stakes in the schools, and Arne “Oz” Duncan continues to pull switches behind the curtain, pretending to fix things but in reality just making noise and blowing smoke.
The real fight isn’t the status quo versus “reform” or the mean, bad people who have bad posture and hate change versus the brave, thoughtful, wealthy reformers.
The real fight is going to be Truth versus Lies. And you can count me in on that fight.