Rick Hess has put together some pieces (and tweets) calling out Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the areas where the two disagree (despite once agreeing whole-heartedly on many issues). As Duncan moves to step down, Rick decided to make one more push on the topic — this time focusing on the need to be able to call out someone’s actions without having others assume you doubt their “integrity and goodwill”.
I understand that he thought it would be a betrayal if he didn’t do everything he could to push states to do this stuff, and that he saw my concerns about the appropriate federal role, the perils of bureaucratization, or the consequences of rushing half-baked policies into practice as a distraction or an excuse for inaction. I grant his sincerity, even as I profoundly disagree with much that he did. (I do wish Duncan had been equally inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to those who differed with him on questions like pre-K, Title I portability, or Common Core and less prone to denounce them as a morally bankrupt lunatic fringe.)
Anyway, running the U.S. Department of Education is a tough job. It requires oodles of meetings, punishing travel, lots of suit-wearing, and immense patience with bureaucracy and interagency memos. I have plenty of differences with Arne Duncan. But he strikes me as a good man who took on a demanding job and did it in the best way he knew how. By all accounts, he was good to his colleagues and subordinates, and a beacon of personal integrity. That counts for a lot. I admire him for wanting to get back to Chicago to be with his wife and children, who had headed home for the new school year. As Duncan moves on, I honor his service and wish the very best for him and his family.