Category Archives: Fiction

A Public Hospital’s Saga (and How it Relates to Ed Reform)


On an icy morning, an oil tanker jackknifes on the highway. Drivers on either side have little time to react. The closest cars plow into the tanker. The ones that had some distance swerve to avoid the wreckage, colliding with other cars in adjacent lanes. Several raging fires burn high into the sky, lapping at the overpass where pedestrians are trapped in a ring of flame.

The nearest hospital is municipal, and it boasts a remarkably dedicated team. They haven’t won any awards, nor have their names been printed in the magazine saying their hospital is one of the country’s best. Their funding has been cut drastically over the last several years and they make the most of what they are given. Even though they’re not the top choice, they are the closest choice, and the emergency responders have determined that the vast majority of the victims on the highway need the most immediate hospital care they can get.

The first ambulance arrives carrying the most severely burned victim. Next, a helicopter brings another badly burned victim. The emergency room’s efficiency springs to life. All doctors and nurses overseeing patients who don’t need constant attention are ordered to stand by for more arrivals.

Another ambulance arrives, and then another. Pretty soon, the ER is overwhelmed with screaming, writhing burn victims, some with broken legs or backs. Others are unconscious from the pain. Others are dying as they wait. All demand attention for their needs, and the nurses and doctors, dedicated as they are, do their best to reach every single one. But the victims keep coming.

Realizing that this overwhelming influx of high-needs patients is too much for the staff to handle alone, the hospital administrator begins placing calls for more resources to be sent immediately – supplies, manpower, whatever it takes to save as many lives as possible.

The administrator pleads with the other hospitals, “Please, send anything you can. People are dying. We need help. We can’t do it alone.”

Private Hospital number one responds by saying, “We wish we could, but our patients can’t be inconvenienced by your needs. Sorry.”

Private Hospital number two responds by saying, “You obviously aren’t working hard enough. Stop complaining and do your job.”

Private Hospital number three responds by saying, “It’s exactly reasons like this why your entire staff should be fired!”

And so, without any help from the private hospitals – despite their seemingly endless supply of cash, superior technology, and opportunity to do right by those who need them most – the staff at the municipal hospital do what they’ve always done: their very best.

Thirty-six hours later, things have stabilized, but the staggering toll of being an underfunded, unassisted municipal hospital has taken its toll on the public who relied on it. Out of the 213 people brought in, more than half are dead. Many others are fighting infection and are, without the proper medicines, on the way to death, too.

In fact, by the time, one week later, the state has completed its investigation of the response to the highway fire, all but two victims – the first ones to arrive – are dead.

The recommendation is unequivocal: Phase the hospital out and, eventually, close it. After all, it is reasoned, they lost 211 out of the 213 lives brought to them. The administrator, chief of surgery, his best doctors, and 60% of the nurses are all fired. And besides, their record hasn’t been so good anyway since the new mayor took over.

Nowhere in the report is there mention of the hospital’s attempts at getting support to handle the aftermath of the fire (or their previous attempts at soliciting municipal funds). The media, in their castigation of the municipal hospital, neglect to cover the protesters chanting for increased funding (nor did they ever give serious coverage to previous rallies and petitions). Government officials all laud the phasing out and eventual closure of, “a hospital that is clearly failing our society.”

Would this ever happen to a hospital? Probably not.

But does it happen to schools? All the time.

How the Grinch Stole Education! (And Lost it Back!!)


Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss! Thanks for inspiring me to write this tale:

Every kid down in School-ville liked their teachers a lot. But the Grinch, who lived just north of School-ville, did NOT!

The Grinch hated teachers! In every single season! No need to ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

In whatever the paper, the Times, Post, or News, the Grinch spouted hatred in his educational views.

Staring down from his office with a wrinkled, furrowed frown, the Grinch conspired to turn education upside down.

“And they’re doing art projects,” he snarled with a sneer. “This is the apocalypse! It’s practically here!”

Then he grunted, with his Grinch fingers briskly drumming, “It’s no time like now for reform to be coming!”

For before, all the school girls and boys would wake bright and early. They’d walk into the classroom with a disposition not surly.

But then! Oh, that Grinch, and his planning of plans! He decided, “No more! I will stop this if I can!”

So the Grinch, so much wisdom, said, “My idea’s the best, the best the best!” “The only way to teach is to the TEST, the TEST, the TEST!”

And all the school girls and all the school boys could come to school now with the least bit of joys.

They couldn’t smile, they couldn’t dance, they couldn’t jump, they couldn’t sing. They could color in bubbles until the bell rings!

“And those teachers,” said the Grinch, as he rapped upon his window. “I must figure out a way for them to go!”

And so it was the plan of that sticky old Grinch, to measure their value and see if scores inched.

“If they inch forward,” he said, “you’re doing your job. If they centimeter back, you’re a no good slob!”

What value would be added by the Grinch’s device? A system where virtually nothing was nice.

If not for the school girls and boys, the teachers would have quit. They’d have cried long before, “It’s enough with this spit!”

But in fact, no they didn’t go down without a fight. They plotted and planned all through the night.

And finally when the Grinch was suspecting it least, there rose up an anguished roar from the ivory tower’s feet!

And there, charging, up to the Grinch’s domain were students, parents, teachers, and people all the same!

They cried, “Out with the Grinch! Get out of our schools!” The Grinch only bellowed, “Silence, you fools!”

“Only I know what our schoolchildren need: It’s testing, and testing, and testing. You see?”

Over their roar they failed to hear, until they got near, what the Grinch was so stridently arguing. Some parents declared, as they climbed up the stairs, “You can bet that we will be suing.”

They hollered and fought to reclaim the lives, of the boys and the girls who’d someday change lives.

“Our future depends on a sound education! Why are you ruining the chances of the School-ville nation?”

The battle ensued, they drew a line in the sand. The politicians, too, all took a stand.

They realized it was time to give the schools back to School-ville. They said, “Wait a minute, what we’re doing is evil!”

And finally, it happened, that the Grinch was defeated. But never could the memories from School-ville’s minds be deleted.

They always recalled those dark days with shame. When they were just pawns in the politics game.

And when they regrouped and reestablished their school, it was only the Grinch who looked like the fool.

Arne and the Alien: Epilogue


This is part five, the final part, of a series in which I imagine what would happen if an alien visited the United States to understand school reform. You can read previous parts of the series here.

“It will get better,” the alien repeated. “How? When?”

“Soon,” said the ineffective teacher. “Too much harm is being done to our students. Too many people in control think they know more about education than career educators. The tide will someday turn and we will have order restored.”

“I can’t lie,” said the alien. “I don’t want our planet’s school system to be like your country’s. There is too much that I’ve seen that just doesn’t seem right.”

“Understood,” said the ineffective teacher. She thought it was an understatement.

“This is no way to run a school system,” said the alien. “I came here looking for inspiration, and the only inspiration I found is negative.”

The ineffective teacher smiled again.

“Except you,” said the alien. “Thank you. Thank you for showing me, so simply, what is right and what is wrong.”

The alien exited the staffroom. He found Arne Duncan and clasped his hands, saying, “Arne, thanks for your time, but it’s just not what I’m looking for.”

Duncan was genuinely miffed. The alien snapped his fingers to summon his shuttle. As he boarded, he thought he heard Duncan saying something about jobs and the 21st century.

Back on the ship, he called home to his planet’s president, who asked if he was ready to create a system based on the Americans’.

“Well, not quite, sir,” he answered. “My work isn’t quite done, but when it is, we’re going to have the greatest system in the universe.”

Three years later, the first of what would become many schools were opened on the alien’s planet. To prepare his planet’s new system, the alien tried to shut out everything he saw with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and instead focused on talking to students and teachers about what an ideal school should be.

From the students, he got ideas for classes in art, music, and physical education. They thought it would be great to get them every single day, too. They suggested school gardens, maintained by students and used as learning environments. They talked about classrooms with desks only for the kids who wanted them, and full of couches, bean bag chairs, pillows, and recliners for everyone else.

They had the idea to abolish all forms of summative assessment and argued the value of being evaluated by their work throughout the year, a more accurate measure of success, they felt, than standardized tests. The teachers on the committee chimed in to tell them these were called “portfolios,” and while not novel, were certainly forgotten.

They called for vocational education for those who wanted it, and thought it would be beneficial for students who wanted to be chefs to take over the school kitchens (or at least apprentice in them).

They spoke seriously when they told the alien how important it was for his planet’s politicians and media to support teachers and build them up as pillars of society, something they felt never really happened in the U.S. They gave reasons why everyone should be attending a school paid for by taxes, not corporations (they referred to it as “democracy”).

They argued in favor of recess (“We need to be able to exercise our bodies in order to exercise our minds,” said one 12-year old). They asked that veteran teachers be revered. They asked that parents be involved as much as possible.

All of these ideas were implemented.

The teachers had their own requests. The alien, listening to them, noted with irony that Duncan might have considered them selfish, but they actually seemed well within reason.

They asked that the alien’s schools provide meaningful professional development, chosen by the teacher or tailored to the teacher’s professional needs. They stressed the importance of autonomy. One said, “We’re not robots. We don’t all think alike. We can all do a great job if we would be allowed to.”

Their ideal system featured small classes (no more than 18 students in each) so that, “We could treat each student as an individual.” They, too, endorsed portfolios in place of tests. They didn’t speak much about pay other than to say, “Please don’t ever offer merit pay. It’s an insult.” They said it would be best to have administrators who lead by example and who solicit input from all levels of the staff. They said all kindergarten students should play 5 hours out of the day, and nap the other hour (that is, if they elected for full-day kindergarten). They argued for play in all grades, actually.

When they commented that poor families should be given books and educational toys for their babies and toddlers, the alien scoffed, saying, “We’re the richest planet in the universe. We don’t allow families to be poor.”

So other than that, all of their ideas were implemented.

The school system grew into something exceptional. In fact, it became the Finland of the universe – the system that everyone wanted to emulate. Earth’s countries began to follow suit when they saw the miracles of education borne from teacher autonomy, student investment, and all of the other ideas. The United States eventually came around, and it was Arne Duncan himself who called the alien to thank him for challenging his assumptions and putting the U.S. back on the right track.

“Now we can truly prepare our students for the jobs of the 21st century,” Duncan had said. “Maybe we’ll even figure out a way to visit you guys some day.”

While the test-crazy environment in the U.S. persisted, the effective teacher retired from teaching and went to work for a big testing company, writing questions for standardized tests for pre-schoolers (none of which they could read, incidentally). When the testing hysteria died down, she found herself unemployed – her company folded and she was left without a job. She eventually took a job waiting tables. After all, in each interview for a teaching position, she was unable to demonstrate an ability to teach effectively after all those years of test prep.

The ineffective teacher maintained her smile every day and continued to do what she felt was right for her students. Once order was restored, she became a two-time U.S. Teacher of the Year. The alien then recruited her to move to his planet, where she currently serves as their Secretary of Education.

The End

Arne and the Alien Reflect on Effective Teaching


This is part four of a series in which I imagine what would happen if an alien visited the United States to understand school reform. You can read previous parts of the series here.

Doubts about what made an effective teacher were again creeping into the alien’s four stomachs.

“Well,” said Duncan, “how invigorating was that? Great teaching in action!”

“I don’t know, Arne,” the alien replied. “If those students are spending so much time on practice tests, how are they learning critical thinking skills and civics and all that important stuff?”

Duncan smiled. “Let me be absolutely clear,” the Secretary replied, sounding as if he was tired of repeating it over and over. “The president has said many times teachers should not have to feel they must teach to the test. What you saw in there was a teacher preparing her students for the jobs of the 21st century.”

“I know that’s what Obama says, but you just told me that teacher, where the students were taking a practice test, is effective.”

“Correct. But again, let me stress, we don’t want our teachers teaching to the test. We want them developing in their students the collaboration skills and critical thinking skills that will prepare them for the 21st century job market.”

“Yes, understood. I get that. Then why are they taking these practice tests?”

Duncan looked perplexed, as if the question made no sense. “Well, just look at the test scores in that class!”

The alien replied, “Yes, they’re very good. But is it because the teacher is teaching to the test with practice tests or because he is teaching his students how to think and collaborate?”

“I’ll say it again,” said Duncan, this time pausing for emphasis and with his mouth betraying the slightest flustered annoyance. “No one. Wants. Teachers. Teaching. To. The. Test. When we measure effectiveness, though, we must place a major emphasis on test scores. Is there any other way?”

By now, feeling overwhelmed by the cyclical logic employed by his host, the alien excused himself to the staffroom. It was empty. Standing before the mirror, he noticed his skin had turned a lighter shade of green – not the grassy green it was when he arrived on Earth, but more like a minty green. He felt sick.

Sticking his hand in his pocket, he recovered the note pressed into his palm by the sad-eyed girl in the effective teacher’s class. “She looked so bored,” he thought to himself.

The alien unfolded the note. Reading it, he felt tears welling in his eyes. Scrawled on the post-it in unsteady manuscript was a simple 5-word request:

Get me out of here.

The alien stared at the words and allowed them to penetrate his mind. He repeated them slowly and quietly. “Get me out of here.”

Sadness, anger, confusion, and disappointment entered his three hearts. He remembered the engaged happiness that practically blew out the windows in the ineffective teacher’s room. He remembered the bored sadness that hunched the shoulders of everyone in the effective teacher’s room.

“Get me out of here.” The more times he read them, the louder he became. He was pounding his fists on the wall now, almost in a rage, screaming so loud he felt his throat was on fire. “GET ME OUT OF HERE! GET ME OUT OF HERE!”

When he was spent, he looked in the mirror and saw tears streaming down his face. Another face looked back at him, too. It was the ineffective teacher. She was smiling.

“I’m sorry,” said the alien. “This trip is not at all what I expected. Privately I was thinking to myself that you were the effective teacher – doing so much for your students, teaching them what they need to know. But, who am I to say? I’m only here to visit your country and bring back ideas for my own planet. And if our schools need to look like the classroom of the other teacher, and test practice is what we need to do, then so be it. I’m just surprised. Something just doesn’t…feel right”

The ineffective teacher, smiling, tilted her head to the right with an understanding nod. She took a pad from her pocket, clicked open her pen, and wrote something. She clicked her pen shut, folded the note, and passed it to the alien, saying, “Just remember.”

The alien opened the note. Tears welled in his eyes again. He looked back at the ineffective teacher, who was still smiling. He wondered how she could write such a note, how she could believe the words that came from her pen.

Returning to the note and whispering, he read the four words aloud, as if to confirm their validity or the truth of such an optimistic statement:

“It will get better.”

To be concluded…

Arne and the Alien Visit an Effective Teacher


This is part three of a series in which I imagine what would happen if an alien visited the United States to understand school reform. You can read previous parts of the series here.

As he walked alongside Arne Duncan on the way to the classroom of the effective teacher, the alien noticed stirrings of doubt in his four stomachs.

“Arne,” he said, turning to the Secretary but not breaking his stride. “That teacher we just visited looked like she was really working hard.”

“Yes?”

“She looked like she cared.”

“Yes?”

“Her students seemed to be working really hard and were on task, engaged in work that, while not typical for their age, was necessary for them to do well.”

“Is there a point?”

“No point. I just didn’t expect that before we walked in. I figured the students would be throwing things, cursing at the teacher, sleeping. I guess those test scores are really important, though.”

“They are,” said Duncan, finally turning to the alien. “They really are. Nothing can prepare our students for the 21st century job market more than the test scores. Keep that in mind as we enter this classroom. Now you’ll see what every teacher should be like, and what every classroom should look like. Alien, I present to you the highly effective teacher.”

Duncan opened the door and they stepped inside. The atmosphere was different from the room of the ineffective teacher. Quieter, for sure, but there was something else the alien couldn’t pinpoint just yet.

Students were seated in rows hunched over thin booklets.

“This,” Duncan beamed, “is a classroom where students are preparing for the workplace of the 21st century! The very epitome of American education!”

The students were all reading silently. Every so often a student would use his pencil to color in a small circle on a separate paper. “Earthling art,” the alien thought to himself.

The alien took the opportunity to approach the teacher seated at her desk.

“Ma’am,” he started. “I am so excited to see your students working on art. It’s so important for students to have art, don’t you think?”

The teacher was confused, but a timer rang and she excused herself from the conversation. Walking to front of the room and standing before the middle row, she spoke to the students. “The timer rang. You have one minute to stand up and stretch. When the timer rings again, sit down and get back to work.” She set the timer. Students stood up and twisted their backs, cracked their knuckles, touched their toes, and walked around their desks.

“Earthling physical education,” the alien thought to himself. “Art and physical education all at once. Simply genius.”

The timer rang. Students sat down and returned to coloring in the bubbles. The alien was so excited. He could hardly wait to talk to the effective teacher to learn more.

“Teacher,” said the alien, “I am truly amazed that you are teaching art and physical education all at once. I had heard on the Alien News Network that this country’s reforms were making teachers teach only to the test, but clearly that’s not the case!”

The teacher remained confused. Duncan stepped in.

“Would it surprise you to find out that this teacher consistently has the highest test scores in the building?” he asked the alien.

“Well, I can see why! Look at the well-rounded experiences she is giving her students!” the alien elatedly said.

“I have to be honest,” said the teacher. “I used to be a truly ineffective teacher. I used to think I was working hard, as hard as I could. I went home every night, wrote lesson plans, created materials, bought supplies, answered homework questions on my home phone. It never did anything for my students. My test scores were okay, but nothing special. Then my district told me, ‘If only you would work harder, your students would do better.”

She continued. “And we’ll pay you more.’”

The alien smiled, intrigued. Duncan’s smile was a mile wide.

“At first, I thought, ‘There’s no way I can work any harder than this.’ At the time I had no life outside of my career. But then I thought, ‘What if I gave it a try? How about instead of wasting all my time at home, I just make worksheets and practice tests?’”

The alien stopped smiling. “Practice tests?”

“Yes,” the teacher said. “That’s why when you said something about art, I was a little taken aback. This isn’t art. This is test prep. We don’t have time for art. We don’t have time for physical education, either.”

Here, Duncan spoke. “But the test scores have been amazing!”

“Exactly!” said the teacher. “Does anything else matter?”

The alien wasn’t smiling anymore.

He looked out at the sea of students dutifully coloring in their bubbles. They weren’t smiling, either. He realized here that that was the difference he couldn’t identify when he walked in.

“Thank you for your time, Teacher.” The alien turned to walk to the door.

The student in the corner seat closed to the exit looked at him with sad eyes, subtly holding out a folded piece of paper in her left hand. The alien took it and, sensing its importance – and perhaps danger – pocketed it. Together, he and the Secretary exited the classroom of the effective teacher.

To be continued…

Arne and the Alien Visit an Ineffective Teacher


This is part two of a series in which I imagine what would happen if an alien visited the United States to understand school reform. You can read previous parts of the series here.

On the alien’s first day of visiting, Secretary Duncan said, “I thought we could take a look at two classrooms today. One will be the classroom of a highly effective teacher. The other will be a highly ineffective teacher. I want you to take note of the differences between the two. It should be quite clear to you what makes a good teacher and what makes a bad one. Any questions before we go in?”

“No, I’m just excited to get into the classrooms. I really can’t wait to see what the effective teacher is doing that we can replicate on our planet!”

“I think you’ll agree she is a truly exceptional teacher,” Duncan said. “But first, let’s go see her colleague who we consider to be ineffective. I should warn you, she is on the verge of losing her job, so you may find her to be taking out her disappointment on her students.” Duncan opened the door to the classroom and said, “Please, after you.”

The alien entered the room. The first thing he noticed was the noise. Students were talking to each other in loud tones. Some were out of their seats. They had books in their hands and some seemed to be engaged in arguments in heavily accented English. It was hard to tell what they argued about, but the alien took note of the words, “chapter,” “character,” and, “trait” coming from their mouths.

The teacher was sitting with a group of only four students. Together, they were working on reading words ending in -at. The alien took note of his surprise that the teacher was smiling. He also couldn’t help noticing the ragged appearance of the students’ clothes, like they hadn’t been washed in days. The students themselves looked tired, but were nevertheless engaged.

“You see,” started Duncan, “this is unacceptable. This is an eighth-grade class. Why should they be working on -at words? This teacher clearly isn’t preparing them for job market of the 21st century.”

The teacher continued teaching while the alien shook his head ruefully. The alien approached the teacher, intrigued by what the secretary pointed out.

“Miss, I’m sorry to interrupt,” began the alien. “I just wondered why these 13-year olds are learning something as simple as the words cat, bat, and fat. Surely this isn’t rigorous enough?”

The teacher looked up. The alien noticed that her smile remained, although her voice indicated this was not the first time she felt the need to defend her teaching.

“Well,” replied the teacher, “these four students just arrived to my class last week. They all came from a foreign country, and while you may find this hard to believe, they have had no formal schooling in their lives.”

Duncan chimed in. “Oh come now. You mean to tell me last week was the first time these students ever went to school in their lives? I find that hard to believe.”

Said the teacher, “Believe it. They haven’t been to school in their home country and now, here they are. On top of that, they’re all living together for now. There simply isn’t enough money for their parents to rent separately. There are 13 people living in a one bedroom apartment.”

The alien was shocked. “How can that be?”

“Well,” said the teacher. “We can’t imagine it, that’s for sure. But they’re living it. What’s it called? ‘The American Dream’? I bet you didn’t know The American Dream doesn’t come with a nutritional breakfast each morning. I’ve been buying them a bagel and juice each day or else they’ll come to school hopped up on soda and chips.”

Duncan’s face flushed. He collected himself and replied, “You are aware, I’m sure, that these students have a test to take  this year. A reading test. And this is why you’re going to lose your job. You don’t give enough to these students and so they continue to fail.”

The alien watched as the teacher’s face reddened. “Mr. Secretary,” she started, “you tell me my students don’t progress, but it might shock you to know that these students already learned 12 of the letters in the alphabet in the short time they’ve been here. That is progress. But you want them to be able to write essays and read Greek mythological tales. Is that reasonable? They are scraping to survive.”

The alien, impressed by the challenge, waited for Duncan’s response.

“You have to understand me, Teacher,” said Duncan. “Your test scores have been awful. Your students are not making progress. You are not impacting their achievement in a positive way. You are failing these students and it is teachers like you that are destroying this country. All I can tell you is these students better pass the test.”

The teacher stared at the secretary for a good long while. Finally, she said with an exasperated sigh, “Thank you both for visiting. Allow me now to get back to ruining my students’ lives.” She returned to her students, smiling, proceeding to help them work through the -at words.

The alien felt his face turn red and watched Duncan’s do the same. They exited the room and Duncan retrieved his Blackberry from his pocket and began dialing a number. Soon, he spoke.

“Hello? Hello, Michelle. Hi, it’s Arne. Oh, I’m fine, thanks. Just touring some schools. Yeah, just got out of an awful classroom. The teacher tried to tell me that just because the students came to the country last week that teaching them -at words was appropriate. Hmm? Grade? It was eighth. I KNOW! And I told her that. Yes, this is the one we’ve talked about. I told her she has to improve her students’ test scores.  Yep. The reason I’m calling is because I’d like your advice. I want to fire her and make sure everyone knows groundless excuses about poverty and lack of English language won’t be tolerated. How should I go about it? Bring her to my office? Okay. Get a camera crew? Okay, I can do that. Terminate her in front of the camera crew? Sounds good. Yeah, I can do that. Easy. Okay, Michelle. Thanks. You keep up your good work, will you? Yes, I’ll do the same, thanks. Okay. Be well.”

Duncan turned to the alien. “Well, she doesn’t deserve to have a job. I mean, come on. Her test scores are atrocious. Clearly she isn’t doing enough for her students. Shall we continue to the effective teacher?”

To be continued…

Arne and the Alien Tour the U.S. Education System


This is part one of a series in which I imagine what would happen if an alien visited the United States to understand school reform.

The alien, seeking to start a formal schooling system on his home planet, decided it would be wise to tour an Earthbound nation for ideas. ANN – Alien News Network – had run many stories about Earth’s educational systems, but the one that intrigued the alien the most was the United States’. After all, the alien, a democrat and believer in change, was an admirer of the U.S. president, Barack Obama. He was also, like Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a basketball fan (although he never played because of the lack of gravity on his home planet. He didn’t like the Bulls, by the way. He went for the Knicks).

So the alien, with his diplomatic connections, placed a phone call to the Department of Education. Duncan answered.

“Arne,” said the alien, “I keep hearing so much about all the changes happening in your country’s schools.”

“Alien,” said Arne, “We are changing so much. We are really doing wonderful work. Of course, I can’t take the credit. After all, educational policies have to be determined by states!”

“Of course, of course. No one argues that,” replied the alien. “Say, Arne, would you be able to fit me in for a visit to your nation’s schools? I know you’re busy reading Race to the Top applications and No Child Left Behind waivers…”

“And appearing on The Daily Show!” the Secretary interjected.

“Oh, yes. I saw that, too. All this while creating better conditions for students, too. Truly amazing.”

“Thank you,” Duncan said.

“Anyway, Arne, what do you say? Can I fly down for a few days and visit some of your best schools? We are really dying for great ideas out here.”

“Absolutely. We’d love to have you. We believe the American model is truly the answer to all of our society’s issues –  joblessness, poverty, global warming -mainly because education is the only issue! We are really moving mountains here, preparing our students for the challenges of the 21st century job market.  When you come, I’ll show you how we are preparing students. But yes, come down next week. I’ll be thrilled to have you.”

“Sounds great. I’ll be there. Looking forward to seeing some of your wonderful American ideas in action.”

“I think you’ll agree we are moving in the right direction,” replied the Secretary.

To be continued…