State of the Union address. But I can't say I appreciated what he said about education.
He seems to have pivoted in his approach. Though I'm glad he is no longer assigning responsibility for low educational performance on ineffective teachers, he is now appearing to blame parents for not having high enough standards for their children or their schools.
In this, he seems to be taking his cue from Arne Duncan, who famously critiqued parents protesting the flawed Common core standards, describing them as “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.”
More recently, Duncan spoke before the National PTA , and praised South Koreans as “parents [who] were relentless and had the highest of expectations – insisting their children receive an excellent education….I wished our biggest challenge here in the US was too many parents demanding excellent schools.”
I’ve written before about Duncan’s misplaced envy of the South Korea, where 20% of the average family’s disposable income is spent on private tutoring, and even the Prime Minster has warned us against emulating their educational system. Many Korean families in fact move to the United States in order to save their children from the horrible pressures of their system. But now Duncan and the President appear to have taken this fixation even further.
Graciously, Obama started his State of the Union praising teachers: “today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it and did her part to lift America's graduation rate to its highest levels in more than three decades.” But then he went on to say:
“Race to the Top, with the help of governors from both parties, has helped states raise expectations and performance. Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C., are making big strides in preparing students with the skills for the new economy -- problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, math. Now, some of this change is hard. It requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think…”
Good he and Arne have changed their line – at least temporarily – by saying that teachers need more support. But now they are accusing parents of not having high enough expectations. Can't we get over this blame game? Or am I being too sensitive?
Below is what I wrote for Salon on what I hoped Obama would say in his speech, which sadly he did not. Please add your comments below on what you wished he’d said.