Duncan Flips Us the Finger

What’s the definition of a gaffe again? When a politician accidentally says what he really thinks:

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a group of state schools superintendents Friday that he found it “fascinating” that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come 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.”

I haven’t written much about Common Core because I honestly haven’t studied the issue enough. They are set of national standards — long on the Left’s education wish list — that most states have accepted. Except that they seem unrealistic. I haven’t just heard this from opponents of top down education, I’ve heard it from pediatricians, teachers and parents who believe the material is not developmentally appropriate — meaning they’re pushing young kids too fast (see details linked in the above article and here). I live in a college town with excellent schools and the teachers here are very worried that they will not be able to teach Common Core. You can imagine what it’s like in the inner cities.

Fundamentally, Common Core just sounds wrong. Imposing a one-size-fits-all education model sounds good to an technocratic fool like Duncan, who sees children and parents and simply interchangeable parts of a massive system. But to anyone who has actually taught in classroom (Duncan hasn’t), it sounds insane. It’s great if a kid can learn fractions by third grade but not all kids can. Even kids who have mathematical skill may bloom late.

Common Core also crosses me as a politico’s misunderstanding of how the world works. It’s not unusual to challenge employees or divisions to meet ambitious goals. But you do not throw those challenges out at divisions that are already failing. Many schools in this country aren’t even teaching the basics. But Common Core will … I dunno .. make them raise their game? In a way that, say, school choice wouldn’t? One suspects, given the strong union support, part of the goal is that the schools will fail Common Core and this failure will be used to demand more funding. The Obama Administration has already made noises about year-round schooling (ignoring that countries with year-round schooling have shorter school days). We all know the way people Duncan and Obama think: there isn’t a fundamental failure that can’t be overcome by more money, more hours and less freedom.

In any case, putting Common Core aside, the arrogance and condescension of Duncan’s remark is simply stunning, a peek at what this man — who has made a lot of education noise with little actual success — thinks. If we think his beloved Common Core is too aggressive or inappropriate, it’s because we are whiny little bitches who don’t realize how stupid our kids really are and how glorious his plans for them are.

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  1. Seattle Outcast

    As I remember it, fractions were taught in the third grade – briefly. Lots of kids had problems with them until junior high. Of course, I was brought up on “new” math, which as stupid as it was apparently has nothing on “new” new math, which essentially teaches kids how to push buttons on a calculator and call that “math”…

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  2. Hal_10000 *

    Being in a college town does have some disadvantages and one is that the school board tends to get excited about education fads. They tried a new math method a few years back and it was a disaster. Some kids were set back years. I have no idea why “educators” think they can reinvent the wheel.

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  3. salinger

    They are set of national standards — long on the Left’s education wish list

    There is nothing left or right about Common Core (or No Child Left Behind for that matter).

    It is simply a scheme to siphon public money into private hands. Similar to how some believe the ACA’s real purpose is to break the back of healthcare leading to a single payer.

    CCSS and it’s predecessor NCLB is being used as a tool by corporate educational marketers to:
    1) Make money
    2) Eradicate public education.

    Simply put – education policy written by non-educators will always fail. Let me rephrase this – it will always fail those who need to be educated – it’ll make a butt-load of money for the corporatist.

    But the fact that we are in such a polarized society that we pigeonhole these disastrous programs as left or right so that we know which side to be on – only speeds up the demise of the education system. Too much fixing blame and too little fixing problem.

    That being said – having standards is not a bad thing. One size fits all, easily charted data assessment that can seemingly be glanced at and understood by people outside of the profession is the real culprit.

    Another thought: How does Duncan’s maligning of suburban moms compare to the drubbing teachers receive from the education reformists? Why is there no outcry against this equally shallow thinking slander?

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  4. Starving Writer

    Speaking as a special education teacher …

    I don’t know a single teacher who thinks the CCS (or NCLB) is a good thing. Just about every teacher I’ve met or worked with despises the new standards and the unrealistic expectations of NCLB.

    What is supremely frustrating, as a special education teacher, is that we are constantly told to differentiate, differentiate, differentiate. But when it comes to passing the high-stakes tests … absolutely no differentiation is allowed at all! Of course most of the students in special education fail. The test does not adhere to their learning style.

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  5. hist_ed

    I’ll echo the teacher side of things: I don’t know a single teacher who thinks this is a good idea. I have spent untold hours wrestling with the Language Arts stuff so can’t really comment on the math. The biggest problem with the LA standards is that they want us to emphasize “Informational texts” instead of literature. Forget To Kill a Mockingbird and Poe, we want to make sure you can read an appliance manual and political screed from the Obama administration.

    Salinger, the left wing part of the this is more control by the central government over local control. Because Arne Duncan knows so much more about what my students need than I do (or my school board).

    And I don’t think that the Language Arts standards are more rigorous than what my district used in the past, just different and more regimented.

    I’ve said before on this site, educrats are always looking for a silver bullet. The one BIG THING that will suddenly turn things around and make our kids learn like crazy. The past 30 or 40 years of education has been roll out after roll out of that big thing (look up open concept high schools if you want a laugh). It fails to move the needle and then we are off to the next big thing without questioning the whole big thing paradigm. After the umpteenth common core meeting a couple of weeks ago we broke into little work groups to recommend next steps.. The first thing I suggested to my colleagues is that we have a “break year” in which teachers were not required to learn any new BIG THING and instead simply work to improve what we were doing. I can’t tell you how many hours I have sunk into common core but I think it would have been better for my students of I spent that time reading and providing feedback on their writing and planning lessons that address their deficits.

    Oh yeah Salinger hit on another thing: “data” This year we are all about the data. Data data data. Now data isn’t itself a bad thing in education. We have a lot of benchmarking tools to assess where our students are academically. Plus, of course, actually teaching then every day gives me an inkling. But now we are pushed to generate and report several times as many scores on standard assessments-more classroom time gone testing students plus a lot more of my time crunching numbers.

    Gotta go-it’s Sunday and I will be putting in 6 or 7 hours grading my kids’ writing (after spending a good 5 hours yesterday planning) because I have had no time at all during the past few weeks to do the actual work of teaching.

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  6. salinger

    Salinger, the left wing part of the this is more control by the central government over local control.

    And the implementation of this control via corporate entity (Pearson I’m talking about you) belongs to the right. I’ve said many times and will say it again and again til my voice gives out. Leave education to educators. Schools are not a business. They are not corporations – kids are not lines of computer code. Even a good idea can be ruined by folks trying to squeeze a buck out of it.

    Hist Ed – I am right now sitting at Logan Airport after attending and speaking at NCTE, there are good ideas out here and folks still fighting the good fight.

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  7. Hal_10000 *

    I’ve said before on this site, educrats are always looking for a silver bullet. The one BIG THING that will suddenly turn things around and make our kids learn like crazy.

    But this big thing is from Obama! It’s the big thing to end all big things.

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  8. AlexInCT

    Leave education to educators. Schools are not a business.

    No, these educators, especially the marxists, think it is a brain washing institution. I pass. I as a parent want say in what nonsense they are filling my kid’s head with. They barely cover the constitution or the history of our country, unless it is to demean the whole thing, then spend weeks on bullshit that’s feel good but is of zero value, unless your goal is to create soft in the head, easy to manipulate leftist drones.

    What schools need to do is go back to the three Rs, the classics, and all that other stuff they now look down upon because it was done by some white guys they now want to hate. That’s what works. The feel good nonsense that’s been added is detrimental. My kid needed to do hours of indentured community service to graduate high school. What a pile of fucking shit that was. I pointed out that when it is forced its not volunteer work but indentured servitude, and since I get that what they want is to condition these kids to be servants of the state, they can kiss my ass.

    We keep graduating a bunch of people that have high self-esteem, twisted ideological beliefs that lean towards the absurd marxist, and no real life skills, and wonder why they fail the first time they are met with a real life situation where actions, and not nonsensical beliefs, matter.

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