Dun­can takes heat for diss­ing ‘white sub­ur­ban moms’

Words tar­get Com­mon Core crit­ics

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY PHILIP EL­LIOTT

Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Arne Dun­can con­tin­ued to face crit­i­cism Mon­day over re­ported re­marks that seemed to dis­miss “white sub­ur­ban moms” for op­pos­ing higher aca­demic stan­dards.

Mr. Dun­can has con­sis­tently shown lit­tle pa­tience for crit­ics of the Com­mon Core ed­u­ca­tional stan­dards be­ing im­ple­mented in 45 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia. But his re­marks, as re­ported by Politico, went a step fur­ther and add el­e­ments of race and class.

“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,” Mr. Dun­can said Fri­day in Rich­mond. “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.”

The Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment said no of­fi­cial tran­script of the re­marks ex­ists, but did not dis­pute Politico’s ac­count. Late Mon­day af­ter­noon, Mr. Dun­can of­fered a qual­i­fied apol­ogy on his depart­ment’s web­site for choos­ing his words poorly in try­ing to make his point that U.S. stu­dents have to raise their game in a glob­ally com­pet­i­tive work­force.

“A few days ago, in a dis­cus­sion with state ed­u­ca­tion chiefs, I used some clumsy phras­ing that I re­gret — par­tic­u­larly be­cause it dis­tracted from an im­por­tant con­ver­sa­tion about how to bet­ter pre­pare all of Amer­ica’s stu­dents for suc­cess,” the sec­re­tary said.

But the orig­i­nal com­ments, in­ject­ing class and race into an al­ready heated de­bate, con­tin­ued to draw crit­i­cism, mostly online where anti-Com­mon Core ac­tivists have or­ga­nized.

Con­ser­va­tive colum­nist Michelle Malkin called Mr. Dun­can a “cor­rupt and bank­rupt bigot” for his re­marks. Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers Pres­i­dent Randi Wein­garten said Mr. Dun­can “re­ally doesn’t get it.” Rep. Steve Stock­man, Texas Repub­li­can, tweeted that Mr. Dun­can “should be fired for dis­miss­ing [Com­mon Core] crit­ics as just white sub­ur­ban moms with dumb kids.”

At the White House, spokesman Jay Car­ney said he hadn’t seen Mr. Dun­can’s full com­ments or spo­ken with Pres­i­dent Obama about them. But Mr. Car­ney seemed to de­fend the sen­ti­ment be­hind Mr. Dun­can’s com­ment.

“I can just tell you that the sec­re­tary of ed­u­ca­tion and every­body on the pres­i­dent’s team ded­i­cated to this ef­fort is fo­cused on mak­ing sure that we do ev­ery­thing we can, work­ing with states and oth­ers to en­sure that our kids are get­ting the ed­u­ca­tion they need for the 21st cen­tury,” Mr. Car­ney said.

When schools shift to stan­dard­ized tests based on the more rig­or­ous Com­mon Core stan­dards, scores gen­er­ally fall. Sharply lower scores have sparked a back­lash against the Com­mon Core bench­marks in New York and other states in re­cent months.

Mr. Dun­can made his “white sub­ur­ban moms” com­ment in re­sponse to a ques­tion about the Com­mon Core back­lash. The sec­re­tary has long warned of those first-year tum­bles and said the lower scores more ac­cu­rately re­flect the re­al­ity at a given school.

Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tions chief Massie Ritsch said the sec­re­tary “was ob­serv­ing that the higher stan­dards that states have adopted to bet­ter pre­pare their stu­dents for col­lege and ca­reers are re­veal­ing in some places that good schools aren’t as strong as par­ents in those ar­eas have long as­sumed.”

The Com­mon Core State Stan­dards were a project of the na­tion’s gover­nors and state school chiefs that aims to im­prove stu­dents’ readi­ness for life af­ter high school. The stan­dards out­line grade-by-grade skills stu­dents should learn al­though the ac­tu­ally lessons to teach them are left to each school.

Un­der Com­mon Core, stu­dents are en­cour­aged to do more crit­i­cal think­ing. It’s no longer good enough for stu­dents to re­call facts and fig­ures, but they have to demon­strate why things work the way they do.

Some op­po­nents of the stan­dards say they are a one-size-fits-all ap­proach that isn’t ap­pro­pri­ate. Other crit­ics say the stan­dards put too much em­pha­sis on high-stakes test­ing and pun­ish teach­ers for stu­dents’ stum­bles. Some op­pose the stan­dards be­cause the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion used them as a re­quire­ment for states to re­ceive money from the eco­nomic stim­u­lus bill.


Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Arne Dun­can con­tin­ues to face crit­i­cism for re­ported re­marks about par­ents who op­pose higher aca­demic stan­dards in schools.

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