Tags: Heidi Heitkamp

Boy, Does Arne Duncan Like to Talk Sports.


On the New York Times op-ed page last week, Tom Friedman argued that Education Secretary Arne Duncan is his ideal pick for the next U.S. Secretary of State. His argument boils down to the notion that Duncan is a good negotiator and the importance of promoting education in the world’s trouble spots.

Friedman’s tongue-not-really-in-cheek suggestion is particularly awful by the criteria he cites because even by those standards, Duncan’s been a disappointment — particularly on the nexus of education and diplomacy.  Quite a few folks in the foreign-language and international-education-policy arenas find Duncan to be a disappointment.

Some corners of the international education community are grumbling about a recent video Duncan taped to mark International Education Week earlier this month.

The video can be seen here and a transcript can be read here.

After mentioning this year’s theme of “International Education: Striving for a Healthier Future Worldwide,” Duncan begins with a sudden and odd segue by discussing Title IX, a federal statute designed to end sex discrimination in education; it is most often cited for its influence on women’s athletics. For four paragraphs, Duncan discusses First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” health initiative, how students involved with sports are less likely to use drugs, get pregnant as teenagers, or become obese, his professional sports career, and the Olympic Games . . . everything, it seems, except for actual international education programs.

The words “foreign” and “language” do not appear in Duncan’s remarks, but the word “sports” appears five times. The only time Duncan uses the word “overseas” is in reference to his and his sister’s professional-sports careers.

(Usually the complaint about cabinet secretaries is that they talk the talk but don’t walk the walk; with Duncan we’re still working on the “talk the talk” part.)

One of the ironies of Duncan babbling at length about Title IX is that he doesn’t say a word about his department’s Title VI grants, which are offered to U.S. universities to create international-studies centers to promote the study of foreign languages, a program with its roots in the post-Sputnik drive to improve U.S. education. Earlier this month, the Education Department finally released its first-ever “international strategy” paper — six years after the Bush administration established a National Security Language Initiative — and quite a few foreign-language educators believe their subject was relatively buried in that strategy paper, nudged between “international benchmarking and applying lessons learned from other countries” and “education diplomacy and engagement with other countries.”

This is separate from the Obama administration’s rare cooperation with a GOP Congress to eliminate the Foreign Language Assistance Program; now the money for foreign-language education grants is lumped into the category for grants for high-risk or impoverished students, and must compete with those programs.

“The department’s decisions to cut funding for foreign languages and international education are disappointing and puzzling, in light of the need for language and international expertise for national security and to compete in the global economy of the 21st century,” said William P. Rivers, the executive director of the  Joint National Committee for Languages of the National Council for Language and International Studies.

It’s fascinating to see international-education professionals feeling so snubbed and disregarded by an administration headed by a man who contended his childhood years overseas in Indonesia gave him unique insight into foreign affairs. And Arne Duncan, the longtime friend of Barack Obama who headed the Chicago Public Schools and played professional basketball, is the main target of that ire.

Maybe he would be more focused on international-language education if Kobe Bryant had trash-talked at him in Italian.

Tags: Arne Duncan , Heidi Heitkamp

New Ohio Ad: Aid to Egypt Over Funding for Schools?


Secure America Now is hitting the airwaves in Florida and Ohio with a pair of pretty brutal ads. Neither one endorses a candidate, but it’s pretty clearly a message slamming the administration for policies the group deems a giveaway to the Muslim Brotherhood, and an insufficiently supportive policy towards Israel.

The first contends that the administration wants to give $450 million in foreign aid to “an Egypt led by the Muslim Brotherhood” instead of your local schools.

Count the themes: wasteful foreign aid, soft on Islamist groups, neglecting our schools . . .

The second features Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking in Jerusalem on September 11, warning the world to start drawing red lines against Iran’s nuclear weapons development.

Three guesses on which swing state where this ad will run.

Secure America Now says they’ll spend $1 million on airing these ads in the two states.

Tags: Barack Obama , Milwaukee , Heidi Heitkamp , Florida , John Sununu , Ohio

‘He’s failed in the one test America had for him.’


Up in North Dakota, the Democrats’ candidate for Senate does her part to help the president:

In an interview, [Heidi Heitkamp, a former state attorney general] made it clear she intends to keep her distance from Obama.

“I think he’s failed in the one test America had for him, which was to unite the country,” she told The Associated Press. “I think he needed to be more hands-on. … I don’t think he’s done enough to think broadly and come up with solutions that would engage both sides in a reasonable dialogue.”

Obama 2012: Because even his own party’s candidates say he’s failed in the one test America had for him.

The Republican candidate in Heitkamp’s race is Rep. Rick Berg.

Tags: Barack Obama , Heidi Heitkamp

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