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.

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5 Comments on “You Know Nothing, Arne Duncan.”

  1. im4kids says:

    Assessing their self-regulation skills. Great, one more thing to assess. Did anyone ever notice the little word within the word assess? That is for you, Arne Duncan.

    (Sorry for my outburst. Guess I need to work on my self-regulation skills.)

  2. How long until SOMEONE stands up for our kids and just refuses to do what we know is cockamamie BS? How long are we going to allow people who don’t understand children or child development quantify and assess us and our kids by inappropriate means? At some point, parents, teachers, administrators, students must stand together and say ENOUGH!

  3. Karen says:

    The “list” you make at the end reminds me of Maslow’s Hierarchy. You know, that thing that every politician, every education pundit, every “professional” education researcher, and unfortunately too many average citizens have either forgotten or never learned. We test & assess, make tougher, higher standards, hold teachers accountable – but we always forget the other half of the equation….the students. How can we expect students to perform their best and at the same level as other students when they have such widely varying needs in their personal lives? There’s only ONE group of people I know who understand this dynamic – TEACHERS. And no one seems to be listening to them anymore.


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