Mr. Duncan, a 44-year-old Harvard graduate, has raised achievement in the nation’s third-largest school district [as superintendent] and often faced the ticklish challenge of shuttering failing schools and replacing ineffective teachers, usually with improved results.
He represents a compromise choice in the debate that has divided Democrats in recent months over the proper course for public-school policy after the Bush years.
In June, rival nationwide groups of educators circulated competing educational manifestos, with one group espousing a get-tough policy based on pushing teachers and administrators harder to raise achievement, and another arguing that schools alone could not close the racial achievement gap and urging new investments in school-based health clinics and other social programs to help poor students learn.
Mr. Duncan was the only big-city superintendent to sign both manifestos.
That's as far as I read the article this morning, and I thought, Gee, maybe he just thinks we need both to save our rapidly deteriorating, already problematic school system. Maybe this is Obama saying we can and should have it all on this one.
But then every damn blog post I've read on this is all "Ooh, Obama's threading the needle again!" "Obama refuses to take sides!" This is the one that put me over the edge:
...apparently Obama decided he didn't really want to pick sides...[with the] pick of Arne Duncan, the latest in his almost unbroken series of senior staff needle-threading exercises. [...] There's something a little surreal about all this, though. At the risk of sounding like an idiot TV talking head, I'm beginning to wonder if Obama plans to appoint anyone who's even the teensiest bit controversial to his senior staff.
Dude, seriously. How is it so impossible that "not picking sides" is in itself controversial? Huh? Because it is. It's controversial to each side, which doesn't like the other. It's controversial to the people who want to know how we'll pay for all this. There's a story there, if you just read the damn NYT article a little further down:
In straddling the two camps, Mr. Duncan seemed to reflect Mr. Obama’s own impatience with what he has called “tired educational debates.”
In his last major educational speech of the campaign, Mr. Obama said: “It’s been Democrat versus Republican, vouchers versus the status quo, more money versus more reform. There’s partisanship and there’s bickering, but no understanding that both sides have good ideas.”
I MEAN, JESUS. I, for one, was excited about this until all these bloggo killjoys came along.