By Valerie Strauss @ The Washington Post’s The Answer Sheet
This story got batted around the Twittersphere pretty hard over the weekend. It is hard to believe that public official would be so careless when speaking with reporters nearby. Valerie Strauss opened her report with this nugget, built upon reporting by Politico‘s Libby Nelson.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a group of state schools superintendents Friday that he found it “fascinating” that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come 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.”
That is pretty rich coming from the nation’s secretary of education. It would seem that Arne Duncan still has some lessons to learn about public speaking. Perhaps his teachers didn’t set the bar high enough for him.
He didn’t stop there. He continued, “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.”
I mean this is all kinds of wrong, on so many levels, it is amazing that he still has his job Monday morning. It is precisely this kind of rhetoric that highlights just how out of touch the secretary is with the very domain he is supposed to lead, as well as the cadre of edreformy types. Exactly, how did he expect that a comment like that would be received? My guess is that he simply didn’t think. Instead he got all swept up in the moment to spread his gospel to those state superintendents.
For one, this statement completely belies the fact that people like Duncan and other Common Core advocates have tried to suggest that none of their agenda is about race or class. Yet, here is the secretary introducing both, while showing off his white privilege. That is my nod to Jose Vilson’s recent post, despite his not getting “riled up” over this latest Duncan blunder. I can understand Vilson’s response, because he has already exposed Duncan on a few occasions. Yet Duncan is desperately in need of finding himself a shoehorn for his mouth.
The pay no attention to the poverty schtick just simply doesn’t jive with calling out white suburban moms too. Plus, the comment shows even more ignorance in light of the show-me-where-the-money-is-and-I’ll-show-show-you-where-the-good-schools-are reality we have in this country. The zealotry for the Common Core is so righteous, he can’t help but alienate anyone that is not a true believer.
Of course, today ended with some spin and damage control, but this isn’t the first time Duncan has said something this stupid. In a follow-up from the Washington Post, Lyndsey Layton quotes a statement late in the day on department’s web site.
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. I want to encourage a difficult conversation and challenge the underlying assumption that when we talk about the need to improve our nation’s schools, we are talking only about poor minority students in inner cities. This is simply not true. Research demonstrates that as a country, every demographic group has room for improvement.
Well, that pretty well cleans up the mess now doesn’t it? Just a little bit of clumsy phrasing is all it was. Too late. Truth is, Duncan revealed much in this slip and none of it was good.