Duncan eviscerates US public schools. They suck energy, brilliance, and creativity and deliver mediocrity at best. Broken public schools are miles away from reform, says Arne Duncan, the former U.S. Secretary of Education.

Arne Duncan’s new book, How Schools Work (Pages 212-215) summarizes his lessons and the things he would change. The reality will make parents cry. We break children, crush their spirit and force them to fit into iron boots of obsolete curriculum and handcuffed teachers. Worse, the fixes are miles away. Even a decades late long overdue fix assumes that log-jammed interests will somehow agree on curriculum priorities and teaching methods.

Courageous Duncan must have felt the pain in his bones. After eight years as US head of education, he leaves with these impossible gaps to fix public schools:

(1) Provide free Pre-K for every four-year-old.

(2) Provide after-school and enrichment programs for all students.

(3) Meet students’ social, physical, and emotional needs before academic needs.

(4) Pay principals like they are CEOs of companies

(5) Have every high school student have some college credits or industry certification or both.

(6) Match high school graduates with colleges that match the student’s focus.

(7) Focus on PK-14 rather than K-12 teaching model.

(8) Every citizen needs to acknowledge that our education model ranks average or below average compared to our industrial peers.

We should be horrified because the list is devastatingly right. Every constituency is protecting its interests: curriculum people, testing lobbies, the teachers union, administrators, and school boards, all want control over the tax-payer funded budgets. What’s demoralizing is that even if everyone lets go of their special interests and focuses on student gains, progress will crawl because groups will fight about what to do and how. Even if a magic wand brought consensus, the time to mobilize policy, infrastructure, funding, training, protocols, and escalation procedures to transform schools will take years.

Further, to fix education, public schools are trying to fix home problems that are the causes of students’ lack of engagement: hunger, sleep deprivation, poverty, and dysfunction. This is mission impossible. Fixing home problems is not public schools’ domain, expertise, or responsibility.

Arne Duncan’s book must count. He has invested his whole life to uplift education. The only natural conclusion he leaves us with is that parents have to be the best teachers and the best schoolhouse has to be the student’s house. Today’s public schools aren’t structured to bridge students to their full potential.


  • teach an obsolete curriculum
  • teach it the wrong way
  • induce corrosive stress through testing
  • test the wrong things
  • handcuff the teachers, and
  • rate schools on the wrong criteria.

US public schools snatch our children’s brilliance and suck their brilliance away. They rob them of their potential, joy, and enthusiasm. Didn’t I say you would cry?

Parents must:

  • observe the children to fit the best learning lessons around them to make them shine
  • make every moment of their child’s life a joyous moment.

Relaxed and engaged children see the dots and connect them. They are naturally creative problem solvers. By sharing inspirational stories parents can teach solid values. Build a solid character grounded in life’s reality and challenges. Role model good behaviors. The parent’s home has to become the school that nurtures and teaches life success skills because most public schools don’t this today, and will likely not do it for years to come.

If you would like to hear more about my proactive approach to finding your purpose and clarifying your mission, you can start with reading my book: Find Your Everest before someone chooses it for you. I also custom tailor my motivational and inspirational talks and consultations.

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