No, Arne Duncan, "White Suburban Moms" Aren't the Problem; You Are

Duncan's recent comments were part of a pattern that undermines innovation and allows the achievement gap to get worse.

Common Core, the initiative that claims to more accurately measure K-12 student knowledge in English and math, also encourages children to step up their "critical thinking."

That didn't stop Education Secretary Arne Duncan, one of Common Core's salesmen, from telling a group of school superintendents last week that it is "fascinating" to see opposition to the initiative coming 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."

Now, it's possible that little Caleb and Riley are not the prodigies their parents suspect, but antagonism toward Common Core is more likely propelled by a belief that centralizing education allows Washington to, over time, destroy local autonomy. Even if these fears are exaggerated, they are far from outlandish—and hardly "fascinating" to anyone who's paying attention.

What is fascinating, though, is hearing Duncan contending that certain suburbanite "white" parents have little interest in any genuine assessment of kids and their schools. Evidence seems to suggest the opposite, actually. White suburban moms (shorthand, of course, for moms who live in middle-class communities that feature all kinds of races) seem to have a propensity to spend a lot of time, energy and money creating better schools. What's more, whether the children of "white suburban moms" are as accomplished as we think or not, comparably speaking, the data find that these kids attend reasonably good schools, that they tend to graduate a lot and that many of them go to college. And because many of these parents can afford it, if the public school is failing them they ship the kids to parochial or private schools—an option many of their poorer neighbors do not have the luxury of doing.

It is true that once schools shift to Common Core, standardized test scores will generally fall. Duncan argues that these new, lower scores are a more precise reflection of the experience in these schools. (It could also mean that schools haven't yet learned how to teach to the test.) Either way, if these "white" kids are as average as Duncan thinks, what does that say about minority kids, who are regularly scoring 20 points lower on standardized tests?

It means we have a national tragedy on our hands. A few years back, the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard found that 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys were proficient in reading—compared with 38 percent of white boys. It found that only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys were proficient in math—compared with 44 percent of white boys. As The New York Times reported, African-American males dropped out at almost twice the rate of white males. Their SAT critical reasoning scores were 104 points lower than average.

One of the first actions of the Obama administration was to back shutting down the D.C. voucher program, which provided $7,500 Opportunity Scholarship vouchers to disadvantaged kids. At the time, The Wall Street Journal's editorial board reported that the Department of Education had buried a study that illustrated persuasive data-driven improvement among kids who won vouchers compared with the kids who didn't—the kind of evidence Duncan says he wants.

In 1999, Florida enacted far-reaching reform in K-12 education that included school choice, charter schools and virtual education, among other improvements. Consequently, over the next decade and a half, the state outperformed the national average by a wide margin in closing the achievement gap. When Louisiana passed bipartisan legislation, only families that fell below 250 percent of the poverty line were eligible for vouchers, and 90 percent of these voucher recipients are black. About 8,000 children signed up. The administration didn't review any evidence about achievement; it sued to stop it. (With almost no hope of winning, it finally dropped the lawsuit against the voucher program this week.)

The administration isn't interested in "suburban white moms" getting in its way, and it sure doesn't want minority moms having too many choices. Duncan's recent comments weren't "clumsy"; they were part of a pattern—a pattern that undermines innovation and allows the achievement gap to get worse.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • larry hammond||

    End public schools. Give the truly poor vouchers for 60% of what it costs to educated a student in a public school. More choice, better results, lower cost. No more controversy over what a school is or isn't teaching. You (the parent) made the choice. If you don't like what your school is teaching, how they are handling discipline, etc you have 3 choices: 1) Get involved and try to make changes. 2) Leave for another school. 3) STFU.

  • alexisaudrey||

    my classmate's step-sister makes $83/hr on the computer. She has been fired for nine months but last month her payment was $14664 just working on the computer for a few hours. go.....W­W­W.D­U­B­3­0.C­O­M

  • David Wall||

    Very surprising that this is the only post so far advocating the end of public schools. I teach research methods and statistics in a college that admittedly draws second tier students, but 50-60% cannot express a clear thought in a sentence without considerable coaching and about the same percentage do not know that .05 is larger than .006. I am not exaggerating.

    If my students are representative of the average students (those not taking advanced placement courses in high school) they are not being prepared for life, much less the second tier colleges they attend.

    It is a monumental failure. Public schools force students to attend, force people to pay for them, force certain curriculum and textbooks, force certain credentials upon teachers (that have very little to do with competence in the subject they teach), and force out any competition from non-public schools and home schooling out by various state and local regulations. Nearly a trillion is drained out of our economy each year to support this waste.

    Public schools are immoral and resemble the workings of a huge criminal activity. Their banning should be the primary focus of the so-called liberty movement. Apparently it is not.

  • SQRLSY One||

    • “Very surprising that this is the only post so far advocating the end of public schools. …Their banning should be the primary focus of the so-called liberty movement. Apparently it is not.”
    • But Mr. Wall, you see, not all of the people who come here for posting and exchanging ideas, are necessarily friends of freedom, or foes of Government Almighty. Take me, for example… In Internet-Land these days, they call the likes of me a “ChristFag”, pushing people to convert to my way of thinking, by using that them that Internets… Except I am a “ScienfoologyFag”, not a “ChristFag”. And in Scienfoology, we actually WORSHIP Government Almighty! … To learn more (to perhaps even become a Bleeever?), please see www.churchofSQRLS.com

  • Libertarius||

    COMMON CORE STANDARDS

    Critical Thinking shall consist of uncritical acceptance of dogma pertaining to altruism and collectivism. We shall employ all such methods as are pragmatically deemed to achieve expediency in any given moment.

    Students shall receive leftist/collectivist indoctrination from the following sources: government school, irrationalist universities, all television channels, child pop singers, billboards, hip t-shirts.

    Students shall be indoctrinated by the Orwellian perversion of language, and will plug into the liberalism matrix or be cast from the herd.

  • RachelMcCarter23100||

    Victoria. even though Karen`s bl0g is nice... on saturday I got a new Lotus Elan from making $8982 this-past/five weeks and just a little over 10-k lass month. without a doubt its the nicest-job I've ever had. I actually started 8-months ago and immediately startad bringin home over $81, p/h. check it out..... WWW.JUMP85.COM

  • Jeff||

    Arne Duncan: slappable face, or slappablest face?

  • Aresen||

    How about "Face best suited to be buttocks".

  • larry hammond||

    That puckered up face does kind of look like one giant anus.

  • CharlotteHaze||

    "Backpfeifengesicht", German for "a face badly in need of a fist".

  • Copernicus||

    Also acceptable:

    "Slappableiest"

    Pardon me while I hate him based solely on his photo. Any man who allows his official PR photo to look like that is not fit to serve.

  • Mark22||

    I recommend reading up on the man. I think his resume speaks more of overconfidence than that he might have issues about his looks. For men, height and athleticism are more important determinants of attractiveness to women; he's 6'4" and an ex pro-basketball player.

  • space junk||

    Isnt it so cool to be white and talk shit about white people? I just feel so much better when someone tells me that my white wife is a problem because she is white.

    It figures this maggot is from Chicago like all the rest of Obama's friends.

    What I dont understand about the lefties is the following:

    They largely believe in evolution and try as hard as they can to remove religion (mainly Christianity) from all discussions of life with smart ass self serving comments. Now, if they believe in evolution, they must believe in survival of the fittest. And if the believe in survival of the fittest, WHY THE FUCK are they always telling us we have to drag some no brained half wit idiot along in school, work, taxes or anything else?

    Let the little fuckers fail and maybe they will learn.

    Anyway, the whole white thing just set me off on that little rant...

  • IDPNDNT||

    2 words.

    White Guilt

  • space junk||

    'White Guilt' is a mental weakness purveyed by those who would not be able to survive on their own for a week without help from the other weaklings in the collectivist society.

    But yeah, I agree with you.

  • triclops||

    Just another example of leftists having only two possible conclusions when someone disagrees with them: being stupid or evil. This is why any attempts to reason with them fall on deaf ears.

  • space junk||

    And that is usually also why they like to shout people down in a debate. Most of them can't think their way out of a wet paper bag.

  • ||

    The elephant in the room that no-one wants to mention is yellow people.

  • Harvard||

    Hard to play poker with those bandy legged fuckers. Don't expose a lot of eye.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I'll admit; I laughed.

  • SQRLSY One||

    “The elephant in the room that no-one wants to mention is yellow people.” … Yup! Yellow-skinned pepples have arrived in America on boats as starved 5-year-olds who didn’t speak a lick of Engraisch and were dirt-poor of course, and went off to attain such educations and career successes, that now the likes of the State of Californicatedness have to discriminate against the “yeller races” to favor not only the blacks, but also the whites, in the faces of these “deprived” yellers! But I believe the REAL elephant in the living room might even perhaps be race and IQ! Can’t have that kinda talk, though… The ONLY acceptable reason that blacks are kept down, is the racism (even unconscious racism) of the “creepy-ass crackers”… NOTHING else is an acceptable reason, not even, for instance, that white people breast-feed their infants more than black people do, and more breast-feeding correlates with higher IQ… Breast-feeding does not immediately respond to Government Almighty policies, and even if it did, the results won’t show up at colleges for another 20 years… So the voters and Government Almighty will pick a policy that SOUNDS good, and ignore the ones that might actually work.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Speaking of them that thar yeller-skinned pepples and IQ and human breast milk, did y’all know that the Chinese are breeding herds of DNA-modified cows to yield human milk? See http://sg.news.yahoo.com/china.....2-352.html for example; Chinese bioengineers have developed a herd of 200 (and growing) cows that produce human-type milk with human-type proteins. These proteins (not found in regular cows’ milk) help your brain and immune system to develop. China will approve this & get it on the market in 2 years. In the USA, the FDA (Praises Be!) will probably take 25 years, or tie it up in the courts forever. Y’all better start studying up on how to speak Mandarin!

  • Harvard||

    Yes, but are they ever felt up in the back theater row?

  • SQRLSY One||

    Hi Harvard, Are they ever felt up in the back row of the movie theater? I can’t see why that should be so hard to do; just get your GMO cow certified as your “therapeutic companion animal” and get your doctor to write a prescription (and maybe threaten to sue the theater if need be), and you are in fat city! Don’t know, though, how many people would get much of an udderly sensuously good-time thrill, feeling up their GMO cow… For that, you’d be better off with a GMOs of a different kind; see http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0310/S00003.htm for best (breast) picture and http://archive.indymedia.org.n.....eer-women- for further reading...

  • JidaKida||

    Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with it.

    www.VPN-Anon.tk

  • Res ipsa loquitur||

    "There are always a few, better endowed than others, who feel the weight of the yoke and cannot restrain themselves from attempting to shake it off: these are the men who never become tamed under subjection and who always, like Ulysses on land and sea constantly seeking the smoke of his chimney, cannot prevent themselves from peering about for their natural privileges and from remembering their ancestors and their former ways. These are in fact the men who, possessed of clear minds and far-sighted spirit, are not satisfied, like the brutish mass, to see only what is at their feet, but rather look about them, behind and before, and even recall the things of the past in order to judge those of the future, and compare both with their present condition. These are the ones who, having good minds of their own, have further trained them by study and learning. Even if liberty had entirely perished from the earth, such men would invent it. For them slavery has no satisfactions, no matter how well disguised." - Samuel Adams

  • Russ Davis||

    "Duncan's recent comments weren't "clumsy"; they were part of a pattern—a pattern that undermines innovation and allows the achievement gap to get worse."
    Worse, Duncan, like his boss, is an evil, immoral, degenerate, lawless, fascist megalomaniac with delusions of godhood who would have been quickly executed for his treason long ago in a civilized country where there actually were real MEN and those real MEN actually had real balls, unlike this one, run of by and for pansies.

  • Harvard||

    Black market RPG's. Where does one find them?

  • Tommy_Grand||

    Assuming the goal is for brown urban families to equal/surpass white urban families, what else whould you have Arne do? I am sure the Dept of E would welcome suggestions regarding new, better, more effective methods. Just don't bother 'em with complaints/debate about the goal itself. That was settled at the ballot box. Elections matter. Also, no jokes! Humor is inappropriate, even when someone describes the illiterate urban high school dropouts handlin suburban mom crotchz at the airport as "bravely protecting our country."

  • SQRLSY One||

    Hi Tommy_Grand, See my posts a few posts before yours… What we should suggest to the Dept. of E. (if we suffer from the illusion that these parasitical bahstahds listen to ANYTHING that we say, if they don’t already agree with us), is that we should get the Government Almighty the hell out of our way, when it comes to new & beneficial things like genetically engineered cows that will give human-like milk… THAT might actually work! Now go and try it, and Good Luck!

  • alexisaudrey||

    my classmate's step-sister makes $83/hr on the computer. She has been fired for nine months but last month her payment was $14664 just working on the computer for a few hours. go.....W­W­W.D­U­B­3­0.C­O­M

  • robynana||

    my friend's half-sister makes $64 an hour on the internet. She has been laid off for five months but last month her pay check was $13540 just working on the internet for a few hours. browse around this web-site ...................................
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    http://www.FB49.com
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

  • logical_atomist||

    I don't see what common core has to do with school choice in any significant way, so most of this article is essentially just an attempt to distract the reader from the fact that the author has got no serious case to make against common core standards beyond some populist rhetoric about his respect for "suburban moms".

    Almost all the complaints that I have heard about common core have fallen into two categories. The majority seem to consist of parents whining about how their kid came home crying because now he or she has to learn algebra or how to write something longer than a paragraph that makes sense. I understand that it is hard to be reasonable when your kid is crying, but, despite the growth of the current "self-esteem"-obsessed cultural environment, at some point people really have to accept the fact that being to lazy to learn about things or having the stamina to keep going when things get hard is going to lead to nothing but ignorance.

    The other class of complaints I have seen are about how the common core doesn't educate people broadly enough in deep understanding of science, and a real philosophical understanding of humanistic culture. Or complaining about how limiting it is to "teach to the test". These criticisms reflect an absurdly ambitious view of what most people are willing and able to learn.

    Let's see some serious relevant criticisms of this stuff rather than a bunch of whining and foolishness.

  • SQRLSY One||

    My “relevant criticism” would be, let’s just take the wind out of the sails of the edu-crock-eracy in the first place! Degrees, credentials, and LICENSES is what it all boils down to! The edu-crock-eracy gets its powers from all of these things! If tomorrow, Government Almighty announced that I have to get a doctor’s prescription before I can scratch my own butt-hole, the local University would fall all over itself, scrambling to round up endowments in the expertology of expertologogists teaching expertologist uber-doctors in teaching other doctors on how to issue licenses for people to scratch their own butt-holes! If you don’t believe me, research a silly little plastic flute known as a “lung flute”, you can use that as a search string and start at www.churchofSQRLS.com … Educrats are whores for the State in the first place, and there is NO way to fix that, besides divorcing Educrockeracy from State (State = force & threats of violence). All Hail Guv-Mint Almighty!!!

  • Car Scanner||

    Good post and interesting story.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    Arne speaks as if he is functionally illiterate.

    Arne said, "...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."

    If Arne could speak properly, Arne would have said either of these:

    ...their child isn't as brilliant as they thought him to be nor is the school their child attends.
    ...their child isn't as brilliant as they thought him to be and their child's school isn't as good as they believed.

    Arne seems to have a problem with knowing when to speak the subjunctive form of to be and when to speak the infinitive form of to be. As well, Arne seems to struggle with knowing when to say subject pronouns and when to say object pronouns. Also, Arne seems to struggle with knowing when to say singular pronouns and when to say plural pronouns.

    In short, Arne seems to be suffering from an significant deficit of core English speaking skills.

    Considering that Arne's ancestry weighs heavily with Germanic peoples — Norwegian, Scottish, German, Swedish, and English — the Old English roots of English should be first nature to Arne.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement