Duncan and Obama Remain, but America is Different

by Christopher Paslay

America, and its public schools, have changed.

Despite my bold November 1st proclamation, Arne Duncan remains the U.S. Secretary of Education, and Barack Obama remains president.  Last Tuesday, nearly half of all voters—some 58 million of them—called for change . . . or put another way, called for a return to the values and traditions America was founded upon.

Curiously, “values and traditions” in the 21st century are now a matter of cultural perspective.  No longer are there universal human truths that transcend time and gender and race, but a kind of orthodoxy revolving around a concept of “fairness” that has become known as social justice.  Some 61 million Americans—made-up to a large extent of minorities, agnostics, the young, the single, and those on various government assistant programs—voted for the status quo . . . or put another way, called for a bigger intrusion of government into all of our lives.

Here’s a closer look at the changing trends of America and as a result, public education.

The Institution of Marriage and Family

For the first time in the history of the United States, there are now more single women than married.  Likewise, there are now more single households than married.  One of the great pillars of America—the institution of marriage and family—is now in the minority; in President Obama’s “The Life of Julia,” the interactive website feature that showcases the benefits of various Obama-backed welfare-state programs, the 31-year-old single Julia “decides” to have a baby all by her lonesome–no husband in the equation.  Does this impact education?  You bet.  It impacts everything.  But when it comes to schools, research shows children from single parent families do far worse academically as well as behaviorally than do children from two parent families.

Curiously, the racial achievement gap is proportional to out-of-wedlock births.  On nearly every standardized test, from the NAEP to the GRE—from 3rd grade to graduate school—Asians score the highest, followed by whites, followed by Hispanics, followed by blacks.  Here is the percentage of out-of-wedlock births to women under the age of 30 by racial/ethnic group from 2003 to 2004: Asian 16%; white 34%; Hispanics 46%; blacks 77%.

Institution of Religion

Today, one-fifth (20%) of Americans consider themselves atheists, agnostic, or unaffiliated with a religion.  In fact, in August of 2012, the Democrats removed the word “God” from their party platform.  In a May 2012 speech at the prestigious Roman Catholic Georgetown University, President Obama not only failed to mention Jesus once in his remarks, but also persuaded the school to cover the name of Jesus–IHS–at Gaston Hall where he made the speech; Obama did the same thing in April of 2009 when he delivered remarks on the economy at Georgetown.

What does religion have to do with the quality of public education?  Morals.  Or, the lack thereof.  Crime and violence in schools is on the rise.  In Philadelphia alone, there were over 4,500 violent incidents reported during the 2009-10 school year.  According to the Inquirer, “on an average day 25 students, teachers, or other staff member were beaten, robbed, sexually assaulted, or victims of other violent crimes.”

Embracing religion doesn’t necessarily mean following a particular deity per se.  It means letting go of ego–the self centered perspective that teaches that man is the end-all-be-all of the universe, that there is no broader consequence for immoral behavior.

 Competition and Individualism

In 2010, for the first time in America, minority births (50.4%) outnumbered whites.  This is significant because the values of the dominant white culture are now viewed as oppressive by progressive education scholars.  According to Vernon G. Zunker, a noted expert on career counseling, “Career choice, for example, may be driven by goals of family as opposed to individual aspirations.  In the individualistic cultures of Europe and North America, great value is placed on individual accomplishment.  In the collectivist cultures of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the individual focuses on the welfare of the group and its collective survival.”

In other words, “individualism” and “competition” are a white thang, and should be discounted in the career and academic world.  Hence, the advent of “group work” as opposed to direct instruction, the notion of “student-centered” lessons as opposed to “teacher-centered” ones, and the great push for schools to lower admission standards to elite schools and AP courses; from this also stems the recent opposition to suspensions and expulsions of public school students–a movement which values the rights of the violent and unruly few over the rights of the hardworking many.

The results of this brand of educational socialism?  Academic mediocrity, and a horrible decline in SAT as well as AP scores.

Thanks to the systematic deconstruction of marriage, religion, and American individualism, Duncan remains, and so does Obama.  It appears Big Government–and a Marxist brand of educational socialism–is on the rise.  But hey, America asked for it.

To quote the classic line from H. L. Mencken: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”

To those who asked for it–I’m sure you’ll get it good and hard.

10 thoughts on “Duncan and Obama Remain, but America is Different

  1. “In fact, in August of 2012, the Democrats removed the word “God” from their party platform.” As well they should. It’s called separation of church and state. Religion has no place in politics or in schools. Republicans need to be reminded that Jesus is not God in all religions, and that “the values and traditions America was founded on” do not include or support discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or sexual preference, nor suppression of women’s rights or voter disenfranchisement. That being said, it is time for President Obama to ditch Arne Duncan, who has proven the argument that non-educators should not make educational decisions. I daresay this is a position that members of both political parties can agree on. Let’s unite in the hope that President Obama will replace Duncan with someone who has a clue.

    • Hi Caitlyn,

      Religion absolutely has a place in politics. Did you know that the 1st Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” What you mistake as separation of church and state is actually an issue of freedom of religion. Political parties are not government institutions, and have every right to lobby for religion. Republicans lobby to protect the right to freely practice religion, and the Democrats seem to advocate the complete removal of religion (which is most likely why they removed it from their party platform).

      If you return to the example I gave about President Obama requesting that Georgetown University cover the name of Jesus when he spoke at Gaston Hall, you will see that this is an infringement of freedom of religion. Obama was not speaking at a public or government facility, but at a private Roman Catholic religious institution–Georgetown University; he was a guest in their school. To ask a Roman Catholic school to cover Jesus was an attempt to remove religion, and this violates the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. Whether or not others celebrate Jesus is besides the point (imagine if Obama was speaking at an Islamic school and refused to acknowledge Allah and requested that they cover the most sacred symbols of Islam?)

      You state, “Republicans need to be reminded that Jesus is not God in all religions, and that ‘the values and traditions America was founded on’ do not include or support discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or sexual preference, nor suppression of women’s rights or voter disenfranchisement.”

      Again, you are mistaken here. Americans have every right to lobby for Judeo-Christian values (just like Muslims can lobby for Islamic values), and doing so doesn’t inherently make one intolerant of other faiths; Americans have every right to support traditional marriage (just like LGBT folks support same sex marriage), and doing so doesn’t make one anti-gay; Americans have every right to fight for the life of unborn children and refuse to pay for another’s birth control, and this doesn’t qualify as suppressing women’s rights; and Americans have every right to demand photo ID when voting, which hardly counts as voter suppression. As for racial discrimination, the Republicans are the ones fighting for color blindness in society, calling for an end to affirmative action, which uses skin color–not the content of character–to hire, give out contracts, etc.

      It’s disturbing that a core part of our society labels Judeo-Christians who support traditional marriage, believe in the right to life, and refuse to use skin color as a means of judging people as “racist,” “oppressive,” and “intolerant.” Those who attack the right to believe in such ideas are the true bigots.

      One more thing: religion doesn’t belong in public schools, but students have the right to practice their faith. As I mentioned in my piece, this may help with morality and yes, tolerance.

      I agree with you about Arne Duncan.

      –Christopher Paslay

  2. According to FactCheck, you’re not quite right, Chris, no matter how you try to spin it as the president’s deliberate attempt to infringe on religious freedom.
    Perhaps you and Donald Trump can try to come up with something viable, as the birther movement didn’t go anywhere, either. I imagine you’ll keep trying, though.
    Apparently you embrace the Tea Party ideology, so there is no reasoning with you about how your “support” for traditional marriage et al is intolerant and results in discriminatory laws against those who do not fit your archaic definition. The world is changing, Chris, whether we like it or not, and your party of dinosaurs who steadfastly refuse to accept the changes is going down fast. Thankfully, the majority of Americans do not support the frightening Tea Party ideology of intolerance and governance according to Christianity, the only religion that party recognizes.

  3. As a long time reader, I find this post insensitive and chock full of ugly generalities. You were wrong in your prediction Chris and you’re wrong here and to uphold the Republicans as the party of good religion (which you somehow? equate with good morals) is just a reflection of your partisanship and nothing more.

    Stick with education policy…you’re out of your depth here. Although with your increasing disappointment with the black kids you teach (did a black student really refer to hard work and competition as a “white thang”?) perhaps it’s a time for a job change altogether?

    • Hi,

      Sure, attack and call names when you don’t agree with something. Is this your idea of tolerance? Of free thought? Free expression? When did I say I was disappointed with my black students? Oh, more race baiting. Got it.

      Thanks for the kind words and feel good love!



      • In the spirit of civil discourse, I respectfully request that your blog returns to educational policy and practice. The topics that united us as educators, etc. have been relegated to ones that divide us politically. Please let us get past the election; it’s time for all of us to move on.

  4. Steve,

    Your request has been forwarded to the proper authorities and is pending further review. Thanks for your concern.

    –The Management

  5. This attitude does not become you, Chris. I agree with Steve, and I look forward to reading more of your perspectives on education and a lot less of your (undocumented) accusations about the POTUS.

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