Matt Damon and Arne Duncan and Jonathan Chait
According to two people familiar with the efforts, the administration tried to arrange a meeting with Damon and government officials, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan, before the July 30 march. The sources declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
In fact, 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, according to the sources. Damon declined all of the requests.
Chait is mad because Damon (supposedly) did not want to meet with Duncan about something. We don’t know if the story is true, and we don’t know why Duncan wanted to meet with Damon, and we don’t know why Damon didn’t want to meet with Duncan (if he didn’t), but — whatever — Damon is against “ed reform”, he was going to speak at a rally against it, so he had an obligation to meet with the Secretary of Education.
I don’t know that this follows, but here is what Chait says:
If Damon knows enough about education policy to speak at a rally, then he knows enough to take a meeting with Arne Duncan and debate it. Getting a chance to make your case to policy makers is what political activists are supposed to want. That’s the goal. If Damon feels he doesn’t know enough about the issue to survive a meeting with Duncan with his convictions intact, then he has no business speaking at a rally.
Here’s where I’m thinking maybe Chait hasn’t been to so many rallies. A rally is not like a policy summit. Larry Summers isn’t there, they don’t circulate white papers, it’s not in Jackson Hole. Anyone can speak at a rally (though it helps if you are good at speaking in public). More generally: you don’t need to be able to “survive a meeting” with a policymaker to be entitled to an opinion about this kind of thing. “Ed reform” isn’t an engineering problem: there are principles at stake. For example: the principle of academic freedom. Or the principle that a decent education is not one thing for rich people and another thing for poor people. It’s like: did you even see Good Will Hunting?