Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Class Warrior- Arne Duncan's bid to shake up schools

STOP THE PRESSES!  Run, don't walk, to read the attached insightful profile of Arne Duncan in the latest New Yorker.  I never knew that his mom, Sue, has run an after-school program, Sue's, in Chicago's tough North Kenwood-Oakland neighborhood since 1961, which was very formative for Duncan.  Here's an excerpt:


Once, when Duncan was in high school, a basketball star he knew from Sue's came to him for help in studying for the A.C.T. test.  "He was being recruited by some big places," Duncan said.  "He was thinking Marquette, something like that.  And we say down, and he couldn't read.  He was a B student at Martin Luther King.  This was the year they won the state championship.  He was a good kid.  He stayed clear of gangs, drugs; his teachers liked him.  He did everything right, everything that was asked of him, and he was functionally illiterate.  It wasn't his fault.  He'd been lied to all his life.  We had a heart-to-heart talk, and I had to tell him.  And he didn't make it.  He went to junior college, but he didn't make it."


Duncan told me another story about the boys at Sue's.  "There's a photo of our group, the inner circle from my mom's program," taken back in the late nineteen-seventies, he said, "and some of those guys are dead.  Growing up down there, and having friends from the program and from the streets die when I was twelve, thirteen – that scarred me.  It was hard to comprehend.  As much as the success stories have shaped me and given me hope, those deaths might be an even bigger motivator.  The guys who got killed were the guys who didn't finish high school.  It was literally the dividing line between you live or you die.  Nobody who went to college died young."


Carlo Rotella, Profiles, "Class Warrior," The New Yorker, February 1, 2010, p. 24

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