Education Chief Arne Duncan: Closing the gap doesn’t mean ‘dumbing down’ white kids

By: Renee Nal
New Zeal

Arne Duncan via YouTube White House (screenshot)" width="550" height="308" /> Arne Duncan via YouTube White House (screenshot)

Arne Duncan via YouTube White House (screenshot)”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan made a bizarre comment about closing the educational gap between “white kids” and “children of color” on Wednesday during a White House summit to discuss Obama’s ConnectED initiative “with superintendents from across the country.” Duncan said that closing the education gap does not mean “dumbing down” white kids, but “bringing up our children of color.”

Secretary Duncan was responding to a question posed by David Hoffert, the superintendent of Warsaw Community Schools in Indiana at the time, who asked whether technology was seen as a “bridge to equity of education for all students.”

Duncan responded in part:

If we are honest with ourselves, while we have made – in some places – some progress on closing gaps, we are nowhere near where we need to be and I don’t think there’s a district in the nation and I know there’s not a state in the nation that can claim that those gaps have been eliminated. For me it is not just about closing gaps, it is about raising the bar for all kids…you don’t want to close them by having white kids…you know, dumbing down what they are doing – it’s bringing up our children of color.

Duncan added:

And you guys might know this as well, for the first time in our nation’s history this school year, our nation’s students are majority minority.

The event was described as the “first-ever National Connected Superintendents Summit” held at the White House on Wednesday, with an audience of 100 selected superintendents. The ConnectED initiative seeks to fulfill the U.S. Department of Education’s goal of connecting 99 percent of students to “next-generation” technology within five years.

During the discussion (around the 12:15 minute mark), Duncan also encouraged the superintendents to bypass their own “bureaucracies” when it comes to requests for Title 1 and Title 2 funding.

He said:

Please push us hard on that…and none of us want to go to jail, but short of going to jail we want to be as flexible as we can. The guidance I mentioned this morning surrounding uses of Title 1 and Title 2 and Title 3 and IDA on this tech space is not limited just to tech. I will say, a surprising amount of time when folks call us, our answer is ‘yes,’ but they are being told by by their own bureaucracies the answer is no. And we will always give you a straight answer…but it’s amazing how many myths and sort of urban legends are out there both state and local districts and candidly I think that some people’s jobs are – they keep their jobs by telling you things you can’t do – it’s simply not true…we are open for business and please come directly to us…

It seems that Secretary Duncan is using the opportunity to encourage school superintendents to bypass their own state and local authorities for taxpayer-funded federal grant money for public schools.

He continues:

And honestly the Promise Neighborhoods stuff we love. We [the taxpayer] put a ton of money behind that. And we want to continue to fund more…

As an aside, Secretary Duncan released a statement on Friday praising President Obama’s “Immigration Accountability Executive Actions.” He said in part, indulging in a bit of Congress-bashing:

Absent congressional action, President Obama has taken a number of common-sense steps to address our broken immigration system that will, among other things, keep families together and expand educational opportunity for so many currently living in the shadows. These executive actions will not only help our nation’s immigrant families to succeed, they also will help sustain America’s economic competitiveness into the future.

The statement linked to a “Guidance for School Districts to Ensure Equal Access for All Children to Public Schools, Regardless of Immigration Status.”

Duncan made the comments about not “dumbing down” white kids around the 18:37 minute mark.

Watch his comments here:

This article has been cross-posted from Broadside News.


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