Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Teacher on Teaching: Heroes Who Never Fight: U. S. Secretaries of Education (Betsy DeVos Edition)

A Teacher on Teaching: Heroes Who Never Fight: U. S. Secretaries of Education (Betsy DeVos Edition):

Heroes Who Never Fight: U. S. Secretaries of Education (Betsy DeVos Edition)



Back in 2011, when I first started on this blog, I complained about school reformers who talked and talked about leading a battle to fix the nation’s schools but didn’t ever seem to do the actual fighting.

Now, with Betsy DeVos the latest choice to lead the U. S. Department of Education I can almost recycle the whole article. 

(I have also blogged about bicycling across the United States to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.)
 It's a beautiful country. Get out there and see it.
(Grand Teton National Park.)


Anyway, here’s what I said five years ago. Almost every syllable still applies:

I TAUGHT FOR 33 YEARS, SO I INTEND TO USE MY BLOG to defend good public school teachers whenever possible. 

Still, you’d have to be blind, deaf and dumb not to know there are bad teachers. We used to joke of a colleague at my school that you could replace him with a cardboard cutout and students wouldn’t notice a difference. 

So, yeah, we need to do more to weed the dandelions in the classroom. 

When I started researching for a book about education, however, I was stunned to find how little time our nation’s “leading” reformers have devoted to the classroom. On November 30, 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed Shirley Hufstedler first United States Secretary of Education. It was start of a bizarre trend.  

Hufstedler was charged with saving U. S. education. But in 1979, starting my fifth year in a classroom, I had more teaching experience than the Secretary of Education. In fact, I had her beat by four years, two months. Hufstedler never taught a minute. She probably knew as much about teaching as I did about driving a car at the Indianapolis Speedway or playing concert piano with the London Symphony. 

Mr. Carter plucked her from the federal bench. 

Terrel Bell, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, came next. Bell was actually tasked with dismantling the Department of Education, an idea most teachers might now support. Bell, at least, had tried his hand at teaching and had been a principal and superintendent in the Idaho public schools. 

William Bennett, Reagan’s second appointee and third to hold the position of Education Czar was another teaching virgin. Big Bill didn’t come out of any classroom. He came striding out of a think tank and immediately started lecturing teachers about their failings. Later he wrote a thick book about “virtue” for adults.

Then he wrote a thinner volume: The Children’s Book of Virtues.  

Later still, he admitted a serious gambling addiction and blowing eight million dollars in Las Vegas. 

Lauro Cavazos Jr. was fourth in line, coming to the Department of Education straight from the university level, having never spent a day in his life working with K-12 level students. He didn’t last long either. Cavazos was forced to resign after an investigation into misuse of frequent flier miles. 

Lamar Alexander was fifth. His first taste of Washington, D. C. life had not come working in a public A Teacher on Teaching: Heroes Who Never Fight: U. S. Secretaries of Education (Betsy DeVos Edition):

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