Saturday, December 29, 2018

Arne Duncan--Yet Another Disaster for Puerto Rico

I'm friends with several people born in Puerto Rico, and the stories they tell will break your heart. Despite Donald Trump gamely tossing paper towels at people, the island has still not fully recovered from Hurricane Maria. Even before the hurricane, Puerto Rico was afflicted with vulture capitalists intent on draining its last drop of blood, enriching themselves while leaving the island barren of a middle class.

Then I see on Twitter that Arne Duncan is visiting. This could not bode well for the people of Puerto Rico, I thought.

It's true. Arne Duncan, the very person who said, in front of God and everybody that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to NOLA education, is working his magic in Puerto Rico. I don't think New Orleans, having experienced it,  is much amused. First of all, aside from the deaths, the injuries, and the massive loss of population, the schools do not seem to have improved. The only benefit has been for Arne's BFFs in the charter industry, people who see fit to monetize our children.

Puerto Rico, in fact, is facing the very same pressures New Orleans was. Charter schools were illegal in Puerto Rico until the hurricane presented an opportunity to privatize. Arne hasn't specifically tweeted on that, as far as I know, but he's still pushing his book, as well as the outlandish notion that he knows something about education. People are speaking out.

Peter Greene has a great piece in Forbes about how Arne keeps peddling his nonsense. Duncan is completely out of touch with what those of us who serve America's children see each and every day.

Duncan is also fond of the notion that class size doesn't matter as much as teacher quality, as if teacher quality isn't affected by class size. A paragraph later Duncan reasserts the importance of the "building meaningful relationships" with students, but he has never seemed to consider how much harder that is to do in a classroom full of thirty or forty or fifty students.

If you're a teacher, you're likely judged and rated by one form or another of junk science. Despite the fact that there's no scientific evidence to establish student test scores as a criteria for how well teachers do their jobs, his "Race to the Top" pushed not only that nonsense, but also non-unionized charter schools all over the country.  Now Puerto Rico, in addition to its other very real woes, has to contend with this nonsense as well.

Arne Duncan can tour the country blabbering about his book, but the fact is that the charter school movement is inherently an anti-union movement, and therefore of very dubious benefit to working people. This includes not only adults, but also our children. They will need to grow up to a world with fewer union jobs and fewer pathways to middle class.

If you're in Puerto Rico, and some tall white guy approaches you, even if he offers to play basketball, be very wary. Ask him if he's Arne Duncan. If he is, run, walk, drive or swim away as fast as you can. Though he may smile, though appear otherwise, he's no friend of yours. Also, if you should inadvertenly touch him, be sure to wash your whole body with Brillo pad. You don't know where he's been.
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