Arne Duncan: 'White Suburban Moms' Who Think Their Child Is 'Brilliant' Oppose Common Core

Speaking to a group of state schools superintendents on Friday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said it was “fascinating” that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is coming from “white suburban moms who – all of a sudden – their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

Duncan spoke about the reaction to the plummeting Common Core-aligned test scores at a conference in Richmond, Virginia with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post cites Duncan’s words by Politico’s Libby Nelson who was present at the conference:

It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary. You’ve bet your house and where you live and everything on, “My child’s going to be prepared.” That can be a punch in the gut.

Overcoming that will require communicating to parents that competition is now global, not local, he said.

“Yes, he really said that,” wrote Strauss. “But he has said similar things before. What, exactly, is he talking about?”

Duncan has slammed critics of Common Core in the past, referring to those who oppose the new standards as “ideologues and extremists” who are, at best, misinformed, but more likely experiencing paranoid delusions.

Despite the fact that supporters of the Common Core say that curricula based on the new standards are set at the local and state levels, Duncan continuously advocates for them as the official representative of the Obama administration.

In fact, one could say that Duncan’s choice of words – “white suburban moms” – and his condescending attempt to portray empathy toward them in this address, suggest that at least some of the advocacy for Common Core coming from the federal government is based on social engineering. Could Duncan be saying that Common Core’s alleged higher standards will even out the playing field so that “white suburban moms” will finally accept that their schools – presumably in “white suburbs” – and their children are substandard?

Duncan’s use of a stereotyped perception also indicates the lack of awareness the Obama administration has of the educational concerns of average Americans.

The education secretary has been consistent in his reiteration of what many believe is one of the main faulty talking points associated with Common Core: that the new standards are actually raising the bar.

Strauss observed that Duncan’s continued advocacy for the new standards has focused on the theory that Common Core is specifically designed to raise the standards of both teaching and learning; therefore, most students are going to find the tests aligned with the standards more difficult.

In his Saturday post for Education Week, however, educator Anthony Cody maps out “ten colossal errors” inherent in the Common Core, with one of them being, “Proficiency rates on the new Common Core tests have been dramatically lower – by design.”

Noting the severe drop in Common Core-aligned test results in both New York and, more recently, North Carolina, Cody argues that Common Core will not raise the bar but, instead, “deepen the achievement gaps, and condemn more students and schools as failures.”

Cody wonders what the goal could be of standards that are said to be so “rigorous:”

Because of the "rigor," many students -- as many as 30% -- will not get a high school diploma. What will our society do with the large numbers of students who were unable to meet the Common Core Standards? Will we have a generation of hoboes and unemployables? Many of these young people might find trades and jobs that suit them, but they may never be interviewed due to their lack of a diploma. This repeats and expands on the error made with high school exit exams, which have been found to significantly increase levels of incarceration  among the students who do not pass them -- while offering no real educational benefits. 

Other critics of Common Core, as Strauss has noted, point out that some of the standards, particularly those for young children, have never even been shown to be developmentally appropriate for this age group.

Teacher and writer Edward Miller and early childhood education expert Nancy Carlsson-Paige have studied the process for the development of the new K-12 standards and discovered that of the 135 people on the Common Core panels for the K-3 level standards, not one was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional:

It appears that early childhood teachers and child development experts were excluded from the K-3 standards-writing process…

The promoters of the standards claim they are based in research. They are not. There is no convincing research, for example, showing that certain skills or bits of knowledge (such as counting to 100 or being able to read a certain number of words) if mastered in kindergarten will lead to later success in school. Two recent studies show that direct instruction can actually limit young children’s learning. At best, the standards reflect guesswork, not cognitive or developmental science.

Moreover, the Common Core Standards do not provide for ongoing research or review of the outcomes of their adoption—a bedrock principle of any truly research-based endeavor.

In his comments, Duncan also asserts his view that the reason why “white suburban moms” have had inaccurate perceptions of their children’s academic performance after all these years is that these moms don’t realize that competition is global, not local.

According to the Obama administration, “white suburban moms” don’t have much on the ball: they hold inaccurate perceptions of their children’s abilities and school systems, and lack awareness of the world around them. Sounds like something big government will try to fix.


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