There is a balm in Gilead to make a nation whole; there is a balm in Gilead to heal our stricken souls.

Sometimes, we feel discouraged and think our work’s in vain; what will revive our spirits and save our schools again?

There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded strong; there is a balm in Gilead for which we all do long.

If you can’t preach like Diane; if you can’t write at all; just love America’s children and help them grow to be tall.

There is a balm in Gilead that lifts us all to dream; there is a balm in Gilead that makes us hope of … a much better Secretary of Education than the country has yet seen.

For the purpose of this post, that balm is the incoming Biden administration and its promise to appoint a real teacher to be U.S. Secretary of Education.

Many names are thrown out for the President-elect to consider as he chooses the people who will assist him in carrying out policy and administering the vast machinery known as the federal government.

Grumpy Old Teacher has no interest in vetting names and opining (as if he has a stellar record of hiring across his career. Spoiler alert: GOT can mentor and develop talent, but he is no good at making hiring decisions.) Rather, let’s discuss the qualities and characteristics we need in the next person to take up the post.

  1. Education experience, real, authentic, long-time, classroom-based. Those who ran through a classroom and spent the least amount of time needed to qualify to climb their career ladder should not be considered. We need a real educator who has spent ten years or more actually teaching children every day of every year. Without that, no appointee can remember, empathize, and know on a fundamental level the challenges that present themselves in the nation’s schools.
  2. Aversion to test-based accountability systems that confuse scores with learning. Experienced teachers, those who resist and those who do not, know how the standardized testing of their state can be gamed. Those who bother to study actual research that looks at scores and backgrounds knows that test scores correlate most strongly with income levels.
  3. Respect for school-based personnel. Anyone who pushes improvement plans through their district because they do not believe that teachers know what they are doing, they have to be forced to teach the right way, and that their years of preparation and experience are not to be respected should have their resume thrown in the trash. This rules out most superintendents who bought into the nonsense that high-stakes testing is all that matters.
  4. Debt forgiveness. Frankly, if someone has never forgiven a personal debt but insists upon being paid every last penny without fail, they lack the compassion needed to administer immense debt programs that still struggle to sort out the fraud inflicted upon vulnerable people from legitimate collection.
  5. Personal integrity. How about someone who once was fired from a job because they stuck up for what they believed to be right?
  6. Abandonment for play. How about a US Sec. of Ed. who threw out the agenda for a school visit because they sat down outside with the school children and spent the entire time playing?
Comic Art | Calvin and hobbes, Calvin and hobbes comics, Happy memes
After they pass, you never get those years back.

7. Thirst for righteousness and a fierce desire to right past wrongs. We need a Secretary of Education who will restore and beef up the Civil Rights division of the department and will wage war upon the discriminatory patterns of education wherever they are found.

8. Insistence upon accountability for all who insist upon the privilege of education our young. This is not a call to maintain phony-baloney programs like teacher VAM, which has been soundly denounced and debunked by statisticians, but a call for charter and voucher schools to face the same requirements and auditing that public school systems undergo.

9. Humility. Someone who doesn’t hold themselves to be better than those they will serve; someone who is willing to reexamine beliefs and prejudices in the light of contrary evidence. Someone who can admit that they don’t know it all, thereby avoiding making dumb comments about schools having guns in case of a grizzly bear attack.

With someone like this serving in the Biden cabinet to represent education, there will indeed be a balm in Washington to heal our souls.

One thought on “The Biden Cabinet

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