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Arne Duncan Obama’s Choice for Secretary of Education

On Tuesday Barack Obama ended months of speculation by announcing Arne Duncan as his nominee for Secretary of Education. Duncan, 44, will bring seven years of experience as the chief executive of the Chicago Public School system, the third-largest school district in the nation.

Solid Reputation in Education
Experts agree that Duncan brings with him a solid reputation as a leader willing to confront the major issues facing public education. Duncan has a record of addressing teacher quality and inferior schools, having closed several deemed as poor performers within the city.

As the CEO of the Chicago system, Duncan created a panel that crafted curriculum-based assessments to guide teaching. He also increased spending on anti-violence prevention measures and implemented the basics of a program that allowed teachers to evaluate one another.

He has also spoken strongly in favor of the accountability aspects of the No Child Left Behind Act. He is on record as stating that lawmakers should “maintain the law’s high expectations and accountability” but the law should be dramatically reshaped so as “to give schools, districts, and states the maximum amount of flexibility possible.”

Some Criticisms Emerge
Mr. WrightBecause Duncan is a personal friend of the president-elect, some conservative pundits immediately asserted the appointment speaks of cronyism. Duncan first met Obama in the 1990s, making the acquaintance through wife Michelle. Duncan is also a fellow Harvard grad and routinely plays pickup basketball with Obama.

Other conservative bloggers have expressed disappointment that Duncan is neither a union buster nor a full-fledged accountability hawk. In simplest terms, the choice of Duncan was a choice against the likes of Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, two more hard-nosed big city educational leaders.

A more legitimate concern centers upon Duncan’s lack of national political experience and his background centering solely upon K-12 education. Revamping America’s school systems will take ample political skill. In addition, with many folks calling for sweeping changes in post-secondary education, Duncan will bring little to no experience to the higher-education arena.

A Solid Choice

Duncan clearly has considerable expertise in the issues facing K-12 education. He is also from a family of educators – his late father was a psychology professor at the University of Chicago while his mother founded and has run a well-respected Chicago tutorial program for more than 40 years.

He has demonstrated a strong willingness to focus on accountability even if he falls short on the conservative stump-meter on this issue. Chicago is one of the very few school districts to employ the concept of school reconstitution – the closing of under-performing schools and the subsequent termination of school staff at the school.

Accordingly, the strategy has demonstrated the importance of leadership and teacher quality; those once-shuttered, low-performing schools have since doubled and tripled test scores.

Perhaps more importantly, as achievement has increased, the city dropout rate has decreased every year Duncan has been in charge of the district. During the announcement, Obama also noted that “the gains of Chicago students have been twice as big as those for students in the rest of the state.”

Typical of Obama
The choice of Duncan certainly appeases the advocates seeking accountability. However, the nomination will also please the teacher unions as Duncan has been seen as someone who is willing to work within current structures to improve schools.

jmtimagesRandi Weingarten, head of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers, reportedly offered this assessment during the lengthy debate leading up to the choice: “Arne Duncan actually reaches out and tries to do things in a collaborative way.”

Duncan’s focus on a middle ground and his willingness to collaborate with various constituencies had the Democrats for Education Reform pushing hard for his appointment. The DFER offered the following assessment of Duncan.

“In his seven years at the head of the nation’s third largest school district, Chicago Public Schools has demonstrated sustained improvements in student achievement, graduation rates, and college-going rates. Duncan has credibility with various factions in the education policy debate and would allow President Obama to avoid publicly choosing sides in that debate in his most high-profile education nomination.”

Ultimately, in making his choice, Obama again sought the exact opposite approach of his office predecessor. The “my way or the highway” tone President Bush set with his nominees included the selection of the confrontational Rod Paige to the education secretary position during the president’s first term in office.

Flickr photos courtesy of Mr. Wright and jmtimages.


1 Koichi { 12.20.08 at 10:28 pm }

Thank you for writing such a thorough story – I just tweeted it! I’ve been waiting to see who he chose for education, and looking forward to seeing what happens with this.

2 Mark Brandon Howie { 10.06.09 at 12:09 am }

Dear Arne Duncan,

The decision to appoint the current Assistant Deputy Secretary in the Department of Education (Kevin Jennings), can have and may have already had very disastrous results for children as well as adults; this is because of what I understand he has already done and or stood for, as well as possibly plans to do.

From what I understand from information that I have received through The Family Research Council and other sources including television, Mr. Jennings is strongly pro- homosexual and unless something has changed and or is changing he will probably promote this lifestyle to children because he already has in the past. He has also reportedly said he plans to do so.

While children as well as adults should be taught to respect as well as help others including those different than they are, according to what I have read, some of Kevin’s ideas that he may try to continue pushing and or implement, would not share enough truth with kids, but would do more to promote a dangerous lifestyle.

I read a letter that I received from Tony Perkins of FRC or a staff member of the Family Research Council, and in this letter Kevin Jennings is quoted as saying ” I can envision a day when straight people say, ‘So what if you’re promoting homosexuality?… Ooh that’s good for kids.’ ”

A member of the American Family Association also sent an e-mail concerning Kevin Jennings in which part of it said that he wants homosexual indoctrination of students at all levels. There was also information concerning the fact that Kevin had written the forward to a book entitled Queering Elementary Education.

Jennings is reportedly the founder of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which according to the e-mail pushes so-called “anti-bullying” policies which even GLSEN admits are really about promoting “ affirmation” of homosexual behavior in the school system.

While I personally do agree that bullying needs to stop no matter who a person is or what kind of lifestyle they lead, GLSEN has apparently admitted what their true agenda is.

It is possible that protection for all people could be taught without so much restriction on free speech and or Chritianity.

The letter that Tony Perkins or an FRC staff member sent, went on to explain some of the things that Kevin Jennings said was good for kids and some of the information is included in the following examples:

• Recruiting kindergartners as homosexual activists. Kevin Jennings reportedly invented a program to have kindergartners sign “I Am an Ally” pledge cards and promise to intervene whenever they hear quote, “anti-LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) language.”

• Isolating and intimidating pro-family and Christian students. Jennings reportedly created the annual “Day of Silence campaign” to celebrate and promote homosexuality nationwide.

• Not reporting molestation. In a speech Jennings talked about one incident in which a young 15 year old boy who Jennings was teaching, told him about a sexual encounter that he had had with a man that he went home with after meeting him at a bus station; Kevin Jennings just reportedly told the boy quote ” You know, I hope you knew to use a condom.” Kevin reportedly did not even report the incident to the police.

• Providing pornographic pro-homosexual sex education. Kevin Jennings’ organization which was probably the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), reportedly put on a workshop for kids and teachers that explained in graphic detail how to engage in homosexual behavior.

• Encouraging preteens to embrace immorality. The organization GLSEN, (which Kevin Jennings may still be a part of), reportedly distributed and may still distribute, copies of The Little Black Book: V2 Queer in the 21st Century. This book was reportedly meant for children younger than high school age.

With the exception of maybe the anti-Christ and the devil, God loves all people which includes the homosexual. Because of Gods love he can through his mercy and grace as well as a persons faith in him, save a gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual person if that person or persons asks him with a genuine repentant heart.

In Leviticus chapter 18 verse 22, the King James Version of the Holy Bible says the following about homosexuality:

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

While young school children should be taught to try and love everybody, (other than maybe the anti-Christ and the Devil), they should also be taught the disastrous effects of a sinful, immoral lifestyle.

Children as well as adults should also be taught to pray for the President, other governmental people and others.

Children as well as adults should be taught to try and help people out in various ways and to try to justly stand up for the weak. Children as well as adults should also be taught or encouraged not to bully or ridicule people because certain people are different than they are, but they should also be taught the truth about lifestyles that can be very dangerous to them. Children as well as adults should also be taught how to express and be free to express the truth about homosexuality in a loving way. Children and adults should also try (when led to do so),to help a person in a homosexual or other ungodly lifestyle get out of that lifestyle.

It is always right to act in a Christ like way when talking with people in any kind of lifestyle.

According to some information that he said he got on the website based on statistics from the United States as well as Denmark, Andrew Wommack, which is a minister and on several Christian as well as maybe some secular networks, explained several negative effects of a perverted and or homosexual lifestyle. The following is a list of some of what he shared:

According to some of what Andrew had to say, it was reported that homosexuals consider themselves to be committed (I guess to the same partner) while having 3 to 5 sexual partners a year.

Homosexuals are 50% more likely to suffer from depression and engage in substance abuse.

The suicide rate for homosexuals is 200% more than people who are not homosexual.

Homosexuality takes 20 years on average off of your life and possibly more if the cause of death is aids.

The spousal abuse is 300 times as much for homosexual men than maybe those that are not homosexual .

The spousal abuse according to the information that Andrew Wommack received, is also much higher in same sex relationships among women.

8o% of aids is caused from a perverted lifestyle and or homosexual lifestyle.

All of the information in this e-mail may not be exactly correct but it may be pretty close.

In part of my own words, a perverted lifestyle is or can be damaging to your health, damaging to your psychology and damaging to your overall well being.

If Kevin Jennings has not changed, and is going to push an ungodly, immoral, dangerous lifestyle on school children, as he has demonstrated in the past, please do what you can within your power to replace him with somebody else.

School children as well as adults should be taught the importance of Christianity which can lead to morality, character, integrity, love and respect. Children and adults should also be taught the truth about things that are dangerous and or ungodly.


Mark Brandon Howie
6 Fuller Lane
Asheville N.C. 28805-9721

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