The PJ Tatler

Duncan Says His 'Wording Was Clumsy' on 'White Suburban Moms' Comment

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said this morning on MSNBC that his “wording was clumsy” when he said “white suburban moms” opposed Common Core standards because they reveal that “their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

“My message was very, very simple. When you raise standards that’s a challenging thing. I was challenging state school chief officers to do a better job articulating why raising standards is the right thing for all children,” Duncan said.

“What happened historically is far too many states, and you know this well, they dummy down standards, and were lying to children and families across this country for far too long,” he continued. “When you lie to children, only group that benefits, guess who that is? It’s politicians. Children lose, parents lose ultimately, our country loses. Many states around this country are doing very hard work of raising standards now. It’s the right thing, but we have to better communicate that to parents. That was the message I was trying to make.”

When pressed on the meaning behind his words, Duncan said they were the “exact opposite” of any administration divide-and-conquer strategy.

“My point was that when you dummy down standards, when you’re lying to children, that affects all children. That affects all families,” the secretary said. “Even in more affluent suburban areas, not just in the inner city. Every child needs to have high standards. That was my very simple point, and we need to do a better job collectively articulating to parents why we want their children to be competitive not in their district or in their state, our children are smart, as talented, as creative, as entrepreneurial, as hard working, as children anywhere in the world.”

“We have to level the playing field for them. They are competing for jobs with children in India, China, Singapore, South Korea. That’s the competition. We all need to come together to help our students be successful there, and the best way to do that is with great teachers, which is what we’re here to talk about today.”

Duncan, who used to be CEO of Chicago’s public school system, claimed he’s “the most non-political person you’re ever going to meet. I could care less about politics.”

“My job is simply to fight for children. I’ve worked with everyone — Republican, Democrat, left, right, it doesn’t matter,” he added. “We want to reduce the dropout rates, we want to increase high school graduation rates. We want to make sure our children are going to some form of higher education. We’re fighting not just for education, we’re fighting for a stronger country, a stronger economy. Put politics and ideologies — I think that gets in the way. Let’s just work together on behalf of kids. Let’s fight for children.”