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Challenge to Arne Duncan, US DOE and Dennis Van Roekel, NEA

Let's challenge all our teachers

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 

Mr. Dennis Van Roekel, President
National Education  Association
1201 16th Street Northwest
Washington D.C., DC 20036-3201    T: 202-833-4000

Dear Mr. Van Roekel:

In a note today to Arne Duncan, I suggested that you test yourselves, then your immediate colleagues, to answer three very basic questions (that our first-grade children should be able to answer).  If everybody fails, then I would request that we widen the survey.  Now, with your 20 years in the math department, I think you’ll be especially surprised at the questions and the answers.

(The letter continues much likle the one in the left column to Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education, US Department of Education.   The last paragraph concludes:)

 I would like to challenge you and Arne Duncan first.  If you both do not have easy answers, I would ask you to challenge your colleagues.  If they have no easy answers, pick on the NEA members within math departments across the country.  I would guess that no one will be able to answer all three.  This is a major educational blind spot throughout our short history as a people.  Let's open it up, and open our imaginations in new ways.

From an initiative to a movement

This letter and others like it are all being tracked, first by publishing them right here.

Physical Mail:  Wednesday, February 9, 2011 
Email: Friday, January 28, 2011

Mr. Arne Duncan
United States Secretary of Education
US Department of Education
Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ)
Department of Education Building
400 Maryland Ave, SW 7W311
Washington, DC 20202    T:  202-401-3000

Dear Mr. Duncan:

There is a global educational checkpoint -- it appears to be historic and a hard stop -- and, I believe it is keeping us from opening up the next revolution within knowledge. Perhaps an analogy to Lewis Carroll's Alice and the rabbit hole is appropriate.   

I would challenge every educator to answer three simple questions to find, then open up and go down into this rabbit hole, but not to fantasies, but to a deeper knowing about the structure of things.  These questions kindergarten children should be able to answer easily, yet everybody fails --our best scientists, engineers, architects, academics, and teachers of every flavor.  

I have been asking people since 1994.  That nobody had an answer surprised me.  I initially thought it was my own blind spot.  That nobody knew the answers also challenged me; I would chastise myself,  “Maybe your making a mountain out of this rabbit hole.”   Even the one person who knew the answers, a mathematics professor at Princeton, challenged me, “Why are you so hung up on that structure?”  I was busy doing other things so decided to put some of it out on television and some on the web to see if it attracted any attention.

It has attracted very little attention at all.  That can change.

Now our President Obama is an idealist.  If he wants to move his agenda forward, he’ll have to get to the basics and change our fundamental orientation to the way we see the world and each other.  It is the failure of diplomatic policy and more.  And, I believe that it is all because we do not access a simple rabbit hole that is staring us all in the face.  

So, here is the challenge:
Question 1:  What are the most basic, three-dimensional structures?
Question 2:  What structures are most-perfectly and most-simply enclosed within that structure?
Question 3:  What is perfectly enclosed within each of those parts?

Sounds simple.  Yet, a rabbit hole like a wormhole can be tricky.

The answers to the first two questions give the right orientation to find the rabbit hole.  The third question opens the passage inside.

I would like to challenge you, the NEA president, Dennis Van Roekel, and their members to answer the three simple questions.  I would guess that no one will be able to answer all three.  This is a major educational blind spot throughout our short history as a people.  Let's open our imaginations in new ways.

Thank you.


Bruce Camber
Small Business School, Inc.
Private Business Channel, Inc.
PO Box 10132,  New Orleans, LA  70123

PS.  I will send this as a hard copy to you and Mr. Dennis Van Roekel. After taking a short survey, you'll discover nobody knows the answers.  Dennis will discover the same.  Then, it could go out as a survey to every teacher. Unless they look it up on the web, they'll not know.  Now my work with basic structure often takes a back seat to our weekly television show that aired on PBS stations nationwide and the VOA-TV worldwide..

*   Small Business School has a sixteen-year history as a weekly, half-hour television show. On over 200 PBS stations in the USA and on several thousand stations  around the world via the Voice of America, the focus has always been on best business practices.

*    Every business owner has been recommended by their local business advocates, often the local Chamber of Commerce, and confirmed by their national trade association for their leadership, generosity of spirit, ethics, and courage.  Nobody can pay or has ever paid to be on this show.

*    Over 40 of the best-selling business textbooks published by Pearson-Prentice Hall and Thomson Learning-Cengage include these case study guides and video:

PPS.   Online answers to the questions: