#ShakiraEdChat: more evidence of what’s wrong with the USDOE

Twitter users with questions about early education found themselves in luck this morning—because at 10:00 a.m. EST, they had the incredible opportunity to participate in a Twitter Q&A with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and…wait for it…Shakira.

Yes, “Hips Don’t Lie” Shakira. For realsies.

Here’s the info, posted last night by the White House (emphasis mine):

Tomorrow, President Obama will host a White House Summit on Early Education, announcing new commitments and building on his call to expand access to high-quality early childhood education to every child in America.

As part of the Summit, Grammy award-winning artist Shakira and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be taking to Twitter on Wednesday, December 10th, at 10:00 a.m. ET to answer your questions about early education. Shakira is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and has been a strong advocate for high-quality early education.

Let that sink in for a few minutes.

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Shakira, the Colombian She-Wolf singer, is a member of the Early Learning Subcommittee of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.  She began a charitable foundation in her native Colombia in 1997–and since then, the charity has overseen the opening of eight schools.

Which clearly makes her an expert on early childhood education–just like Oprah, Pitbull, Deion Sanders, Andre Agassi, Jalen Rose, et al.

And which clearly qualifies her to “answer your questions about early education.”

So what, exactly, did Shakira have to say about our littlest learners?

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And, for good measure, here’s a tweet from Arne:

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Yes, early education is important.

But I wonder how Shakira would respond to questions about the chronic underfunding of urban districts, such as those in Philadelphia, where children attend schools without the most basic needs like paper, pencils, nurses, and guidance counselors–and I wonder if she understands the degree to which education cannot be “the great equalizer” when children’s most basic needs aren’t met.

I wonder whether Shakira understands the ways in which the charter expansion Arne Duncan promotes contributes to the underfunding of neighborhood schools and further segregates already-segregated populations.

I wonder whether Shakira, especially since she references the cost of “juvenile detention,” is aware that Arne Duncan’s promotion of charters–many of which implement “no-excuses” or “zero tolerance” discipline policies–contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline,

I wonder what Shakira knows about teacher education programs, and if she realizes that Arne Duncan’s new proposal to control teacher-education programs cites states that have “taken many steps to reduce the status of the teaching profession: Ohio, North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Florida“–or if she understands the ways in which the Relay Graduate School of Education and other reformy teacher-prep programs Arne endorses perpetuate practices that are destroying public education.

And I wonder if Shakira understands that her well-intentioned charitable endeavors do not make her an expert on early childhood education. 

To be clear: I don’t dislike Shakira. I don’t think her motives are bad. And I’m sure that she has done good things for children in Colombia.

But I’m very disappointed that I couldn’t participate in the #ShakiraEdChat–I was teaching at 10:00 a.m. EST–because the questions above are some of the ones I would have asked Shakira and Arne (who, by the way, have zero years of teaching experience between them).

And my final question to Arne Duncan would have been this: “When will you participate in a twitter Q&A session about early childhood education with an actual expert in early childhood education?”


*ADDING: While we’re on the subject of Arne Duncan and ill-advised USDOE decisions, the NY Daily News is reporting that NY Education Commissioner John King has accepted a position as a Arne’s senior advisor–and will make the transition to the USDOE shortly after the New Year.

Yes, this is the same John King who has only two years of teaching experience in American schools (both were in a Boston charter); the same John King who founded Roxbury Prep (no talking in the hallways!) and led Uncommon Schools; the same John King who predicted and endorsed widespread failure rates on Common Core-aligned tests; the same John King who canceled PTA forum appearances because of criticism from families; the same John King who has been repeatedly called on to resign by New York parents and politicians; and the same John King who oversees a state in which thousands of families on Long Island alone refused testing for their children last year.

Seems like a pretty bad day for public education if you ask me.

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1 Comment

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One response to “#ShakiraEdChat: more evidence of what’s wrong with the USDOE

  1. kittencat

    God bless you for standing up to the lie that Shakira (who did not bother to earn a college degree in anything making her unqualified to even work as a teacher) is an expert in education. I also want to point out that the education problems children have in her native Colombia (or even Spain where she now resides) are not the same problems faced by children in the U.S.

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