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An Open Letter to Arne Duncan from a “White, Suburban Mom”

Whitney Neal, Grassroots Director for FreedomWorks

Secretary Duncan,

Given your recent comments, it should come as no surprise to you that someone like me, a “white suburban mom,” would be opposed to Common Core. Every parent has the right – the duty – to be responsible for their child’s education, and to raise concerns when they feel the system does not meet their needs. This is not political silliness. This is good parenting.

However, given your description of my appearance and my lifestyle as some sort of pejorative slur, your claims that I am “politically silly,” your assumption that I am preoccupied with some label of “brilliance” for my child, you may be surprised to hear that my opposition is rooted much deeper than the color of my skin, the location of my residence, or any declaration of potential brilliance for my son.

As both a mother and a former teacher, I’m concerned that these standards were not piloted. They were not internationally bench-marked, as you claim. They came in the form of federal grants (aka bribes) intended to incentivize cash strapped states to accept curriculum standards sight-unseen. I’m concerned that unfunded mandates for local classrooms will increase burdens on teachers, while limiting their abilities to be innovative and creative for individual children.

I’m concerned with expensive programs, new resources, and a large testing consortium creating a “common” standard of performance with little motivation for competition, challenge, or excellence. Despite lacking full implementation, it has already been reported that the $350 million spent on national testing consortiums has not resulted in the gains promised to the states in the first place. I don’t believe that standards should be tied to requirements for longitudinal data tracking systems, or national assessments, or No Child Left Behind waivers.

I believe in the power of public education. I believe that teachers deserve our trust and the freedom to create classroom environments and lesson plans that uniquely challenge their students. Simply “teaching to the test,” rather than teaching students to enjoy the process of learning, would be a tragic unintended consequence of Common Core.

Every child has the potential for excellence. But that excellence, and yes, “brilliance,” looks different on every child – because NO child is common.

I call on you to rescind your statements, and apologize to those parents, grandparents, community members, educators, administrators, analysts, and legislators who rightly raising concerns about your program (which the American Federation of  Teachers compared to Obamacare, by the way).

We deserve our concerns to be addressed in a manner free from insult and innuendo. If you cannot find it in yourself to do this, you are welcome to join this “white suburban mom” for dinner, where my 6 year-old can explain to you what The Golden Rule means.

Regards,

Whitney Neal

 

*Note: Whitney Neal can be found on Twitter @WhitneyNeal.  If you agree with her post, please share this link with the Secretary on Twitter @arneduncan

 

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