There's Music Behind Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

On June 18 MENC will hold its Rally for Music Education at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, DC. Thousands of students, along with their music teachers and parents, will bring their own “change” to Washington D.C. and share their vision of the future of music education with the new administration and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

MENC members and friends of music education are working to collect a million signatures on petitions throughout the United States. The signed petitions will be presented on the steps of the U.S. Department of Education as part of the rally.

With preparations underway for the rally, curiosity about Secretary Duncan and his background arises. His official biography on the U.S. Department of Education Web site reveals:

  • Duncan was nominated to be secretary of education by President-elect Barack Obama and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2009.
  • Prior to his appointment as secretary of education, Duncan served as the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, a position to which he was appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley, from June 2001 through December 2008 and had been the longest-serving urban school superintendent in the United States.
  • Duncan believes that “preparing young people for success in life is not just a moral obligation of society” but also an “economic imperative.” “Education is also the civil rights issue of our generation,” he said, “the only sure path out of poverty and the only way to achieve a more equal and just society.”
  • During his tenure as CEO, an all-time high of 66.7 percent of the district’s elementary school students met or exceeded state reading standards, and their math scores also reached a record high, with 70.6 percent meeting or exceeding the state’s standards.

Ah, but dig a little deeper into Duncan’s background and another tidbit that may be of interest to those in the music education field can be found—Arne Duncan’s father Starkey was an accomplished banjo player and one of the guiding lights behind an annual folk festival at the University of Chicago.

Starkey Duncan Jr, who died in 2007, spent his professional life at the University of Chicago studying the gestures, pauses and facial expressions that make up human communication. Information about his work can be found here.

 — Roz Fehr, March 13, 2009. © MENC: The National Association for Music Education