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Arne Is Aiming for Damage Control But Just Can’t Seem to Get It Right

November 18, 2013

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s tasteless remarks on Friday about the seeming inability of “White suburban mothers” to come to terms with their children’s limited intellectual ability as such is highlighted by the Duncan-beloved Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has the former Australian basketball player-gone-US-Sec-of Ed attempting to “close the gap” and re-score some of the numerous lost points with the American public– and especially with American mothers of all races whom he inadvertently insulted.

The only problem is that Duncan is taking his CCSS shovel and digging deeper. Here is his attempt to “make nice,” as recorded in the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Duncan moved away from those comments in a statement issued Monday: “We have a tendency in our fast-moving world to focus on controversial-sounding sound bites, instead of the complex policy debates that underlie them. Unfortunately, I recently played into that dynamic,” Duncan said. [Emphasis added.]

Translation: “The public should ignore my comments about White suburban mothers and their less-than-brilliant children.”

And what of “focusing on complex policy debates”?  The “debate” about CCSS never happened, and now a non-invested (and arguably wounded) public is rejecting it.

But let’s continue with Duncan’s attempt to save himself:

Duncan said his intention Friday was 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.” [Emphasis added.]

Sorry, Arne. You clearly blamed CCSS rejection on “White suburban mothers.” Here are Duncan’s original words– not at all connected to a discussion of views that reform only belongs to “inner cities”:

“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,” said Duncan, according to an account in Politico. [Emphasis added.]

But back to Duncan’s attempted cleanup:

“This [that only minorities need improvement] is simply not true,” Duncan said. “Research demonstrates that as a country, every demographic group has room for improvement. Every parent wants the best for their children. Every parent deserves accurate information about how their kids are doing in school. And every community can be doing more to challenge all its students and bring out their individual brilliance.” … [Emphasis added.]

Now parents once again “want the best.” And look: The kids are “brilliant” again!

But just don’t connect “wanting the best” with rejecting CCSS. Arne doesn’t want to hear it:

In his statement Monday, Duncan spoke in personal terms. “As a parent of two children in public school, I know no one enjoys hearing tough news from school, but we need the truth — and we need to act on it. The truth is we should be frustrated that as students, parents and citizens, we’ve been hiding the educational reality, particularly as other countries are rapidly passing us by in preparing their students for today and tomorrow’s economy.

According to Duncan, parental rejection of CCSS is not “acting on the truth.” Rejection of CCSS is akin to “hiding educational reality.”

Now for the “status quo” wrap up:

“However, we should use this passion to say that the status quo is not acceptable and that we want more for all students,” Duncan said.

There you have it folks: No apology. Again with the focus on “the school”– which has nothing to do with parental rejection of CCSS. And a flat-out refusal to acknowledge that parents– any parents– could possibly have valid concerns about CCSS.

It seems that the fact that what he is pushing is now the “status quo” that parents are declaring is “not acceptable” is lost on this US Secretary Who Lacks Professional Background in Education.

He sure does love his CCSS to the point of self-delusion.

Gotta give him that.

  1. Susan Morris permalink

    A politician first and foremost. An educator? NEVER. Duncan needs to go.

    • Puget Sound Parent permalink

      Duncan’s not even a good politician. What savvy politician would forget Rule #1: “Never insult your constituents.” or Rule #2: “Never insult your boss’s constituents.”

      If your constituents are suspicious or skeptical about a policy, or if they are adamantly against it, you won’t change their minds by ridiculing them and their beliefs.

      And that would be true even if your constituents are deluded, or completely ignorant or just irrationally opposed to something.

      However, it’s especially egregious and deeply offensive in the case of Duncan, because in this instance, regarding the odious Common Core, his constituents are absolutely correct to oppose this sleazy, backhanded attempt at centralized control of every school in our country, and he, Arne Duncan is the one who is deluded, ignorant and irrationally opposed to hearing anything that contradicts his adherence to Common Core.

      The Good Part: When Common Core goes down—and it will—the “S.S. Duncan/Rhee/Murdoch Privatizer” will go down as well, hopefully faster than the Titantic. (Don’t worry, we’ll make sure there are ample lifeboats for everyone, guilty or not.)

  2. Laura h. Chapman permalink

    Great job again. And with the spirit of Mollie Ivins.

  3. As always, well said!

  4. Jack permalink

    Arne addressed his initial “white suburban mom” comments to an audience of corporate reform privatizers like John King, who recently have been getting beaten up by the parents opposed to Common Core. I think Arne was trying to suck up to these privatizers by taking a cheap shot at the parents fighting Common Core, and curry favor with the same privatizers. He needs to drive home the message:

    all public schools suck,

    all public schools suck,

    all public schools suck…


    and, thus all public schools need to be privatized ASAP…

    … and any parent who disagrees is just someone in denial of that reality… and they’re in denial in part because they can’t face the fact that their kid’s not as brilliant as they previously thought…. so It’s Common Core to the rescue!!!

    Again, Arne was playing to the crowd he was giving the speech to.

  5. Jonathan permalink

    Why is Arne Duncan so invested in pushing the CCSS through at such an aggressive pace? He reminds me of a carpet bagger who wants to sell his stock of hair tonic before people realize it doesn’t work. Only I think Arne sincerely believes in his snake oil. He claims that American schools are failing, but if you remove the 21% of students who live in poverty, US public schools rank with the best schools in the world on the NAEP assessment. How does he reflect upon and understand a statistic like that?

    There has been no real, informed, public debate about the CCSS, nor the significant shift in educational philosophy that it, and the high-stakes testing attached to it, represent.
    There has also been no public debate about the corporate reform push to, essentially, scuttle our public school system, that was established on the principle of equity, and replace it with corporate styled franchises, that are conceived with the notion of competition as their ideal.

    This represents a massive change in educational values, that has many implications, and shouldn’t be foisted upon the American culture by philanthropists and members of the business sector, like Rupert Murdoch, who have little to no experience in education, and very questionable motives.

  6. CitizensArrest permalink

    Who is the better liar and dissembler, Duncan or Romney? Yes, they are. This is why Duncan was lobbied for by the deformers, he has a preternatural skill at never telling the truth while appearing to say something of significance. He is right about one thing, right now, none of this matters as much as it should since the agenda keeps marching on. I hope he continues to offend as that is what will tip the scales some day.

  7. CCSS is indoctrination, oppressive in nature and, as evident by comments made by Duncan, serves to create a mockery of the collective purpose, mission and history of our public schools.

  8. Here, Here! Thanks for all the info. and pointing out the idiots that are trying to pass as geniuses. Oh my. Forget the decline of the family’s impact on education, culture, and the constant lowering of standards as a remedy for these problems. Now these “geniuses” have the cure. Pressure must be kept on him and the “brilliance of CCSS”.

  9. john a permalink

    Good on-line article from Salon, on line today:

    Salon picks up on the spreading prairie wild fire of resistance.

    You know somethings happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Duncan?

    Optimism feeds the fire of parent resistance.

  10. Translation of Duncan’s damage control: What I said was correct, I just said it badly.

  11. laMissy permalink

    Mercedes – I want to thank you for the personal sacrifice it must take for you as an English teacher to read, print and analyze Arne’s words. The man cannot make a pronoun agree with its antecedent no matter how often he opens his mouth! Whenever I hear him or read what he says, I get so distracted by his poor grammar that the tiny bit of substance that might be contained therein is totally lost to me.

    e.g: “their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were”

    or this: “I think it’s incumbent upon education leaders to not run school systems that work good for buses but that weren’t good for students.”
    or this, the most egregious of all: “So me and my team have a very, very full plate.”

    These last two are from the Diane Rhem show, ( when he also incessantly used the awful phrase “you know”.

    Thank you for your valiant sacrifice to our cause!

  12. Puget Sound Parent permalink

    I’m surprised that no journalist has focused in on the fact Duncan’s own children, who attend a public school in an affluent community—or as a college friend of mine who graduated from prep school put it, “public school in a private town”—aren’t subject to Common Core.

    Why is that? Because Duncan’s two children go to school in Virginia, a state that rejected the Common Core and refuses to have anything to do with it.

    So, in all of this discussion about Common Core, and Duncan’s gratuitous insults against suburban mothers who don’t like it, it’s surprising that he’s never been asked about his own children being spared this.

    If he thinks Common Core is so good, and that those children unexposed to it will suffer, how come he isn’t taking his own kids out of their current school and enrolling them elsewhere?

    Will he acknowledge that his own kids are missing out, as well as the children of Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Rhee and others of the Privatizer Ilk. Is there even ONE of them who doesn’t hypocritically advocate for schools and policies that they would be appalled by if it were mandated for THEIR OWN children?

    So, Arne, what about it: How come your own kids are allowed to avoid Common Core when you’re so enthusiastic about it for everyone else’s?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Schneider: Arne Tries for Damage Control But It Doesn’t Work | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Middletown Voice | Arne Is Aiming for Damage Control But Just Can’t Seem to Get It Right
  3. How do you spell disaster? Arne Duncan - Wait What?
  4. Some Governors and the Common Core: ‘Hot Friends Cooling’ « Spot On Paper
  5. Schneider Responds to Honig on California and the Common Core | Diane Ravitch's blog
  6. Arne Duncan Plays the Common Core Distancing Game #stopcommoncore | Stop Common Core Illinois
  7. Pennsylvanians Against Common Core Arne Duncan Plays the Common Core Distancing Game - Pennsylvanians Against Common Core

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