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Duncan Meets With ‘Save Our Schools’ Organizers, Their Dolls

By Michele McNeil — July 28, 2011 1 min read
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Everyone knows that cabinet secretaries are busy people, so when you want to get your message across, it’s all the better to be brief—and memorable.

So when the organizers of the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action wanted to quickly convey their concerns with the direction of education reform, they presented Education Secretary Arne Duncan with an art installation: a baby doll in a box. Not just any box, either, but a box wrapped in testing bubble answer sheets. Just like the one pictured here.

Their message was simple: There is too much emphasis on testing and test prep, which is stifling student and teacher creativity.

As a bonus, three of the organizers—whose march is being held in protest of many of the reforms embodied by Duncan and the Obama administration—got a face-to-face meeting with the secretary and his top staff, and got to present the doll personally. Yesterday afternoon, for an hour, senior-level Education Department officials, including two press officers and the deputy chief of staff, listened to the concerns of the organizers. Duncan popped in for 10 minutes and described the meeting as a “good conversation.” He added that “There is a lot of common ground out there.”

Although the organizers described the meeting as “respectful,” they disagreed with Duncan’s assessment that he and they are not very far apart on their hopes for change to American public education.

Before the meeting, SOS organizers had arranged 50 cardboard boxes holding dolls with messages to Duncan outside the department’s offices.

The boxed dolls, each representing a teacher, were the brainchild of Morna McDermott, a longtime teacher-educator.

Although the movement opposes many federal education policies, Education Department officials reportedly helped the SOS folks navigate the General Services Administration’s permitting process for a march, a process that can be bureaucratic and time-consuming.

Staff writer Nirvi Shah contributed to this post.

Photos of the art installations supplied by Morna McDermott.