“Both Parties Are On the Same Side: The Wrong Side”

by Robert Pondiscio
July 16th, 2009

Neither the Republicans or the Democrats understand what it takes to produce educated Americans, writes Mike Petrilli in the latest Education Gadfly.  Commenting on the image projected by Sarah Palin, he notes there was a time when Republicans “valued candidates who could demonstrate mastery of subjects like history, geography, and political philosophy.  But splitting the country politically between wholesome Joe Sixpacks in the heartland and “the oversophisticated, overeducated, oversecularized denizens of the coasts” has driven well-educated voters away from the GOP.

So naturally, the Democrats have rushed in to fill the void, right?  Wrong, says Petrilli, who wryly observes that so far the group “Liberals for the Liberal Arts” has yet to be founded.  “Democratic reformers seem just as enamored with the utilitarian and narrow drive toward ‘college and work readiness’ as their Republican counterparts, if not more so,” he notes.  If you need proof, take a look at Ed Secretary Arne Duncan’s speeches.

Over the past six months, he’s made nine major policy addresses that have been posted on his Department’s web site. And in those speeches, he’s mentioned “history,” “literature,” and “geography” exactly zero times. Meanwhile, there were seven instances of “accountability,” and “charter schools” left his lips an astounding twenty-nine times.  Duncan and his team are pushing for structural changes in the system; they, like most reformers these days, are ignoring the “stuff” of education–what students actually need to learn in order to become good Americans.

“But these Democratic reformers had better be careful,” Petrilli concludes.  ”An obsessive focus on nothing but basic skills in reading and math, which can be chopped into little bits of data with which we can make all manner of decisions, will result in a generation of students who will make Palin sound like Socrates.”


  1. Arne’s complete focus on accountability from the party so against NCLB is absolutely ridiculous! I mean head start and the longer school year/day aside, which are really just sound and tough to criticize ways to move forward there have really been no creative solutions. There’s so much creativity and safe room to experiment out there… How depressing that the new solutions by the new government all sound so terribly old…

    Comment by Fer Camberos — July 16, 2009 @ 8:37 pm

  2. Five colleges and a governorship later, is Sarah Palin ready for citizenship? Mike Petrilli lists his requirements for citizenship then, while claiming not to know how her mind works or what she has read, assures us she was never ready for prime time based on what a media so curious about “how the other sides think and why” chose to show us. And he warns us that if we do not give our children a proper preparation for citizenship by teaching the lessons of the generations before us, the history of our country and the world, great works of literature, art, and music, and “engaging in the issues of the day so that we might all understand what the other sides think,” the result will be “a generation of students who will make Palin sound like Socrates.”

    Ha, ha. Good one, Mike. As if.

    But that got me to wondering what Socrates would “sound” like. Socrates would sound like a teacher scolding his student. He would tell Mike that while he thinks he knows, in reality he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and is therefore not very wise. Eloquence is not the same as wisdom. Then he might have gone on to explain the progression from oligarchy to democracy to tyranny, both for a civilization and for a man. It would sound to the listener as if Socrates were engaging in the issues of this day in our nation’s history.

    “How you, O Athenians, have been affected by my accusers, I cannot tell; but I know that they almost made me forget who I was—so persuasively did they speak; and yet they have hardly uttered a word of truth.” Mike Petrilli knows well how his and other’s calumnies of Palin have affected this nation, being, as he is, a devoted student of Plato.

    As if.

    Comment by TM Willemse — July 22, 2009 @ 9:42 am

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