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Whither Education?

Dec 08, 2008
New York Times columnist David Brooks is consistently wrong about life in general, but he is often quite perspicacious when it comes to some of the specifics.

His December 5, 2008, column Who Will He Choose?, concerns Obama’s still-to-be-announced pick for Secretary of Education, a selection we consider more important than the ones he has made so far.

Two camps vie for Obama’s allegiance, according to Brooks. In one camp are the radical reformers, epitomized by Michelle Rhee (whom we wrote about in The War on Tenure), and in the other are those representing the establishment view with the “superficial reforms” characteristic of that camp.

Brooks’s insight comes when he notes Obama has skillfully straddled both camps, practicing what he memorably calls “dog-whistle politics” which sends out reassuring signals that only one side or the other can detect. This, of course, was characteristic of Obama’s entire campaign: He managed to make many of us who were not on the same sides of issues believe we detected signals in his language assuring us he was supporting our priorities.

Progressives have now had a cold shower of reality administered to them through Obama’s choices to date. The posts of Education and Labor are yet to come. They are, in our view, the most important, affecting as they do all Americans in areas—income and education—as much in need of radical reform as any in our system.

Brooks’s money seems to be on Arne Duncan,1 a Chicago reformer, for Education, a selection which he says “will be picking a fight with the status quo.” However, if there are any fans of the status quo still about in the land, they are staying silent in the closet. Even the Establishment knows we are in trouble, and it will take a full spectrum of reforms, as well as, perhaps, a partial systemic collapse, to pull us out of the doldrums into which our education system has been mired for the past two generations.
1 Arne Duncan, from Wikipedia, accessed December 6, 2008
tags: Education | Obama

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