Saturday, November 16, 2013

Arne Duncan vs. White Moms

As is spreading rapidly, Arne Duncan put his foot in it again this week with his cogent analysis of why people are not putting on a smile, lying down, and letting the Common Core roll right over them. You can find a full treatment here, but I want to just take a moment to unpack how many kinds of arrogant foolishness are rolled into that one little comment.

“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,” 

1) Why are we having this conversation?

Once again, Arne seems to have forgotten one of the central, important fictions of the Common Core-- that they are totally the result of a state initiative, and that they in no way represent a federal attempt to commandeer the state-based control of schools. If this isn't his program, why is he devoting so much time and fervor to defending it? Why aren't a bunch of governors running around defending the program that they developed all on their own that was in no way set up and nursed to life by the feds?

2) Moms? Really??

I thought these days it was supposed to be the GOP that dismissed contrary points of view simply by attaching them to women. "Ha ha. This is the crazy kind of objection you'd expect from one of those women. You know women, with their dumb vaginas and not-very-strong thinky parts. That's who comes up with this kind of stupid objection."

3) Plus "white" and "suburban"?? Did you skip politics 101?

Granted, this is a kind of genius play here. These are people who have it cushy, but they're not truly elite. We're trying to invoke the language of privilege, but not too much because that would land us in Arne's neighborhood. So "white suburban" translates roughly as "privileged but not as great as me." Arne is saying, "People who live on the mean streets-- they get it. People who have risen to the heights of power and wealth on their great merit (like, you know, me) get it. But these out-of-touch suburbanites (did I mention they were women) don't get it."

If you think I'm reading too much into points #2 and #3, imagine how this plays if Arne instead attributes these concerns to "blue collar fathers" or "working class black parents."

4) And then when you think for a second more...

Wait-- so only suburban Moms care about how well their kids are doing at school??

5) It's not me. It's you.

The administration has managed to cave and admit that maybe the ACA rollout didn't come off quite as planned and that maybe-- just maybe-- things weren't quite as originally advertised. (Predicted soon-to-be-meme from the comment section of the WaPo article-- "Obamacore-- you can keep your school and teachers if you like them. Oops!")

But in the world of CCSS, there's still only one explanation for why people are upset about the results. Their perception of their school, the school's teachers, the education that they perceived in THEIR OWN CHILDREN-- all of those were at fault all this time, and now only the magic of the federal  oops-- state standards can finally open their eyes.

Yup-- exposure to their offspring, with whom they presumably live, occasionally share a meal, even exchange the occasional grunts and greetings-- none of that could possibly give a parent an impression of how smart their child is. Only CCSS can reveal-- and surprise them with-- the truth.

In Arne's world, there is no possible way that the bad results are even a teensy bit the result of an untested program poorly rolled out program. And that's why--

6) Randi Weingarten is actually right about something

The WaPo column contains a money quote from the AFT head, saying that the CCSS rollout is even worse than the ACA launch. And she's right. And she's right because the ACA rollout has allowed for course correction, changes based on conditions on the ground, and even an admission that some things need to be tweaked.

But in Arne-world, all problems, all objections, all difficulties with the CCSS have one explanation-- all you dumb civilians who don't know revolutionary genius when you see it. Especially those of you with vaginas.


  1. Concise and insightful. Thank you.

  2. First, thanks to Valerie Strauss and the Washington Post for printing her article.

    Mothers, Sisters, Wives and Gentlewomen of America can read, and did read it. We have the vote, by the way, ...and we are offended. I take more offense to your comments than those of a recently elected Governor who contemptuously told a public school teacher to "go do her job" while putting his finger in her face. IT IS our job advocate for our students and children.

    You see, Mr. Duncan, as a teacher with 2 advanced degrees, lots of graduate credit and 22 years classroom experience ---(more than you and your friends, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee have between you) I am also the Mother of two extraordinary, talented women who attended public schools and public Universities--who both earned Master's degrees.

    The fact is, Mr. Secretary, you haven't got a clue what creativity is. You haven't got clue what your testing has done to kids, teachers and parents.....and guess what else? YOU CAN'T MEASURE LEARNING! Like so many of your pandering think tankers, you've decided to believe that scores measure efficacy. You've thrown in with a very bad bunch!

    Of course you'd know that testing doesn't measure anything real if you were a real teacher...but you and your corporate cronies aren't teachers and you really don't get it.

    Teachers work hard, Moms work hard, and this Mom/Teacher/White Woman thinks you need to apologize for your disrespect. Ask the Washington Post to publish your apology, because many of us don't read or listen to the same media outlets you obviously pay attention to.... That's all you can do, because it appears that you're clearly not smart enough to undo the damage your 1 percent Venture-Capitalist-Union-Busting friends have done to my profession OR to the children you want to keep measuring!

    You hold a public trust, and you blew it.

  3. Something's happening, Arne. Can you hear it? You've pissed off a very large group of people. Combine this with your boss's backpedaling, and the rumble you all are feeling isn't the Metro under your feet.

  4. This is a MUST FORWARD . . . finally, some "truth" emerges from deceitful lips . . . the AGENDA for CCSS, along with all government programs, etc. is to "get back at " the nasty establishment that has held back minorities, poor people, etc. and to LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD (test scores) so that everyone can receive a "ribbon" just for running, or even walking, in the race.

    1. Patrick, I don't think you quite get the picture. Read the blog post and other comments again to see the real issues at play.