Dear Justin Hamilton, Have You Met Any Teachers?

Monday, Sabrina Stevens Shupe responded to Arne Duncan's Open Letter to America's Teachers with what I would say amounted to a written backhand to the face, saying essentially that the US Secretary of Education was being disingenuous.

Justin Hamilton, Duncan's Press Secretary, responded to Sabrina's letter by saying he didn't think that's how most teachers felt.

I'm sorry, Justin, have you met any teachers? The majority of teachers I interact with on a day-to-day basis at school and in the blogosphere are overwhelmingly disappointed with Arne Duncan's approach to public education. Sabrina's words are how most teachers feel.

You see, believe it or not, most teachers understand that firing an entire school staff often doesn't do much to help students.

Most teachers, believe it or not, think devoting more time to testing is oppressive rather than liberating.

Most teachers, believe it or not, would rather not have their job security be subject to fluctuations in outrageously inadequate indicators of teacher quality.

Most teachers, believe it or not, have learned that experience in the classroom matters, and that turning the profession into a glorified temp job will do little more than provide "life support for a system of injustice and exploitation," as a recent commenter on this blog put it.

Most teachers, believe it or not, would prefer more, not less, control over what they teach and how they teach it.

Most teachers, believe it or not, would prefer more support over more money.

Most teachers, believe it or not, would like some means of quality/regulatory control over charter schools as a means of protecting teachers and students from predatory, for-profit snake oil salesmen.

Most teachers, believe it or not, rather than defend the status quo, support meaningful changes in the way we do things that have less to do with satisfying a neoliberal ideology than providing students with agency.

And most teachers, believe it or not, probably have a more informed perspective on how to go about meaningful change in the classroom since most teachers, unlike Secretary Duncan, have taught students.

How do I know?

I'm one of those teachers.


  1. Please send this along to the USDOE, to the White House, to the AFT and the NEA, to George Miller and John Kline in the House, to Tom Harkin and Lamar Alexander in the Senate - oh, and just for the helluva it, to Michael Bennet and Al Franken in the Senate too.

    It's a very articulate response to the jive the USDOE shill was flaking.

  2. Fabulous! Certainly should be shared far and wide! The arrogance of these people never ceases to amaze me!

  3. Great post and blog. Can you add an RSS feed?

    This whole ed-deform "movement" is an agenda driven hijacking of public funding to enrich an inner circle of global elites. The attack on U.S. public school system, its teachers and unions is a well coordinated War on America's Educated Middle Class. Their agenda is to rid the educational field of experienced American teachers and replace them with imported foreign workers who will be docile by not demanding a union and will work for slave wages.

    Duncan, Obama, Rahm, etc. are doing the political work of global elites to get rid of the excess American citizens every way they can: first, they started labor arbitraging the nurses via imported, lesser experienced foreign cheap labor; then they came for the educated American computer scientists (there are millions of Americans with college and advanced degrees in our tech industry and the rate continues to soar).

    Do you see the pattern yet? These are the very same bullies who created "The Great Labor Shortage Myth" in America and lobby Congress to open up the floodgates to MORE cheap imported labor when there are not enough jobs for our own educated college grads and older professionals.

    They KNOW they're hurling BS at teachers with their trumped up lies but they don't care because they have an army behind them of privatizing sociopaths who want to profit FROM WHAT AMERICAN EDUCATED CITIZENS HAVE via taking their professional jobs, homes, and healthcare.

    Wake up, teachers. This is a war on the American middle class. They've succeeded with nursing, high technology, and now they're coming to throw you out on the street too.


  5. Thanks, Tom. That'd be it. Also added subscribe buttons beneath my blogrolls.

  6. I don't think they're listening, but thanks for adding to the chorus of voices calling them out anyways.

  7. Great post. I've responded to a few of Justin's tweets. He occasionally answers me, but continually misses the point. Either he's had too much of the "kool-aid," or he lacks the ability to understand what he reads.


  8. Thank you for getting it, and thank you for being so articulate in how you express it. I am tired of being told how to teach by folks who have spent little or no time in real, day-to-day, public school classrooms.
    We will never get the politicians out of the classrooms -- time to put some political activism into the teachers!

  9. Bravo, Reflective Educator! Great column. An excellent rebuttal to Duncan's press secretary's baseless comments. Well said.

  10. The response to Hamilton is the same as Sabrina's response to Duncan. He's being disingenuous.

    The Reflective Educator said...
    Or he's fine with being a tool.

    Yeah...or that...

  11. most teachers, believe it or not, could be wrong.

  12. Anon at 1144: Always a possibility. What do you think they're wrong about?

  13. When Justin Hamilton says he didn't think that's how most teachers felt, by "teachers" he must mean TFA recruits awaiting their first classroom.

  14. A Public School Educator in PhillyMay 5, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS ARTICLE!!!! Thank you Reflective Educator!! Standing ovation for you!!

  15. Yesterday I saw the film "The One Percent", produced by Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune. In the film Johnson reminds us that very rich people who comprise one percent of our total population control half of the nation's wealth. He also makes the point that these billionaires influence most of the decisions in our country by financing the campaigns of most politicians. If you want to know why a certain law was or was not passed, "follow the money." Are we now living in an oligarchy? Scary.

    This probably explains what is happening in education. People like Bill Gates and the Walmart heirs want to privatize education and they are using their money to get politicians to go along with this. To me, this explains why President Obama seems to agree with their union-bashing strategies even though he has demonstrated a good understanding of what constitutes a solid education (See his interview in Essence Magazine March 2010).

    The only way we can fight to save our public schools is for "the people" to raise money to counter the huge sums of the billionaires. NEA is raising money for this purpose. Pleae go to to find out how you can help. Thanks. We are in a war and the enemy is trying to destroy one of our greatest istitutions: our public schools.

  16. Thank you for this. I fit into the category of 'most teachers' in every aspect of these terms. Everything you write is amazing. Please continue. I stand behind you!


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