SBJ/April 28-May 4/People and Pop Culture

Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education

The administration’s point man on education on how teams can be more effective in their outreach to young people, the pursuit of excellence, and the benefits of having Skylar Diggins on your hoops team.



C ommunity engagement and involvement is very important.
What I frankly want to challenge people to do is to get beyond the one-offs, to get beyond the photo ops, to get beyond the few tickets for a few kids and the autograph sessions. Those are all nice, but for me, that is not change at scale and not meaningful change.

In every one of your communities we can help, and we have all the data; partner with you — here are the relatively small number of schools but that need desperate help — and it could start to become much more focused, much more strategic.

What we’re looking for is a much more strategic investment. Frankly, a greater focus on your return on investment, on your ROI, but do it in a way that is going to not just feel good but is going to provide a set of opportunities that kids and communities have not had historically.

“I obviously have this huge love for basketball, but there is no way I could be doing what I do today had I not had the opportunity to be on all those teams throughout my upbringing.”
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
I’m from the South Side of Chicago; grew up playing there. Juwan Howard is also from the South Side of Chicago. He and I have partnered for years. He has run summer camps back home for years. He stays in touch with kids.

His summer camps are half-the-day basketball, half-the-day academic/technology skills. … The kids there know he is going to be there and has been there for the long haul.

We know by any measure what we’re doing for our young boys of color, our black and brown boys, in this country is woefully inadequate — and whether it is increasing high school graduation rates, whether it is reducing dropout rates, whether it is reducing incarceration rates, we need to, at scale, provide a set of opportunities that haven’t existed.

The president announced My Brother’s Keeper. It’s a very direct and strategic focus there. We have already a couple hundred million dollars from the private and philanthropic side.

[The] NBA, NFL, obviously who your athletes are, who your fan base is — huge chance to play there.

I think so many of us were able to sit down in class only if we had some recess. If we had PE, we were able to run around a little bit and burn off some steam.

Schools need to do more: More PE, more recess, more before school, after school. My daughter goes to a wonderful public school. They have a Girls on the Run program where they have young former college athletes come doing this amazing stuff in the mornings, so we all have a role to play.

I want us to be much more strategic, much more proactive … telling our young people in general, but particularly our young boys of color, that you cannot drop out of high school. It is absolutely unacceptable. We’ll get you what help you need to be successful, but there is no way we’re going to allow you to drop out.

I wish we had more people kicking down my door and other folks’ doors saying we have to get better faster. The pressure we generally feel is that we’re going too fast. I think quite the opposite is true. In a place like South Korea, it frankly doesn’t matter who the leadership is. The people won’t allow education not to be a top priority.

We’ve stagnated, and 11 other countries have passed us by. On no international benchmarks, none, are we frankly close to where I think we want to be. I think we’re living on our past glory days from 30 and 40 years ago.

[Following video highlights of Duncan at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game]: Thank God for Skylar Diggins. She could actually cut. Just so folks know, this was not real basketball. This was against Snoop Dogg. Take it with a grain of salt.

We play in a league in D.C.; play with a group of guys Saturday mornings. My son is starting to play, so I play with him some. Mix it up a little bit.

Bill Bradley wrote a book … “Values of the Game.” The hard work, the perseverance, the thinking long term, the thinking not about what’s good for you but what is good for the team: Those are all skills that are tough to teach in algebra and biology.

I obviously have this huge love for basketball, but there is no way I could be doing what I do today had I not had the opportunity to be on all those teams throughout my upbringing.

I thought the idea that so many teams were going to postseason tournaments with graduation rates that were horrendous was just absolutely irresponsible. People thought we were crazy, but we worked really hard and got the NCAA actually to raise the bar.

The fact that a coach can run a program into the ground and then leave and then double his salary at the next institution and the university he left be decimated, they lose scholarships … If I commit a crime, my wife shouldn’t pay for it and the person next to me shouldn’t pay for it. I need to pay for it.

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