Arne Duncan announced this week that he was leaving his post as Secretary of Education in December. How will we know? This decision was a change from his original intention to remain for the President’s full term. Back in the 50’s when I was a kid my dad had a Studebaker. The design of the car was such that people joked you couldn’t tell the front from the back. Sort or like Arne Duncan. Arne Duncan, to my mind, has always been a leader with one finger up to the wind to test which way the political winds were blowing.
He came into office as a strong advocated for standardized testing. Like many of the uninformed masquerading as leaders in education, he believed annual testing would raise standards. He must have also believed the Emperor was wearing a beautiful new coat because Duncan joined the fools’ chorus of people who assured us that by 2014 all students would be reading on grade level. When that didn’t happen Mr. Duncan started allowing states waivers so fast it was hard to keep track. So we were left with a leader who insisted annual testing was a good thing while at the same time providing waivers to any states who wanted them. Did I mention that old Studebaker my dad had?
A true leader knows where he/she is going. Throwing a dart at a board doesn’t decide. Nor does taking a poll. A leader’s goal comes after careful consideration why that goal is valid. A leader’s goal should still be relevant and “in style” for many years. The path to achieving the goal may vary according to circumstances, just as a detour in a road may change the route to our destination. Duncan has not provided that leadership. He has swayed with the wind. His replacement will be his deputy. Education is in need of serious leadership. Doesn’t look like that is happening anytime soon. Nature abhors a vacuum so we will continue to have people with neither training nor knowledge telling educators what needs to be done. We will get more of what we have had. I wish someone would know.