Hunter Welcomes Secretary of Education Duncan to Roosevelt House
Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education visited Hunter on May 16th for a conversation with Dr. Jonathan Fanton at Roosevelt House.
Fanton - currently the Franklin D. Roosevelt Visiting Fellow at Roosevelt House - called Duncan “a patient visionary” and “a romantic realist.” During their conversation they discussed strategies for lowering the country’s high dropout rates, the need for investing more in early childhood education, the positive impact of technology on education (he spoke highly of a school he visited in Boston which allows students to do homework on their phones), and The No Child Left Behind Act. “We want to fix it in a bipartisan way,” Duncan said. “It is far too punitive.” Duncan also spoke of the need for more teachers of color “to reflect the youth of the country.” He said African-American and Latino male educators are especially needed.
Hunter President Jennifer Raab welcomed the Secretary to Roosevelt House. “Your work as Secretary has been courageous, intelligent, groundbreaking and ambitious,” she said. “You are an inspiration for all of us here who work in public service and education.” President Raab wished Duncan a long career in the White House and invited him to become a Visiting Fellow at Roosevelt House once his work in Washington is complete.
During his conversation with Dr. Fanton, Duncan talked about the importance of a college degree. He said that when he was young "you could drop out of high school and, if you learned a trade, you could still make a decent living and support a family." He stressed the fact that we are competing in a global marketplace and said that the United States went from having the most college graduates per capita to 9th in just a decade.
Brenda Paulenoff, a Hunter graduate student completing her studies in Special Education, had the opportunity to ask Duncan a question: “In regards to new teachers in the field, how would you provide support and incentives?” Duncan, who said that he learns not from sitting in his office in Washington but from engaging with educators around the country, turned the question around and asked her what she would need. Paulenoff, whose focus is working with children who have severe and multiple disabilities, responded, “A decent salary, administrative support and a team of colleagues willing to collaborate and not compete.”
“Teachers are the most altruistic people in the world,” Duncan said, “[and they] should not have to take a vow of poverty.” Duncan acknowledged that teachers’ salaries should be more competitive. Paulenoff said she felt honored to be at the event and that Duncan validated her concerns. “He spoke of the need for adequate and supportive principals. He spoke of supporting good teachers and not just getting rid of bad teachers. He seemed very optimistic and enthusiastic.”
Chris Russell, a graduate student in Special Education who teaches at the Jewish Guild for the Blind School in Manhattan, presented Duncan with a Hunter hoodie sweatshirt “for those cold nights in Washington.” Duncan thanked him and thanked Hunter for its outstanding service and leadership. “This is a time of huge challenges,” he said, “and this is a time of amazing opportunities.”