I have already made plans to attend the presidential inauguration on January 20, 2009. I booked a hotel room at 11:01p on election night. Just as soon as Obama was declared the winner on CNN (note that Fox projected Obama before 11p, but I stuck with the conservative projections of CNN) I was online looking for hotel rooms. Of course everything in DC was booked. However, I found a hotel 30 miles outside of town. Finding ticket for our crew (my wife and three young boys) is next on the list of “to dos”; I am on the waiting list for tickets (whatever that means—I think outgoing Senator Dole’s peeps are just appeasing me).
Last week I watched the president-elect discuss on 60 Minutes his plans to “push his weight around” the issue of the college football post season (This was the second time he had made such a reference. On the eve of the election Obama was interviewed at halftime of the Monday Night Football broadcast and made a similar declaration). For those of you unfamiliar with how the NCAA handles the post-season here is a brief primer. Unlike all other NCAA sports—or for all organized sports for that matter (check that, even unorganized street corner sports)—there is not a playoff system for college football. Rather, there is an antiquated, Good Ole Boy (university presidents, TV network executives, and corporate sponsors) system of Bowl selections. Historically, the selection process was not unlike the varsity football team’s selection of the homecoming queen in the locker room. More recently, the Good Ole Boys modified the system to make it more fair and equitable—enter the BCS, the Bowl Championship Series. Essentially we have the same, lame system, but now have a combination of human AND computer error to justify the selections to Bowl games.
[Aside: I should note that the public rationale the “Boys” use for not installing a playoff system in academics. That is, they do not want to see football players miss any more school then necessary. As I write this there are a number of NCAA basketball teams playing in Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Hawaii (BTW, they have a playoff system that is incredibly lucrative). Such tournaments take place at semesters end, a great time for student-athletes to miss classes AND exams. On the other hand, football games are played on weekend nights with the team usually traveling to game site a day or two prior to the game.]
So why do I bring all this drama to the table—because over the next few weeks “No Drama” Obama will be making important cabinet appointments. As a lifelong educator and as a father to three public school children I am deeply invested in Obama’s selection of Secretary of Education. Before I make my pitch for who this person should be, let me try to get good seats to the inauguration by cementing a post in his cabinet—as the Secretary of the BCS.
Let me make my case.
Point #1: Supposition: The current BCS system is flawed (see primer above).
Point #2: Vision: I want a playoff system (see Obama’s comments on 60 minutes and MNF—that's Monday Night Football for you football luddites).
Point #3: Interest: I love football (contact my wife about detailed accounts of my watching football on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays… see also shoe box full of game stub receipts).
Point #4: Experience: I played football in high school (see also middle school coaching experience while teaching and pee-wee coaching for son #1).
Point #5: Expertise: See points #1-4 above.
Say no more. I am qualified and have the desire to take this on. Is this not the typical process for Cabinet selection? Oh, perhaps I forgot political implications (I think I represent two important constituents (1) I am Hispanic and (2) Soy gordo).
The reason I am making a play for this yet to exist Cabinet position is my hope that Obama’s selection of Secretary of Education is NOT based on similar notions I outline above. That is, interests, style, and political points should not be the best metrics to score knowledge, skills, and dispositions on the rubric. If they were perhaps I could shoot for an even more prominent office (perhaps the Republican VP position in four years-- oops that already happened this year).
No, we should be seeking substance in our next educational leader. Recently, the former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell has been publicized as a leading candidate to become Secretary of Education. But I wonder how he would be rated on the rubric above. And, how does the General stack up against the other notable candidates?
I would like to revisit the rubric using two of the leading contenders for the position: Powell and Obama’s chief educational advisor during his campaign, Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond from Stanford University. I believe that the selection of the next Secretary should begin with the following supposition:
Our educational system is broken. While we have highly qualified and extremely dedicated teachers and leaders, our educational system is not living up to its ambitious and righteous charge of ensuring learning for all children.
Then, using my rubric we should come to understand each candidates:
Vision, Interest, Experience, and Expertise.
To complete this task I would encourage readers to investigate the record of each candidate (here is a link for Powell and here is one for Darling-Hammond). Score each candidate with or without the rubric I provide. I believe you will find that the General and I have similar qualifications for our respective positions. We both have passion and interest, but limited experience and expertise. However, we each may make some political sense. Should we select such Cabinet positions on passion, interest, and politics? What about intellectual merit? What about the advancement of thoughtful and meaningful ideas? What about the accomplishments one has made in her field?
The ideals of our educational system set us apart from other countries because of our quest to allow education to be a ladder of opportunity for all people, regardless of birth right, gender, ethnicity, etc. If we are to find tonics to what ails our educational system we will need the right people in the right places. I believe Dr. Darling-Hammond is this person who will strive to make fundamental changes for both equity and excellence, for both democratic citizenry and market-based markets, and for both social efficiency and social mobility.
What do you think? Who is your candidate for Secretary of Education?
If Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond meets your criteria then sign this on-line petition to encourage President-Elect Obama to select Dr. Darling-Hammond.
And, if you think I should be elected Secretary of the BCS... well you'll need to contain your passion until I gain more of the necessary experience and expertise.