Today, I attended the Committee for Economic Development’s 2013 Fall Policy Conference held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.
During the conference’s lunch panel, the US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, addressed the audience, which was comprised of distinguished American CEOs and business leaders, about the United State’s current efforts in education reform and policy changes. He spoke highly of the States’ effort in reforming preschool and K-12 education and also urged more to rally around states’ adoption of Common Core Standards.
Common Core Standards is a voluntary, state-led initiative for grades K-12 in English, Language Arts, and Math. The Standards establish what students need to learn and be able to do. The Standards are a challenging, but essential key to prepare youth for college and to improve workforce skills.
His conversation was engaging and passionate, all of which what should be expected from a Secretary of Education.
After his keynote talk, he opened up the floor to questions.
My question/comment to him was….
One of the largest fails of our education systems is reflected by the high rate of mass incarceration in the US. Individuals who attain degrees in prison are highly stigmatized and often barred access to good paying jobs post-release. What kind of conversation needs to be happening nationwide and within the business community about this issue? How should companies start to shift the way they view educated incarcerated individuals?
Arne Duncan’s reply:
Well…………………… (lots of stuff about K-12 initiatives, need for mentorship in inner city communities)….. (more stuff about current US programmic efforts….)……….
He failed to answer or acknowledge my question.
This astounded me.
Why has the Obama administration, and in this specific case, the US Secretary of Education, refused to talk about a segment of the population who, too, has had unequal access to education pre- prison, during prison, and post- prison? In a room full of important CEOs and “game-changers”, this would have been an opportune time to talk about the ways that businesses can team together and really make an impact on an often forgotten about and vulnerable population. But, Arne Duncan, chose to glaze over the my question and its importance.
I guess only focusing on youth is the “politically correct” way to approach US education reform in a room full of business owners.
The ways that businesses could impact post-prison success for inmates who attain education (or who are interested in attaining education) are tremendous. Many of these inmates are looking for ways to not recidivate but cannot find positive avenues or opportunities for skill-development or job placement.
We care a lot about the youth I get it, but as the saying goes, “an educated parent births an educated child.”
After his talk, Arne was swiftly escorted out of the room by secret service agents.
Don’t worry, Arne Duncan, we’ll meet again and this time you will answer my question.
Rana Campbell is a journalist, branding expert, and self- proclaimed “digital butterfly.” Follow her on Twitter , Instagram, or Facebook to connect or check out her website www.ranacampbell.com to read more interesting commentaries.
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