Weingarten for US Education Secretary?

Sep 30, 2020 by

In the event of a Democratic victory in the presidential election, who will replace the abominable Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos?

If it’s a wise choice, that person will be the starkest improvement of a successor over a predecessor in government service since Abraham Lincoln took over from President James Buchanan. 

For that to be possible, it is necessary that the individual be a former professional classroom educator and not a mere political appointee with strings.

Once a Marine always a Marine?  No less true of classroom teachers.
Joe Biden has pledged to appoint a teacher to this cabinet position. That makes sense.  It  should have been a no-brainer since the Department of Education’s founding in 1977.  Just as much so as  having a physician as Surgeon General rather than a sous chef.

That doesn’t mean that the educator needs no experience outside the classroom.  Education, like medicine and almost every other area of knowledge that is complex and around which an industry and lobby have evolved demands insight and political fighting skills to give high-minded principles at least half a chance of becoming practical policy. 

Dreams only become reality when they’re steered with eyes open.  Mastery of teaching methods philosophies, curriculum, platforms and educational psychology and history are not enough.

The Education Secretary must “know the ropes” of legislation and have a track record of productive relationships even with adversaries. 

Sometimes this is achieved by the conquest of moral persuasion or else by negotiated conciliation in which core values have been securely protected and advanced. The best advocates have a working relationship with ideas without their integrity yielding an inch to the pressures arrayed by opponents.

Still, they must know when there are irreconcilable differences and it is impossible and unworthy to even try to win them over.  Enemies of public schools, for instance, can be greeted when encountered in the halls of power, but never saluted.

To be nominated as Secretary of Education, a person must have credibility that has already been earned and is universally recognized, rather than artificially and shabbily imposed by the bully-pulpit of authority and title alone.  The requires evident solid respect from classroom professionals before any Senate confirmation hearing should even be contemplated.
A few names have been floated.  It is natural and right that they include veteran labor leaders.

Betsy DeVos is a tragedy.  Her predecessor, who was a disaster, succeeded a catastrophe. This pattern absolutely needs to be interrupted!
That person must break the mold and blaze a new trail.  ( Sometimes the vice of mixed metaphors can be excused because it is outweighed by the virtue of giving proper emphasis).

One name that is persistently mentioned and supported by a wide variety of people concerned with the fate of our national direction in education is Randi Weingarten.  

She is of course the former president of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers and current leader of the national American Federation of Teachers.  She is abundantly vetted and knows first hand what it means to be a teacher.  She’s been around the block and knows the neighborhood at least as well as anybody else.

Trust in her is not limited to education practitioners.
Her background is an open book and a very satisfying and readable one. I don’t speak on behalf of anyone else but myself, but I’m sure many feel the same way.   Worth considering.

As Americans who realize the imperative of a turnaround in our focus and direction, we deserve someone of acknowledged stature.

Ron Isaac

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