Arne Duncan on “Radical Inclusion” at Montgomery College


Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan challenged “massive inequalities” he claims to exist within American societies in front of community members, students and faculty at the “Presidential Dialogue Series: Politics of Radical Inclusion” hosted by Montgomery College President Dr. DeRionne Pollard on Tuesday.

“We’re giving them a first chance in life,” Duncan said when responding to the notion that the Emerson Collective for which he is managing partner gives underprivileged minority communities a second chance. “Education should be the great equalizer,” Duncan said. “In many places, education actually exacerbates the divide between the haves and the have nots.”

Montgomery College’s CREATE Cohort is seeking to shrink similar divides within Montgomery County. The creator of the cohort Dr. Zeporia N. Smith explained the program’s goal. “The goal of the program is to prepare culturally and linguistically diverse teachers for the classroom,” Smith said. “But we’re also supporting culturally and linguistically diverse learners.” This “twofold model” of supporting learners and teachers addresses both ends of the learning experience.

Lisa Lewis, Program Assistant for the CREATE Cohort expressed the value of Montgomery College student participation in the program. “We also try to give our students volunteer opportunities,” Lewis said. This aspect of CREATE has given MC students a mentorship role with D.C. Public School students by preparing and inspiring them to go to college. Lewis, also a professor at the college said she has used Duncan’s book in her classroom and believes it to be an inspirational point of reference.

Duncan’s new book, How Schools Work: An Inside Account of Failure and Success from One of the Nation’s Longest-serving Secretaries of Education, is not just a book explaining how the education system functions in America. Instead, the book addresses what doesn’t work in the U.S. education system and how it can be improved.

Pollard referenced Duncan’s book to discuss his opinion that schools should be used for community building. Duncan believes that six hours a day for students is not enough—suggesting a model of 12 hour days combining public schools and nonprofits to make schools resemble community centers. “Think about what you’re doing for kids over a 12-hour span, think about not two meals a day, think about three meals a day,” Duncan said.

Additionally, Duncan suggested in this community center model that parents learn with their children. “We had 150 schools in Chicago, South and West sides, we would have 100 to 150 parents coming for their own education every single day. GED, ESL, family literacy nights, family counseling,” Duncan said. “When families are learning together, I promise you good things will happen to those kids.”

Pollard and Duncan addressed the violence in their hometown of Chicago, Illinois and what Duncan intends to do about it. “I started to lose friends to gun violence when I was a teen,” Duncan said. Violence in Chicago is not new to Duncan and his number one concern is keeping students safe. “I’ve always been an educator, always will be an educator, but it’s hard to educate kids who are dead,” Duncan said. Duncan felt he must return to help his city in “crisis”. “To go back and not deal with the crisis just didn’t feel right,” Duncan said.

“I think we value our guns more than we value our kids in our country,” said Duncan. Duncan,  who served under former U.S. President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2015 made criticisms of the Trump administration, accusing the current administration of not addressing the issue of gun violence as a whole. “What this administration has done is to not talk about gun violence. To do a task-force about school safety and not talk about gun violence is dishonest.”

For more information on Arne Duncan and the Emerson Collective visit

For information on the Montgomery College CREATE Cohort visit