Some Kids “Aren’t Brilliant”? This Duncan Blunder Is Bigger Than It First Appears
In May 2010, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke at the first annual “Mom Congress” at Georgetown University. Duncan’s goal, as reported on the USDOE website, was “to discuss how to effect meaningful change in American education and to mobilize millions of parents to become more involved in their children’s learning.” [Emphasis added.]
Duncan wants parents to be “more involved” in the educational process. But there is a hitch– as there always is with the reformer version of “parental involvement”:
The parental involvement must coincide with the reform agenda.
Consider this excerpt from Duncan’s speech at the May 2010 Moms Congress:
Parents can serve in at least one of three roles: Partners in learning, advocates and advisors who push for better schools, and decision-makers who choose the best educational options for their children.
When parents demand change and better options for their children, they become the real accountability backstop for the educational system. Parents have more choices today than ever before, from virtual schools to charters to career academies. And our schools need empowered parents.
We need parents to speak out and drive change in chronically-underperforming schools where children receive an inferior education. With parental support, those struggling schools need to be turned around now—not tomorrow, because children get only one chance at an education. [Emphasis added.]
These are the “choices” Duncan is willing to allow parents to make.
Well, first Duncan tries to ignore these mothers’ (and other caregivers’) complaints and publicly attribute CCSS opposition to “ideologues and extremists in our [political] parties”. (It seems when it comes to education reform, the US no longer has two political parties, just one mammoth party in favor of education reform.)
However, parental complaints against CCSS continue to mount (just peruse Diane Ravitch’s blog on the subject).
In my own school district in Louisiana, parental discontent over CCSS led to our district’s drafting an anti-CCSS resolution in October.
Bottom line: A growing number of parents do not want CCSS.
So, how does Duncan decide to address the anti-CCSS sentiment that is clearly originating with parents?
He hones in on the “White suburban” mothers and chooses to publicly state that these mothers just can’t seem to admit that their children “aren’t brilliant.” Notice how Duncan immediately attempts to put words into parents’ mouths by his adding that the parents are also upset with the quality of the schools their children attend:
“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….” [Emphasis added.]
Aside from the obvious foolishness of Duncan’s singling out “White suburban mothers” and publicly insulting both them and the intelligence levels of their children, Duncan has actually made a bigger blunder:
He has just undermined the entire foundation of education reform: Lack of educational achievement is never the child’s fault. The child has limitless potential. If children aren’t “college and career ready,” it’s the teachers. It’s the schools. Never the kids.
Duncan used to promote the “potential in every child” mantra. He eagerly reinforced it when speaking at the Moms Conference in 2010:
To see the extraordinary potential that every child has, no matter where they come from—that is what I learned from my mother’s work–and that is what drives me today. We cannot let any child fall through the cracks…. [Emphasis added.]
So let’s get this straight: When it comes to enlisting parental involvement in school closures, and online education, and vouchers, and charters, Duncan is doing so because he believes in “the extraordinary potential that every child has.”
However, when it comes to parents’ knowing that CCSS is the problem and not their children– when it comes to parents fighting CCSS because they see their children “falling though the CCSS cracks”– Duncan insults both children and parents and clings like a needy lover to CCSS.
If the “problem” is that the children “aren’t brilliant,” as Duncan says– that the children lack the potential to master CCSS– then basing teacher evaluations on student test scores is moot, and grading schools is moot, and school choice to “improve educational options” is moot, and closing community schools only to replace them with charters is moot.
In order for corporate reform to succeed, it can never allow that children might have limited potential. “All students college and career ready”– the CCSS byline– is made an obvious lie.
Uh, oh, Arne. In trying to save CCSS, it looks like you have contributed significantly to the unraveling of the entire corporate reform agenda.
Jeb won’t like that.