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College Board CEO David Coleman Uses Florida School Shooting to Promote AP Courses

February 22, 2018

On February 21, 2018, Eric Hoover of the Chronicle of Higher Ed posted the following tweet featuring the text of an email written by College Board president, David Coleman, in reference to the February 14, 2018, shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida:

Here is the text of Coleman’s email, with my own commentary interspersed:

Dear Members,

The shootings in Florida reverberate throughout our halls, hearts, and minds. As I have spent the last few days reading through the language of adults, none of it felt adequate. But I am writing today because I have words to share that I could not find myself.

So far, Coleman’s letter reads like his goal might be to sympathize with the profound tragedy experienced by Stoneman Douglas students, faculty, and staff, and the Parkland/ Broward County community. Not so.

Coleman focuses first on a speech by Stoneman Douglas senior, Emma Gonzalez. Coleman exhibits absolutely no empathy in his response, in which he not only exploits Gonzalez’s words as an opportunity to advertise for his AP courses; he also displays the crass arrogance to critique Gonzalez’s writing in the style of a writing exercise disconnected from awful, painful reality:

I was struck first by this remarkable speech by Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. One of the things that makes Emma’s speech so striking is that it is infused with references to her AP Government class. At a time of utmost passion, she insists that she has been trained in evidence.

I do not write today to endorse Emma’s every word; her speech may have benefited from a less partisan approach and an attempt to better understand the positions of gun rights proponents. But I am compelled to share the unadulterated, impassioned voice of a student, drawing on her education as both shield and sword in the aftermath of terrible events.

For Coleman, using Gonzalez’s pain to boost AP isn’t enough; he then promotes another AP commercial spot using part of a journalist’s interview with Hogg. The conclusion of Coleman’s paragraph on Hogg is profoundly insensitive, as  he writes of “opening worlds and futures to students” even as the futures of 14 students were brutally cut short.

I then encountered this testimony from Emma’s classmate, David Hogg, who reflects on the importance of journalism in the American fabric. A reporter who interviewed him writes: “In the past year, Hogg’s interest in journalism has grown stronger. His AP U.S. History class recently learned about the Pentagon Papers and the role journalists– ‘the fourth check on the government,’ he said– play in the United States.” David Hogg’s words honor Advanced Placement teachers everywhere, for they reflect their power to open worlds and futures to students.

The rest is too little, too late. Coleman chose to include (and lead with) the AP commercial plug, and frankly, the “I texted Runcie”/”I spoke to the mother” now read as little more than self-promotion (i.e., “I’m important because I have direct connections to this highly-publicized tragedy.”)

Given his words above, Coleman’s words below are well-styled emptiness:

Surrounding these students and teachers are the voices of their parents and those who lead schools. I’ve known Bob Runcie, the superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, for over a decade, and we texted the day of this massacre. It is the worst nightmare of every educator to lose children in your care.

And it is a terrible nightmare of a parent to fear for the life of their child. That was the situation for a College Board staff member last week, when she was out of touch with her 15-year-old son for unbearable minutes as he hid in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Her other son– 17 years old– texted as he ran. I spoke to this mother the day after the shooting; it is difficult to convey the terror she felt.

At least Coleman didn’t critique the manner in which this mother expressed her terror.

And so, he closes his email, bizarrely choosing to equate “education” with “tragedy” as the “change” impacting the student survivors of this horrible event– with “education,” of course, being yet another reminder of his featured, repeated, AP-course plug and critique of one student survivor’s speech.

May these students’ voices, changed by education and tragedy, offer us some comfort and stay against the darkness.

Sincerely,

David

I do believe Coleman was *sincere* in his callous opportunism and second-priority expressions of sympathy.

Eric Hoover wrote about Coleman’s letter in this February 22, 2018, article for the Chronicle of Higher Ed. Included in Hoover’s piece is the following response from College Board, added as an update:

On Thursday morning a College Board spokesman sent The Chronicle a written statement: “This past week, our hearts have ached for the students, educators, and families in Broward County. The purpose of our letter to members was to put the focus on the remarkable students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and to share their voices. We sincerely apologize that our words have taken the focus away from the needs of their community at this terrible time.”

Nice try. However, Coleman’s words clearly demonstrate his efforts to use this tragedy not only to promote College Board AP courses, but also to distance himself from Gonzalez’s words via his critique even as he attempted to capitalize on her (and Hogg’s) pain.

david coleman CB  David Coleman

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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8 Comments
  1. This is absolutely infuriating! Let’s not forget who David Coleman is – the lead architect of the Common Core State Standards. This is extreme low even for him. I seriously hope The College Board takes a hit for this extremely shameful email. The nerve of this man!!!

  2. Reblogged this on David R. Taylor-Thoughts on Education and commented:
    This guy needs to go find a hole and crawl in it with Deputy Peterson.

  3. Lisa M permalink

    David Colman is amazing only in his own mind….. another malignant narcissist IMHO. Guess what, nobody gives a s—t about what David Coleman thinks and feels, but they sure DO give a s–t about how Emma Gonzalez thinks and feels. The more this man talks/tweets, the more everyone can see what a charlatan he really is. He should just crawl back into a dark corner like the cockroach that he is.

  4. Splendid Anomaly permalink

    You have to split the main point that’s being made here — civic engagement and informed citizens make our Republic stronger — from the callous opportunism that is being exercised. Hogg and Gonzalez excel as advocates and activists partly because of their own willingness to act after the tragedy. Unlike Coleman, however, their motives are pure. That Coleman holds them up as an example of what the College Board is about is simply false advertising for a pretentious racket of a program.

  5. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Coleman’s remarks are self-serving and really mean-spirited. And this is just one of a long line of disgusting public statements.

  6. Trentonteacher permalink

    Simple decision for all now based on text evidence: boycott AP and other College Board products and services.

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