Arne Duncan is the U.S. Education Secretary, and has been a lead proponent in implementing new nationwide standards called Common Core. He actually knows better than the “white suburban moms” who he says are just being silly and stubborn in their opposition to Common Core. They want to keep pretending their kid is special and smart, but Duncan will set them straight. According to the Washington Post, here’s what he said in a recent speech to superintendents who support Common Core:
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.
First, Duncan groups all “white suburban moms” into one category and says they only oppose Common Core because it makes them feel bad that they have dumb kids who cannot meet the standards. It is helpful for people like Duncan to create a straw man to argue against; this is not why most critics disagree with Common Core. Some are concerned that standardized testing places unfair burdens on teachers who will be held accountable for their students, without controlling for the differences in students between classrooms and schools. Some concerns are geared towards the gutting of literature requirements, and the fact that teachers were not involved in setting the standards. Students failing the standardized tests are not the sole reason for opposition, most people agree that there is vast area for improvement in our public education system. But the way to improve education is not by simply setting standards, and requiring that students and teachers become robots who study and teach for the sole purpose of passing a test.
The point of education is to be taught how to learn, not what to learn. Education should focus on problem solving, and playing to what kids’ strengths are. This helps individuals prepare for what they want to do in life. Common Core says that all public school students should be the same in certain areas, and that this will produce students who are better prepared for college and the job market. Well the way our economy has been advancing says that most jobs that we are currently educating our youth for, do not yet exist. If we don’t even know what we are preparing students for, then standardized testing will not help the situation. We need to be shaping students who are more creative, experimental, and can think outside the box. This isn’t the first time Duncan has unfairly criticized and categorized opponents of Common Core. In June, he had this to say:
The Common Core has become a rallying cry for fringe groups that claim it is a scheme for the federal government to usurp state and local control of what students learn.
Why should what students learn in Belfast Maine be the same as what students learn in Los Angeles California? These are not robots that we are trying to prepare for a life on an assembly line, these are students who all have potential to be the next great inventor, innovator, surgeon, or economist. They have different desires, different opportunities, and different interests, but somehow the federal government knows how to standardize the education of 80 million children into a one size fits all test? Duncan’s opinion seems to be that parents, and specifically moms, are just trying to baby their children and not let their feelings get hurt. But what he missed is the fact that these moms are not just plopping their kids into public school, crossing their fingers, and hoping for the best. It is not a “bet” these moms are taking, it is their active involvement in their child’s education that will produce results. It is not a coincidence that the best schools have the most involved parents.
I would argue that the Department of Education has failed to educate a single child in its more than 30 year history. Parents have control over their children’s education, and while public schools can compliment this or diminish this, if we are plopping our kids in school and saying, “my job is done” then nothing will fix our education system, no matter how perfectly designed it may be. Here’s the opinion of one white suburban mom who I am lucky enough to have had write articles for this blog. This snippet is from “Parental Rights: Who’s in Charge Here?” on the subject of mandatory full day kindergarten, written before the Common Core debate was front and center.
But I think it also has to do with a pervasive paternal attitude in the government, even among local school administrators: We know best.
Your kids will do better in our hands than yours, the parents’. We’re falling behind other countries and the only thing to do is put kids who can barely tie their shoes into classrooms for six hours a day so we can teach them. You could not possibly provide an enriching learning environment or curriculum to a child that you love and to whom you can even maybe give one-on-one attention.
How insulting is that?
The problem is that too many parents welcome this transfer of power from parent to government, and others don’t care enough to put up a fuss even if they don’t like it.
I think that is exactly the attitude that Arne Duncan displays when he minimizes the issues moms see with Common Core, and constructs a paranoid straw man to lambast. Sorry but “white suburban moms” are not crazy, they care about their children’s education more than some government bureaucrat. The credibility of this government is gone; the real fools are the people who take anything these politicians and appointees say at face value. Duncan is insulting and demeaning in his words and attitude, refusing to consider alternatives and minimizing real problems with the Common Core program. Is this really the type of person you want implementing national standards for your child’s education?