Did Arne Duncan have a GRINCH moment?

I do love this time of year, nothing can warm the heart more than the holiday season –we reminisce of holidays past, always excited to see our children, grandchildren and loved ones.  We remember those we have lost and how much we wish they were with us.  It is a truly a magical time. 


One of my favorite holiday stories is Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”  I at times have channeled my inner Grinch with my kids and now my grand-kids! He is an iconic character during the holiday season. The Grinch is our modern day Scrooge who despite his tiny heart “two sizes two small” just wants some peace and quiet from all the noise in Whoville.   The Grinch has a magical change that allows his heart to swell “three sizes larger!” The Grinch sees the error in his ways and saves the day, joining those in Whoville in a wonderful holiday celebration. Much like our beloved Mr. Scrooge who after seeing his own actions as damaging to not only himself but others has a change of heart. What these characters demonstrate is that it’s never too late to see the error in your ways.  But would you consider these two characters heroic?  


Not likely — in fact — both the Grinch and Mr. Scrooge are characters that invoke more pity than anything else.  You feel sorry for them because they fail to see what everyone else sees — in fact even once they are converted you only feel relief for all the people who had to endure the old Grinch or Scrooge.  Not exactly heroic, in fact they are the cause of this heartache and misfortune.  You cannot be heroic if you are the architect of the problem!

So when I heard the news earlier this month that The United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pulled a GRINCH — I was flabbergasted!  He has had a change of heart. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan acknowledged serious flaws in the standardized tests that currently drive American schools — the tests are an inadequate gauge of student and teacher performance.  


WOW — That should have been big news.  I am not sure what caused the change of heart.  Maybe all those who opted out of testing last year…or maybe the push back over Common Core.  Whatever the reason it was a breath of fresh air and I applaud Arne on this first step to reversing course on Standardized testing misuse and abuse.  

This Grinch moment was met with some fanfare in the media.  Teachers and Administrators muttered under their breath — “it’s about time.”  But unlike the Grinch or Mr. Scrooge this standardized testing movie does not end with the epiphany.  Arne and whomever takes the post after him will not reverse this trend overnight. Standardized testing is like a big cruise ship — it will take time to reverse course. This current course was set in 1983 with the publication of “A Nation at Risk” and it took 32 years to get to this place.  I can only hope it does not take another 32 years to reverse course. We need more and more of those who are in place to make policy changes have a Grinch or Scrooge moment before its too late!

 

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About James Herrholtz

Consultant, Teacher, Coach, Administrator for over 23 years. I have been a superintendent of schools, College Instructor, and worked at the Ohio Department of Education heading up the Division of Learning.
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