A superintendent, here using a pseudonym for obvious reasons, is fed up with Arne Duncan.

Duncan, he says, is always blaming someone else, never looking in the mirror.

According to Duncan, our kids are dumb. Their parents spoil them.  The kids don’t work hard enough.

Furthermore, our culture stinks: No one takes education seriously, except Duncan, of course.

Everyone else is lying to the children. He is the only one who tells the truth about how stupid our children really are.

We are failing, he loves to remind us, and it is not his fault. It is always someone’s else’s.

The author writes:

President Truman famously kept a sign in the oval office that read, “The buck stops here.” Leadership leads, in large part, by owning the outcomes of its actions both good and bad, and by directly accepting the blame for failures of its oversight. 

That’s what leaders do. It isn’t what politicians do. Politicians instead find someone else to blame. Leaders are chiefly concerned about successfully accomplishing the tasks entrusted to them; politicians are chiefly concerned with selling themselves to the public and maintaining their position. Leaders get things done; politicians market their own image, preened to perfection by dancing around challenges that a leader would confront head-on.

Our current US secretary of education, sadly, has shown little capacity to accept blame or take criticism for much of anything, but is a master of deflection. With Arne Duncan, time and again, the buck stops not here, but over there.

When it comes to education in the United States, the problem is, according to Mr. Duncan, “white suburban moms” who think their kids are smarter than they truly are. These silly women just don’t know enough to be as concerned as they ought to be about their kids’ brainpower. The problem, too, is career educators who have spent their careers lying to children and the public by not letting everyone know how dumb kids really are, in a callous and calculated effort to conceal the truth about themselves (i.e., that they, the public schoolteachers of America, are massive failures top to bottom).

The problems in American education can never, ever be traced back to federal policies or any activities in the purview of the Department of Education, if you listen to the man at the top of hat department. Duncan’s hands are clean, as clean as Pontius Pilate’s.

And what exactly is in the purview of Arne Duncan? How about ensuring equality of educational opportunity for children across our vast nation?

Are schools in the United States equitably funded, so as to provide comparable resources and instructional staff of similar wage and quality to all of our children? Nope–schools in the poorest neighborhoods across America are funded at levels far lower than schools in wealthy neighborhoods, and this occurs as a matter of policy, not by chance, providing wealthy schools (the ones that outperform most of the world on tests like PISA, though you rarely hear the administration mention that, as it doesn’t comport with the “all schools are failing” routine) with newer technology, far more well-stocked libraries, much more highly-paid teachers, more comfortable and confidence-inspiring learning environments, and any number of other advantages over their peers in the poorest areas. Yet Mr. Duncan never talks about the serial short-changing of education in poor rural and urban areas, perhaps because he can’t pin that one on parents and teachers.

Arne will always find someone else to blame.

I have known almost every Secretary of Education that has served since the Department was created in 1980-81.

I have never known any who had such a low opinion of our students, our parents, our teachers, and our public schools.

Why does he find it satisfying to knock everyone?

Why not take responsibility for fixing things, instead of demoralizing everyone?

We know he was a basketball player. If he were the coach of a team, would he constantly run down everyone on the team?

What kind of a leader does that?

Here is an idea for Arne, to show how serious he is about education.

Take the high school graduation test in any state. Take a test made up of NAEP 8th grade math questions.

Release your scores.

Please. Show us what smart looks like.