Dear Mr. Duncan,
At the 2012 National Summit on Educational Reform Breakfast Keynote speech, you repeated a statistic that you have not substantiated. You once again insulted this nation’s teachers by referring to them as “the bottom third of all college graduates”. In the name of transparency and trust, I am demanding that you provide the name of the study used to make such an outrageous claim. As the public servant appointed to manage our nation’s educational system, you have unilaterally created an adversarial relationship between teachers and what should be their greatest source of support, the U.S. Department of Education. How long must teachers endure these overt attempts to malign our character? Who does it serve?
In April of 2009, I sat in the White House Rose Garden as you praised me and the other State Teachers of the Year for our “character, compassion and commitment” to our children and our profession. You commended our “scholarship” and our “hardship”. When you hosted the State Teachers of the Year at the Department of Education, we were treated as “valuable assets” to our nation’s children. When you sent a film crew to my Louisiana classroom to feature me on one of your Town Hall Meetings, you characterized me as “a role model” and told the audience that I was “exactly the kind of teacher needed in every classroom”. Can this praise and honor come from the same man who then accuses an entire nation of teachers as unqualified to do their jobs, in spite of verifiable education, experience and expertise?
Perhaps it is because you spend such little time with teachers that you cannot appreciate their efforts. We had long forgotten our own undergraduate GPA’s. I rarely think about the college parties I didn’t attend or the hours spent studying instead of watching or playing sports. I even forgot the sacrifices my parents made to ensure that I could live out my dream of becoming a teacher, a passion they nurtured since I was a young girl…until I heard you repeat that self-serving, fictitious statistic. So I am sending you a copy of my undergraduate transcripts, just to reassure you that I was indeed in the top 1/3 of my college graduating class. Since scores seem to be the only way we judge teachers these days, perhaps this document will give you peace of mind that in one classroom in America, a teacher is there “legitimately” in your eyes. It is a symbolic gesture that I hope my fellow teachers all across the country will replicate.
Openly denigrating teachers is enough to reveal your disingenuous character and lack of integrity to the education community, but you spend little time with us. You prefer the company of billionaires who are more than willing to do your job for you. Mr. Duncan, as this nation’s Secretary of Education, you have failed our children by being an impediment to progress. Public servants, even appointed ones like you, must engender the public trust, not deter it. Stop impugning the efforts of exemplary, learned citizens. They deserve your respect…for they must labor under a leader who reviles them.
Deborah Hohn Tonguis