Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaks in Gaston Hall

On Monday morning, Georgetown welcomed another member of Barack Obama’s cabinet to Gaston Hall—Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Secretary Duncan’s visit, sponsored by the School of Continuing Studies and Parenting Magazine, focused on engaging parents in their children’s education.

After opening with a pithy compliment directed toward the University (“I feel smarter every time I come to Georgetown,”) Duncan dove into a keynote address and town hall discussion that  focused on the parents’ roles in education.

For a political figure, Secretary Duncan was surprisingly candid. He claimed to be envious of some other countries’ educational problems, for example. Compared to a country such as South Korea, which considers its most difficult educational problem to be parents who are too demanding, the United States simply lags behind. Stateside, Duncan noted, complacency runs rampant among many American parents.

Duncan often referenced the idea that parents too often “[look] out the window rather than in the mirror.”

Instead, he encouraged parents to see the flaws within both other schools and their childrens’ schools.

Duncan then told the audience that we can no longer “[create] schools that are good enough for someone else’s children, but not good enough for our own.”

While wrapping up his address, Duncan also took a few swipes at the prevalence of technology in our society. He cited studies that have found that children spend six hours a day watching television, while spending a mere 25 minutes reading per day.

Citing a predecessor in the Department of Education, Duncan offered eight magical words to education reform: “Please shut off the TV, I’m trying to read.” (Editor’s note: That’s right, the Secretary of Education counted incorrectly.)

Duncan concluded with a short question-and-answer period consisting of parent activists asking questions ranging from accountability issues to the healthiness of school food.

The recorded webcast of the town hall can be found here.

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