Arne Duncan Loses Temper, Deviates from Backroom Strategy

Arne Duncan has made a strategic mistake

Shane and many others have noted that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was attempting to bully South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley in his most recent statement:

“The idea that the Common Core standards are nationally-imposed is a conspiracy theory in search of a conspiracy. The Common Core academic standards were both developed and adopted by the states, and they have widespread bipartisan support. GOP leaders like Jeb Bush and governors Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, and Bill Haslam have supported the Common Core standards because they realize states must stop dummying down academic standards and lying about the performance of children and schools. In fact, South Carolina lowered the bar for proficiency in English and mathematics faster than any state in the country from 2005 to 2009, according to research by the National Center for Education Statistics.

“That’s not good for children, parents, or teachers. I hope South Carolina lawmakers will heed the voices of teachers who supported South Carolina’s decision to stop lowering academic standards and set a higher bar for success. And I hope lawmakers will continue to support the state’s decision to raise standards, with the goal of making every child college- and career-ready in today’s knowledge economy.”

He essentially disses Governor Nikki Haley, Senator Mike Fair, and the entire South Carolina education establishment from daring to question the Common Core.

This is a strategic mistake.

Thus far, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has operated in backrooms, making grants, holding events, utilizing trade associations, and generally avoiding political debate.

It is unlikely that national standards, national assessments, the necessity of conforming curricula to national assessments mandating a pseudo-national curriculum, data collection, and data distribution would be popular with the electorate-at-large.  Most Americans believe public schools should be accountable to parents and local communities rather than Washington bureaucrats, special interests, and non-democratic trade associations.  That is why the entire Race to the Top process proceeded without the requirement for a single democratic vote of Congress, state legislatures, or local school boards.

Even the supposed Republican supporters of the Common Core such as Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, and Bill Haslam have never been briefed on the full-fledged agenda by any members of the Truth in American Education coalition.

The last thing Secretary Duncan should desire is to create a polarized political fight that would draw national scrutiny.  But that is exactly what an open confrontation with Governor Haley is likely to do.

Mr. Duncan has deviated from strategy, inviting a political fight with Governor Haley.

Someone should have informed Mr. Duncan that he should hold his temper since his elitist agenda was more suited to the backroom than to the democratic public square.

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