• Arne Duncan: ‘White Suburban Moms’ Scared Their Kids Aren’t ‘As Brilliant As They Thought’

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    Education Secretary Arne Duncan

    UPDATE: 7:00 P.M. EST, 11/18/13

    Secretary of Education Arne Duncan apologized for his “White, suburban mom” comment on CNN.

    “My wording, my phrasing, was a little clumsy and I apologize for that,” Duncan told CNN on Monday.

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    U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is wrong on several key issues — primarily the privatization of the public school system as a means of increasing competitiveness — but his recent comment about the privilege and paranoia of White suburbia is right on the money.

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    Speaking to a group of state superintendents on Friday, Duncan said that critics of the Common Core State Standards, a state-led initiative touted as bringing state education standards into alignment to better prepare students for the global career market, are mostly White moms scared that Little, Jr. might not be the genius he’s been made to think that he is:

    “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,” Duncan said. “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,” Duncan continued.

    Well, tell ‘em how you really feel, Arne.

    Those “White, suburban moms” have designated today, Nov. 18, as “National Don’t Send Your Child to School Day” to protest Common Core.

    “Help us send a message to the federal government,” said Janet Wilson of Say No To Common Core. “We the people want evidence-based curriculum that is locally controlled and which does not require data mining our children. Instead of sending your children to school on November 18th, please educate them at home.”

    Though an increasing number of Black families are turning to home schooling as an alternative to public education, to assume that working parents can just take off work and keep their children home to prove a point — even if they would like to to do so — is clearly a privileged position.

    Common Core is strongly supported by President Barack Obama, who pushed for $4.35 billion in stimulus funds to be allocated to states as an incentive to implement the Standards. So far, 45 states and the District of Columbia have implemented Common Core Standards.

    According to Kenneth Campbell, President of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, that is a good thing for low-income and working-class Black families who have fallen victim to low expectations and, subsequently, failing schools:

    The Common Core standards have been designed to level the educational playing field across the states, so all students would be expected to learn and achieve the same objectives in the same sequence. Before the development and proliferation of Common Core, expectations varied from state to state and sometimes even from school to school, and for many the bar has been set inexcusably low. Disproportionately, students from low-income and working-class black families have lacked access to rigorous programs, and where low academic standards and expectations have been the norm, achievement has rarely flourished.

    While others argue the merits of local, state or federal control over academic standards, BAEO stands with low-income and working-class black families. For too long we’ve been alone in setting high expectations for our children. We are firm in our belief that they are capable of great achievement when afforded the opportunity. The Common Core State standards recognize this truth and set the bar high for all.

    Critics of Common Core have argued that raising the bar will result in excessive testing, a less personalized education experience and will potentially sabotage urban public schools.

    Dr. Danny Martin, professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago College of Education, states that the Common Core is just “repackaging” the same old ideas that have not benefited Black students.

    “I’m a little bit wary of reform, but I’m also aware that there’s hope and possibility,” said Martin at the 2013 Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color annual gathering. “But we need to dig through that to have these parallel conversations about identity and socialization, resilience and agency, in addition to outcomes and content.”

    Watch Martin speak below:


    According to Forbes Magazine, Martin may be right. New York became the second state to test students under Common Core, and the results were not pretty:

    31% of New York students in grades three though eight met or exceeded math and English competency standards on tests given over six days this past April. In 2012, under the older, far easier, standards, 65% of New York students were proficient in Math and 55% proficient in English. Moreover, according to the Summary of Statewide 3-8 Exam Results, “only 16.1% of African-American students and 17.7% of Hispanic students met or exceeded” the English Language Arts (ELA) proficiency standard, far lower than in years past.

    “It’s like the train’s pulling out of the station without everybody on board,” said Lana Ajemian, head of New York’s Parent Teacher Association.

    It appears that the Common Core itself will not prove to be the measure of success; that will depend on whether or not the results are used to improve schools, taking into consideration socio-economic factors to ensure the success of all students — or if they will be used to further stigmatize low-income and working-class families, subversely making the case for privatization.

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