Obama Education Agenda and the Tone-Deaf Follies

Early and often, the Obama administration’s education agenda, headed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, has driven the public narrative about public schools, teachers, and students with a relentless claim that everything wrong with education rests in a single problem: Expectations are too low.

Impoverished children have low achievement in the U.S. Why? Low expectations!

African American and Latino/a students have low achievement in the U.S. Why? Low expectations!

Special needs students have low achievement in the U.S. Why? Low expectations!

And to put all of these demonstrably untrue and essentially nasty claims into context, we have this:

The U.S. Department of Education early Wednesday morning apologized for a tweet that some people found offensive because it appeared to mock low-income students.

On Tuesday evening, the Twitter account for the department’s Office of Federal Student Aid sent out a message that said: “If this is you, then you better fill out your FAFSA.”

It included a photo of a woman frowning with the caption, “Help me. I’m poor.”

The photo depicts a scene from the movie “Bridesmaids” [1] in which Kristen Wiig’s character is intoxicated and protesting a flight attendant’s decision to kick her out of the first-class cabin.

The common thread among all of these is that the USDOE under the Obama administration is inexcusably incompetent and embarrassingly tone-deaf.

The only place, in fact, that I see where low expectations are the main sources of failure is the USDOE itself, specifically with the appointment of Duncan.

The demonizing of public education and teachers is a distraction—an unfair and ugly one at that—and complicit in that ugliness is the mainstream media.

Smirking, privileged arrogance is not the sort of quality we need leading the education agenda in the U.S., but that is what we have—and that is the reason sophomoric tweets are posted by smirking, privileged, and arrogant appointees who cannot fathom being born into poverty or into a minority race, cannot fathom being a special needs students, and certainly cannot fathom the weight of recognizing you cannot afford a college degree or the crushing weight of student loan debt.

The tone-deaf tweet itself is just inexcusable, but it isn’t an isolated case of “insensitivity” or momentary lapse of reason. That tone-deaf tweet is a direct representation of the condescending attitude of our USDOE, a collection of appointees under Obama that lacks the experience, the expertise, and the basic human dignity to lead the needed reforms facing U.S. public schools.

Once the brief flurry of outrage over the tweet passes, we must admit that the Obama education agenda will remain as one the greatest failures of the hope and change that Obama promised.

[1] And while the USDOE seems to have thought, momentarily, that Bridesmaids was an appropriate cultural reference for their tone-deaf world view, I think it is more likely that the USDOE has mistaken Animal House for a documentary (and understandably so since it is more credible than Waiting for “Superman.”)

2 comments

  1. Pingback: Obama Education Agenda and the Tone-Deaf Follies – @ THE CHALK FACE
  2. Bridget

    George Carlin ROCKS! Thanks Paul, for putting into words and finding a way to tell truth to power. This is what is missing in our main stream media.

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