You Know Nothing, Arne Duncan.

The following is an attempt to exhibit my personal self-regulation skills. If I was not self-regulating, this post would address each and every cockamamie statement in Arne Duncan’s remarks to the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting in San Francisco yesterday, April 30, 2012. Consider yourself lucky that I am biting my tongue.

Arne said,

“We know from Paul Tough’s outstanding recent book (Grit – and I assure you this gratuitous link is NOT an endorsement), a multitude of studies, and James Heckman’s analysis of the Perry Preschool Project, that the development of skills like grit, resilience, and self-regulation early in life are essential to success later in life.”

Whose definition of success?

My kids and their families know this grit “stuff” (feel free to substitute a more appropriate rhyming word here) intimately. They are resilient and more tough than Mr. Tough himself. Self-regulation is not typically their long suit, but maybe having lived with the pressure of regulation for generation after generation, their families just can’t take any more regulation, self or other-imposed.

Arne continued, “IES (I guess he means the Institute of Education Sciences) is currently funding a project involving 535 children, in 58 preschool classrooms in Tennessee, to develop a teacher rating scale and a direct assessment of children’s learning related to self-regulation skills. It’s a great start—but we still have a long way to go in assessing these so-called “soft skills” that are actually anything but soft.”

Are you saying, Arne, that you are going to rate me on how well my kindergarteners are able to self-regulate?

Are you going to put a popsicle on the table and tempt them to touch it and see who can control their hunger or curiosity?

Are you going to see who is able to sit still for a story and who isn’t?

Are you going to see how many math problems they can complete or how many sight words they can read in a given time and weed out those who can’t attend to the task? (Oh, wait, we already do that).

Are you going to tempt them with crayons and paints and recess and prizes and see who will perform for your dog and pony show?

Are you going to try to control my wildest, but most endearing little guy, because I’ve tried and failed at that one. And once I gave up trying to control him, we have had the best times and learned the most.

Are you going to be sure that before you assess my kids, they:

  1. are well fed
  2. are happy (one can only guess at the criteria by which you might judge happiness)
  3. had a good night’s sleep
  4. are not too cold or too hot
  5. are not mad at someone or something for some perceived something else
  6. are not scared
  7. Should I go on? This list could be ENDLESS…

Paraphrasing the gritty Ygritte from A Game of Thrones, “You know nothing about grit, resilience or self-regulation, Arne Duncan. Nothing.”

So don’t try to assess my kids on their ability to self-regulate.

And don’t try to rate me on my ability to get them to self-regulate.