Report: Duncan tried to stop Matt Damon teacher speech

Liz Goodwin

The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss reports that the Obama administration tried several times to meet with actor Matt Damon before he was scheduled to speak at a rally last month held to protest the federal focus on test scores.

"[Education Secretary Arne] Duncan was willing to meet Damon at the airport when he flew into the Washington region and talk to him on the drive into the city," Strauss reports. "Damon declined all of the requests."

At the Save our Schools rally, Damon slammed standardized testing and what he described as the influence of "corporate reformers" on the education system. His speech brought a lot of media attention to a relatively small rally attended by a few thousand people.

After he spoke, Damon defended teacher tenure in a testy exchange with a reporter from Reason TV, who asked Damon if he thought tenure made people less likely to work hard. The Lookout's write-up of the interview was shared nearly 50,000 times on Facebook.

"You think job insecurity makes me work hard?" the actor asked in disbelief. "A teacher wants to teach. Why else would you take a sh*tty salary and really long hours and do that job unless you really love to do it?"

Today, Duncan answered question from Twitter at a televised town hall with PBS Correspondent John Merrow. Merrow said he was seeing "a lot of resentment" from teachers who said Duncan doesn't listen to their complaints.

Duncan said he does listen.

"I do conference calls with teachers, I visit hundreds and hundreds of schools each year," Duncan said.

That didn't convince a rapping teacher duo from California, who released a video calling into question Duncan's ability to lead the nation's education system since he's never taught in public school. "Your resume's impressive but you're still not a teacher," they sing.