Peter Greene watched a video of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testifying before a Senate committee about the budget. Watch what happens when a Senator asked Duncan about programs in the Department that address the problems of dyslexia.
Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) asks a simple question: What specific programs do we have in place for helping students with dyslexia?
And it just goes south from there.
The answer, pretty clearly, is “none.” But Duncan is bound determined not to go there, so he tries, “Well, students with dyslexia have special needs, and we have a special needs fund, so they fall under that–“
Cassidy bores in, citing studies and facts and figures to elaborate on his point which is that students with dyslexia make up 80% of the students with special needs and as much as 20% of the general student population, so wouldn’t it make sense to have programs directed at that particular issue?
Let the flailing begin. I would put together my usual summary-deconstruction of a Duncan word salad, but this is the mouth noise equivalent of a large-mouthed bass thrown up on the creek bank and trying to flop his way back to some water.
Cassidy tries again. Does Duncan have any sense of the quality of dyslexia programs out there? The answer, again, is “no,” but Arne can’t form that word, so instead he starts making up some sentences that boil down to, “I suppose there are some good ones and some bad ones and some in between ones” which is not exactly an insight that required the United States Secretary of Education to deliver it.
Here’s Arne’s problem– he absolutely has an idea about what the approach to dyslexia should be. He’s been very clear about it in the past. Let’s go back to his conference call about new USED special needs policies
“We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel.”
Or the explanation from Kevin Huffman in that same call. These words didn’t come out of Duncan’s mouth, but he didn’t say, “Well, that’s not quite what we mean” either.
Huffman challenged the prevailing view that most special education students lag behind because of their disabilities. He said most lag behind because they’re not expected to succeed if they’re given more demanding schoolwork and because they’re seldom tested.
So, Senator Cassidy, that’s the USED plan– we will expect those students with dyslexia to do better, and then if they don’t we’ll get rid of their teachers and replace them with teachers who are better at expecting things. That’s it. That’s the plan.
But Duncan was smart enough not to say that out loud to a man who 1) has clearly done his homework about dyslexia 2) cares about dyslexia and 3) is a US senator.