Thursday, April 01, 2010
Obama’s About-Face on Education
In a surprise move today, President Obama fired all 5,000 Department of Education staff members, including Secretary Arne Duncan. “Education is a failed Cabinet office,” he said. “We needed a clean sweep."
Spokespersons for the administration said the president was forced to act by a little-known federal law mandating the radical progressive de-funding of any office or department that fails to meet performance goals, whether or not they had sufficient funding to begin with.
“With less and less funding every year,” sources observed, “it was just a matter of time” before a more draconian provision was triggered, requiring every staffer in the office to be fired, regardless of personal performance.
President Obama acknowledged the injustice of the law, observing that the law’s provision permitting him to rehire only half of the mass-terminated staffers was “five times more severe” than the “most notorious example of arbitrary punishment, the Roman practice of decimation,” under which one of every ten soldiers in a “failing” unit was punished.
He also noted that it was probably unconstitutional to make a law firing individuals who had performed well but that the configuration of the Supreme Court meant that “only a fool would let those jokers have a crack at” any issue one cared about.
“We’ll have to hire a bunch of kids from Administrators for America,” the President complained. “They don’t know squat about administering, and just want something to boost their law-school application. Plus they bolster the ridiculous idea that just anyone can administer without training or support."
School-reform observers were pleased, however, that the law allowed Obama a graceful exit from his ill-conceived association with Duncan, the product of a highly ideological partnership between Harvard’s business and education schools.
Duncan term is over
As the self-styled chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools, Duncan turned curriculum and management over to corporate interests, turned schools into military recruitment centers, and set easier standards to inflate claims of “learning outcomes improvement” under his draconian reign. Most observers agreed that he was an eager mouthpiece for corporate interests in the city.
Nearly all nonpartisan evidence-based analysis suggests that Duncan’s ideological eagerness to “close failing schools” and shuttle students into charter or for-profit institutions yielded no actual academic benefit--changes of up or down about 1% that were statistically indistinguishable from no change at all.
Nonetheless Duncan unapologetically continued to promote this failed policy at the national level, with Obama’s full support.
“I knew all that,” admitted Mr. Obama, “but I wanted Arne on the team."
Spokespeople later confirmed that by “team” the President meant the White House basketball squad. They later released a statement apologizing for the President’s desire to spice up his daily two hours of exercise with “the kind of hoops you can only get with a six-foot-five-inch player with a good corner shot on the court” over the needs of millions of students.
Confronted by the twitter feeds of several departing senior staffers who compared the president’s turning education policy over to a ballplayer-slash-corporate-stooge to Caligula galloping his horse on the Senate floor, the President’s spokesperson said, “They got all that on 144 characters?"
There’s no word yet on who the President might tap to replace Duncan, but one source highly placed in the administration was eager to comment on the irony of the administration’s support for draconian punishment of faculty in public schools, like the recent mass firings in Rhode Island.
“The President wants you to know,” said the source, “that he was just funning with you on that, sort of an April-fool’s joke. He just didn’t think anyone would believe he was enough of a jerk to actually support the firing of teachers who were demonstrably excellent at their jobs but believed in working with students who struggled.
“That policy doesn’t even make sense--it tells every good teacher in a school with struggling students that they should promptly quit and get hired on at a school where the students are already doing well.
“It would be likely telling the best teachers in rural and urban schools to cut and run for the suburbs.
“Believe me,” the source concluded,"The Prez was just April-funning you on that Rhode Island deal. Now that Duncan is gone, we hope that’s crystal clear. By next year we’ll have a real education plan, don’t worry."