Arne Duncan's 'proletarian' roots are another fabrication... U.S. Secretary of Education becoming a working class wannabe

It's almost adding injury to insult. For eight years when I was a kid I delivered the Newark Star Ledger before dawn throughout Linden, New Jersey, a working class town "in the shadow of the refinery" (the old Standard Oil Bayway refinery) and "down the road from the penitentiary" (Rahway) while growing up in Linden, New Jersey, where my Mom and Dad were able to buy a little house on a 30 year mortgage under the G.I. Bill after both returned from their Army service during World War II (my Dad's war ended in the Austrian Alps; Mom's, even nastier, on Okinawa with the Army Nurse Corps — on the island). Now Arne Duncan is using the Newark Star Ledger to add another fabrication to his fantasy autobiography. Arne the working class guy.

Our family home at 538 Monmouth Ave. in Linden, New Jersey was fairly small, but the whole block was solid and hard working Both of my parents taught us to be proud of our roots and suspicious of people who lied. At some point when we were growing up, my Dad let his four kids look at the medals he had been awarded during his "service" in World War II with the 44th Infantry Division (one of the dozens of grunt divisions that never got into the Hollywood myth machine, although he respected the men from those — like the First Infantry and the 101st Airborne — that did. He just taught us there was too much fighting and death for all of the dozens of U.S. infantry divisions to get their own Hollywood movies (or HBO videos later).

And he warned us about people who would lie about all that. He taught us that the real heroes were usually very quiet about it. He had a Bronze Star, which wasn't given out easily to enlisted men. It was for something he did during the Rhineland Campaign (which was something we didn't learn about unless we dug deep into history later). When we asked him about it, he would only say, "I got lost one night and got lucky."

And he would tell me stories about his war, but they were always stories about things that happened that had nothing to do with blood, fighting and dying. "Liberating" a cheese and wine cellar one afternoon and having a party. The day Marlene Dietrich came to sing to the soldiers on the back of a half track. (He gave me an old Kodak photograph taken from the back of a crowd; the most beautiful — and one of the most courageous — women on earth wearing a G.I. uniform).

By the time Vietnam was boiling over, most of my high school friends, whose families couldn't afford college, went into "the service" hoping to get those G.I. Bill dollars after "serving" and then go to college. Not all were lucky. George Coker went into Marines Air and spend years as a POW. Maurice O'Callaghan went into the Marines and was a KIA by 1967. Others suffered in different ways, but we all respected the facts and the truth about who were were and weren't.

I was one of the lucky ones, getting college scholarships, finally to the University of Chicago, where I was able to learn enough to begin resisting the Vietnam War and organizing against it (with the Soldiers movement, not campus privilege...).

But our roots were always firm, and I never regretted having to work seven days a week while I was growing up, waking up before dawn every morning to a different scent in the air (the polluters in the Union County, New Jersey area were worlds class; each night a different industry dumped its gunk into our air). But we learned about all that later because we were not among the privileged.

I didn't really learn about those levels of privilege until I arrived at the University of Chicago in 1966 on a scholarship, and even then it took some time. Kids from Linden weren't taught about how wealthy real wealth could be, and how insulated real privileged could be. My first summer in Chicago I was working construction *(4554 S. Drexel building) when some friends from the "Summer Work In" asked if I'd like to join. They were going to get factory jobs for the summer to get the feel for what it was like to be "working class" and then read a lot about the experience. I was generally a bit too tired after a day of shooting flashing on a flat roof or riding the staging down the brick facade cleaning it with "Muriatic Acid" (HCl) to discuss the "working class" for hours at night. Besides, we all had other agendas, too, including finding true love and happiness.

The "Work In" kids were sincere. But they had come from a place of wealth and privilege that insulated them from the harsh choice and real suffering of working class people, so they had to do a bit of missionary work to discover it. Most didn't last long.

The son of a University of Chicago professor was not a kid of the working class.

Yet now, in the summer of 2012, we read the latest fabrication from Arne Duncan:

"But apparently this bad habit has former Chicago Public Schools CEO and current Education Secretary Arne Duncan mythologizing himself, too. A friend alerted me to this recent New Jersey Star-Ledger interview where Duncan makes this claim:

"'When I was in high school in the South Side of Chicago, my friends could drop out and get a decent job in the stockyards or steel mills, and own their own home and support a family.'"

"For those who may not be aware, Arne attended the very expensive, very exclusive University of Chicago Laboratory School, where President Obama’s daughters went to school and Mayor Rahm Emanuel currenlty sends his children.

"The Lab School is in Hyde Park which, while it is indeed located on the south side of Chicago, is generally not considered “the South Side of Chicago.” You know, where Big Bad Leroy Brown lived.

Arne was 7 years old when the stockyards closed."


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