White House deflects question about Duncan’s ‘white suburban moms’ comment

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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White House press secretary Jay Carney Monday fought off questions and did not condemn Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s condescending comments about “white suburban moms.”

While defending Duncan, Carney said the current education system is not properly preparing students to succeed in life.

Duncan’s “point was that we need to be honest with kids and parents about whether we’re providing the skills they need to succeed,” Carney said after being quizzed about Duncan’s statement.

Duncan caused an uproar while complaining about the growing public opposition to federal Common Core eduction standards and tests, amid a recent drop of up to 30 percent in some schools’ average scores.

“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,” Duncan told education officials at a conference in Richmond, Va.

“You’ve bet your house and where you live and everything on, ‘My child’s going to be prepared.’ [So the test results] can be a punch in the gut,” he said.

On Monday, Carney was asked “is that an appropriate way for the secretary of education to talk about a constituency, to qualify them by race?”

“I can just tell you that the secretary of education and everybody on the president’s team dedicated to this effort is focused on making sure that we do everything we can, working with states and others, to ensure that our kids are getting the education they need for the 21st century, for the careers of the 21st century,” he responded.

“So, again, I haven’t had a discussion with the president about that, but I think the broader point that we need to be honest about whether we’re providing the skills … our children need to succeed. I think we can agree on that,” Carney said.

Republicans are gleefully hammering Duncan and other Democrats for Duncan’s racially-tinged or condescending comment, just as Obama and his allies hammered any GOP legislators during the 2012 election whose comments could be used to bolster their claim that Republicans are waging a “war on women.”

Rep. Steve Stockman sent out a Tweet urging Duncan be fired for “dismissing #CommonCore critics as just white suburban moms with dumb kids.”

Duncan is a “corrupt and bankrupt bigot,” said conservative blogger Michelle Malkin.

“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,” Malkin wrote. “They are outraged that dumbed-down, untested federal ‘standards’ pose an existential threat to their excellent educational arrangements — be they public, private, religious, or homeschooling.”

Some left-wingers are also jumping on Duncan.

Randi Weingarten, head of the nation’s largest teacher’s union, the American Federation of Teachers, also slammed Duncan, partly because she had led an effort to dismantle the Common Core standards and testing.

“You think the Obamacare implementation is bad? The implementation of the Common Core is far worse,” Weingarten said early November.

Duncan “really doesn’t get it,” she said after Duncan’s comments.

“This white suburban mom suggests that you check your mouth carefully before you shove your foot in it, or shovel that piece of racist class distinction out to school superintendents,” said a blogger at

The tests are “opposed because they suggest that all children begin and have a school experience which is on equal footing with others when it’s not … [and] because they place a heavy emphasis on annual standardized testing, which is expensive and unnecessary,” said the blogger, named Karoli.

“Parents saw their kids’ scores drop by as much as 30 percent with very little explanation for why that could be… Duncan is telling us all, it’s just that our expectations of our little darlings are too high. At least, if we’re a white suburban mom,” she wrote.

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