Megan Rosker wonders when someone will step up and take some unpopular risks.
A few days ago, I attended Arne Duncan’s first ever Twitter Town Hall Meeting. By attend, I mean I tuned in as I made cheese quesadillas for my kids, and as they munched I scribbled down notes.
For the first few minutes, I was jazzed to be tweeting and participating, and I kept waiting for when Arne and Jim Merrow, the moderator, would start taking people’s questions, but it never happened.
Maybe I was naïve, but I really thought that Secretary Duncan would be brazen enough to answer the questions of teachers, parents, and advocates off the cuff. Instead, Mr. Merrow summarized the questions off a piece of paper. There wasn’t even a computer present. What was the point of tweeting questions? They weren’t reading them.
I don’t think Secretary Duncan is a bad guy. In fact, I bet our kids would love to play together, and I’m sure his wife and I could find a few things to mull over. He and my husband would surely play a mean game of hoops, but none of this makes him the leader I wanted him to be as I stared at my computer screen. I realized I was waiting for him to take the bull by the horns, to show us some bloody guts, to wipe the floor with his passion for education.
He kept saying things like, “We need to hold teachers accountable, but we also need to encourage creativity, innovation and autonomy.”
It was all wishy-washy.
It reminds me of this woman I once knew that ate healthy shakes and raw foods all the time, only to have her boyfriend make her bacon and pancakes on the weekend.
At some point we all have to decide where we are going to come down on the issues. Secretary Duncan, where do you stand? What is your vision for our children? Don’t give me a charming response that will make me weak in the knees, a political pick up line that will make this mama smile. My children and I deserve more than that.
Secretary Duncan spent his time with the American people telling them what they wanted to hear, instead of what they NEED to hear.
We need to hear that we should be working hard. We need to hear that we should be innovative.
We need to hear that we should take the helm and get our kids an educational system that matches the skills and dreams of every child in this vastly diverse country.
Here we sit, day after day, reading about the debate, sitting on the sidelines of social media, listening, and waiting. We wait for someone to lead, but the problem is no one has so far. Who is to say when someone will? Are we willing to wait until that undisclosed date arrives, or would it be in the best interest of our children if we stepped up today and began to shatter the classist, racist, top-down model of education that has dominated us for hundreds of years?
Most us want to follow. Most people don’t want the burden of leadership. This is fine, as long as the people running the country aren’t followers too. Our leaders are followers of public opinion and public opinion follows the media frenzy of the day. So here we churn, in a vicious cycle, with no one leading.
In order to lead, someone has to be up for telling the American people what they may or may not want to hear. No, the leader that does it may not make many friends. Their poll numbers may drop. They may even risk not getting re-elected, but when change needs to happen, a leader cannot be afraid to be disliked. They simply must get done what is in the best interest of the people.
What kind of leader would Secretary Duncan be if he wasn’t concerned with politics, public opinion, and special interest money? What would his policy be then? Instead of sharing his vision for our country, he spends his days placating different angry groups of parents and teachers. I can’t think of one revolutionary leader that cared about placating people. And that is the kind of leader we need today. That is the kind of leader our children must have in order to live and create a better life for themselves, something better than we have now.
As a parent I have to seriously consider whether this is the world I want my children to inherit. Is it fair to leave our children with an expensive educational system that doesn’t give them the skills they need to find a job that doesn’t exist?
Recently someone said to me that we could educate our way out of our current economic and education situation. It’s true, we can educate our way out, but not with the system we have been using. Only with a better, more balanced, more innovative, fairer system that is lead by someone who cares more deeply for children than politics.
—Photo AP/Cliff Owen