Former Education Secretary Arne Dunne took to Twitter as President Joe Biden supervised. The transfer of remains of U.S. soldiers who were kill in a suicide. Bombing attack at Afghanistan’s Kabul Airport on Aug. 26, 2021. Duncan appeared to comment on the controversy surrounding mask mandates for public schools. He compared anti-mask and anti-vax people to the suicide bombers in Kabul’s Airport.
Duncan post a tweet that has since been deleted. Have your noticed how strikingly similar the mindsets and actions between the suicide. Bombers in Kabul’s Airport and the anti-mask or anti-vax folks here? They both explode themselves, inflict damage on others, and believe they are fighting for freedom.
The tweet by Duncan drew negative responses. Many people reacted negatively to Duncan’s tweet. Some ridiculed his timing and judgement, while others gave sarcastic advice. They criticised him for politicizing a tragic incident. Duncan’s use to make a point using a war metaphor is notable. In this instance for reasons beyond the fact it drew sharp criticism.
As an academic who studies rhetoric in policy. I am well aware that war analogies are a common feature of U.S. public discourse on education.
There Are Many References Education To War
Rudolf Flesch, an author, began Why Johnny Can’t Read in 1955 by declaring that. Just as war was too serious a subject to left up to the generals. So is teaching reading too important to left up to the educators. In a similar vein, an influential federal report from 1983, A Nation at Risk, said that if an unfriendly power tried to impose upon America the mediocre education performance that exists today, we might have considered it to be war.
Both cases used war analogies in order to stress the importance of reform. These are just a few examples of war metaphors in the everyday language education. Classroom teachers are the frontlines of many aspects of education. Many school officials are embattle. Teachers unions go into war with school superintendents. Public education is under siege according to some.
Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education, stressed the importance to win the fight against pandemic. In his remarks about the reopening schools for the nation this fall. He also compared some aspects of with war aids, which he explained clearly and effectively.
Quest For Dominance Education
Modern federal education is an extension of another kind of war. The Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite into space in 1957. This triggered the Sputnik Crisis, a panic over America’s failure to produce enough engineers and scientists.
The crisis refocused the nation’s attention on schools, and led to the passage of the 1958 National Defense Education Act. This law invested large amounts of federal dollars in education for the first-time.
What is Duncan’s tweet saying about war metaphors in policy rhetoric? It doesn’t like to compare education with war in the abstract. Instead picks out particular individuals and events to compare. It is possible to pass legislation by using war as an analogy. Such as the war on drugs and the war against terror. As communication scholar David Zarefsky showed in his study on the rhetoric of War on Poverty. Such metaphors can distort implementation of laws. People they meant to help may recast as enemies if their problems prove to difficult to solve.
Although abstract comparisons to war can be interpret, Duncan’s comment refers to specific actors who died or were killed in war. This is clearly an unpleasant subject.
Although some war metaphors employ hyperbole, others don’t have the punchline format as Duncan’s tweet. It is not clear that Duncan meant to be funny, but opening the tweet with have your noticed the classic setup of observational humor is a strange way to frame a tweet regarding a suicide bombing.
Metaphors In Education
Last but not least, war metaphors in education can be a powerful way to unite people, especially if they are used by ex- or current public officials. Secretary Cardona summoned the nation to Baltimore in August 2021 to open its schools. “A Nation at Risk” asked Americans, even though it was a sarcastic title, to view the difficulties of the nation’s education system in a collective responsibility that should lead to a collective response.
Duncan’s tweet, however, was divisive. It described people opposed to vaccines and masks as enemies, not fellow Americans who could be persuaded to change. As I’ve written, the secretaries of education are responsible for leading the American education discourse. President Jimmy Carter created the Department of Education to improve the national conversation on schools and elevated its secretary into a cabinet position.
Duncan, who is also a former secretary of education, continues to work to influence education policy as an educator and member of education non profit boards. His role as a leader in education rhetoric continues.