You don’t need to be a “white suburban mom” to be upset about a recent comment by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
On Friday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told a group of state school superintendents that he thinks “white suburban moms” oppose the educational reforms known as the Common Core State Standards because the benchmarks 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.”
The Common Core State Standards have been adopted in 45 states in an effort to make sure students around the country are being taught to the same standards. However, in states that have begun testing students based on the Common Core, many students have seen their standardized test scores drop precipitously. According to Duncan, the standards are more rigorous than previous guidelines and more accurately reflect where our nation’s students should be.
While Duncan's idea that students should be held to higher standards is nothing new, the racial and socioeconomic implications of his latest comment drew reactions from all corners of the Internet. We have been tracking the responses and have found that they are generally coming from three types of people:
1) The white suburban mom who feels marginalized and misunderstood.
Common Core opponents who fall into the category of being white suburban moms want Arne Duncan to know that they do not hate the Common Core because they were previously delusional about the brilliance of their children. They oppose the Common Core for varied and complex reasons. Some take issue with the Common Core's implementation process; others dislike standardized testing, and so on.
In a Facebook post reprinted by The Daily Kos, one mother wrote, “I don't fight the Common Core because I think my child is brilliant, but because I'm tired of these one size fits all educational solutions.”
Others sounded off on Twitter:
This white suburban mom thinks Arne Duncan is intentionally covering his own botched rollout.
— Karoli (@Karoli) November 17, 2013
— White Suburban Mom (@verytari) November 18, 2013
2) The non-white parent who wants to know why everyone is only now so upset.
Reactions to Duncan’s statement were swift and bold across social media platforms. Some wondered, however, if the comment would have gained as much attention had they been directed at a group besides “white suburban moms"?
In a blog post by P.L. Thomas, the Furman University professor notes that while it is valid to reject Duncan’s comment, he finds the "magnitude and swiftness of the responses to this 'white suburban moms' incident disappointing in the larger context of Duncan’s entire tenure as Secretary of Education.” Thomas writes that many of the Obama administration's education policies disproportionately impact minority students, but that it is only now, when these policies are being explicitly framed as a solution for white suburban parents, that they gain attention.
A number of other minority parents and scholars shared their thoughts on Duncan’s comment, as well:
— Melinda D. Anderson (@mdawriter) November 17, 2013
First They Came For Urban Black and Latino Moms (For Arne Duncan) - TheJLV Newsletter - http://t.co/z0ASci4g45
— Jose Vilson (@TheJLV) November 18, 2013
3) The non-white parent who wants Arne Duncan to know she (or he) hates the Common Core, too.
It turns out that white suburban mothers aren’t the only ones who hate the Common Core. Both moms and dads of all different colors apparently hate it, too.
Anti-Common Core activist Michelle Malkin wrote in a blog post Monday that "the red blood underneath my brown skin is boiling" as a result of Duncan’s comment. She also writes, “As a brown-skinned suburban mom opposed to Common Core, I can tell you I’ve personally met moms and dads of ALL races, of ALL backgrounds, and from ALL parts of the country, who have sacrificed to get their kids into the best schools possible.”
Commenters on the Facebook Group "Moms Against Duncan (MAD)" also weighed in: "I ain't white, & it doesn't matter a damn, but I am a Mom, and I am now in angry Mommy Bear mode! Watch out!" wrote Facebook user Daphne Scott Yuhas.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article mistakenly referred to P.L. Thomas as “Furman” on second reference.