His phony act of contrition that followed only made matters worse. The “white suburban moms” remark was first reported Friday by Politico, which later reported that Duncan back-pedaled, saying that he “didn’t say it perfectly.” You can read his official "apology" for "clumsy phrasing" on the D.O.E. website.
It's actually not an apology at all. As Diane Ravitch put it, "Arne Duncan made the grievous error of speaking frankly."
There so much that's rotten, embedded in the Duncan statement, it's hard to know where to begin.
- Does he really believe that white women all think alike or that their whiteness defines their view on ed issues?
- What about "white suburban moms"? Aren't they also workers, technicians, professionals. teachers, community activists ...? Why would Duncan want to characterize them by their whiteness? Was it a conscious attempt to divide his opposition of the basis of race or gender? Did it succeed?
- What about this use of power and position to try to intimidate critics of government policies?
- As for children of a certain women being "brilliant" or not so "brilliant," or their schools being better or worse --- what does any of that have to do with Common Core standards? Does Duncan really consider the testing associated with CCSS to be a measure of smartness? An IQ test?
- Even in his "apology," Duncan implies that wealthier suburban schools are failing, like urban schools. But the data reveals that it's not the schools, teachers or kids that are failing at all. Wealthier, mainly white suburban schools districts outperform poorer urban districts (or, for that matter, other countries), precisely because they are wealthy and well-staffed and resourced. Not because moms' children are smarter or dumber.
This wasn't Duncan's first attempt at silencing Common Core critics. Just a few weeks ago, he lashed out, referring to them as "armchair pundits." His attempt at silencing was particularly directed at those who point to poverty and the resulting inequality of opportunity as a primary source of supposed "school failure."
Nor was it the first time Duncan has had to back-pedal after making racially insensitive or outright racist remarks. Just go back to March of 2010 when he claimed that Hurricane Katrina was ""the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans." Four days later, after receiving a torrent of criticism and doing some political triangulation, Duncan retreated, saying, "“I said it in a poor way and I apologize for that. It was a dumb thing to say."
Sound familiar? He's only apologetic for the way he says what he really means.
Funny stuff: Students Last blog headline -- White Suburban Moms Declared A Terrorist Group
Chicago teacher and union activist Michelle Gunderson tweets:
Dear @arneduncan, do you have any idea what would happen to me during my Danielson framework evaluation if I used "clumsy phrasing"?