An Interview with Secretary Duncan-Rumsfeld

I haven’t done a very good job hiding my feelings about ol’ Arne and the Feds here on the Radical or in my Twitterstream. 

In my opinion, those guys are one serious let down.  A bunch of wonks with a serious chip on their shoulders and a pocketful of poor policies

My lack of confidence only grew when I learned about the story of Joyce Irvine, one-time principal of Wheeler Elementary school in Burlington, Vermont.

In a scramble to make ends meet by scooping up $3m federal dollars, Irvine’s district threw a principal that the Superintendent described as a “leader among her colleagues” into the unemployment lines.

How exactly does that make sense?  It’s moves like this—encouraged by the poor policies dreamed up by Arne and the Feds—that leave me scratching my head.

In fact, the more I think about it, Arne and his pile of crazy policies is starting to look a lot like Donald Rumsfeld, everyone’s favorite crackpot from the Bush administration!

In celebration of their similarities, I’d like to craft a fake interview about the Joyce Irvine situation between the Tempered Radical and Arne Duncan.

The hitch:  Duncan’s responses will all be Donald Rumsfeld quotes!  This should be fun. 

Here we go.

TR: So Mr. Duncan, Joyce Irvine was recently fired as the principal of Wheeler Elementary in Burlington, Vermont—a district trying to qualify for federal stimulus cash.  She was a great principal, but the district needed your money more than they needed Joyce.

Can you believe that?  What impact do you think these kinds of choices are going to have on the staffing of high needs schools across America?

ADR: “As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know."

TR: Does that mean you’re not convinced that there is a direct connection between federal rules encouraging districts to can principals in a mad scramble for all y’all’s cash and Joyce Irvine’s dismissal?

ADR: "There’s another way to phrase that and that is that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. It is basically saying the same thing in a different way. Simply because you do not have evidence that something does exist does not mean that you have evidence that it doesn’t exist.”

TR: Well stated, Mr. Secretary.  Let’s change gears a bit—are you convinced that an expanded federal role in education…a right clearly left to the states in the US Constitution…is a good thing?

ADR: "Well, um, you know, something’s neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so, I suppose, as Shakespeare said."

TR: That Shakespeare was a brilliant guy, wasn’t he.  But let’s get to the point: What costs will these new federal policies carry?  Will states be able to count on federal dollars for the long term…and if so, how much can we expect to see pouring out of Washington?

ADR: "I am not going to give you a number for it because it’s not my business to do intelligent work."

TR: And aren’t there going to be unintended consequences of making states dependent on the Department of Education and ongoing federal support for education dollars?  How are these plans going to impact the future of education in America?

ADR: "I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started."

TR: Isn’t it possible that federal funding of education could become a quagmire?  I mean, is it really possible for the federal government to provide the ongoing resources and situational knowledge necessary to drive change in all of America’s struggling schools?

ADR: "I don’t do quagmires."

TR: That’s good to hear and we REALLY want to believe you, but could you at least give us a prediction about how much a federal bailout of struggling schools might cost taxpayers in the long run?

ADR: "I don’t do numbers."

TR: Well maybe you can describe with a bit more detail—something beyond ‘fire the principal and the school will be saved’—how you think struggling schools are best reformed.  Then we can make a fair estimate of whether we think your plans are going to succeed.

ADR: "I’m not into this detail stuff. I’m more concepty."

TR: Based on your choices in the past few years, I would have never guessed, Secretary Duncan-Rumsfeld. I’m glad that you cleared that up for us.  Thank you for your time, though.  My readers are sure to learn a lot from this interview.

ADR: "Oh, Lord. I didn’t mean to say anything quotable."

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