October 25th, 2007
11:00 AM ET
10 years ago

Biden 'stumbles' over education question

Sen. Joe Biden.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - In what the Washington Post is describing as a "stumble," Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said in an interview with the paper Wednesday that Washington's high minority population is one of the reasons for the city's education problems.

Explaining why schools in Iowa are performing better than those in Washington, D.C., Biden told the Post, "There's less than one percent of the population of Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than four of five percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you're dealing with."

"When you have children coming from dysfunctional homes, when you have children coming from homes where there's no books, where the mother from the time they're born doesn't talk to them - as opposed to the mother in Iowa who's sitting out there and talks to them, the kid starts out with a 300 word larger vocabulary at age three. Half this education gap exists before the kid steps foot in the classroom," the Delaware Democrat added.

The paper reports Biden's campaign quickly sought to clarify the remarks, saying in a statement that the senator was not making a "race-based distinction" but rather a "socio-economic" one.

This isn't the first time Biden's words have caused controversy. Last February, on the same day he officially announced his presidential bid, a newspaper quoted the senator describing Sen. Barack Obama as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

And, in a June 2006 appearance in New Hampshire, Biden commented on the growth of the Indian-American population in Delaware by saying, "You cannot go into a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. Oh, I'm not joking."

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

Filed under: Iowa • Joe Biden
soundoff (133 Responses)
  1. Arshad, Newburgh, NY

    CNN, please show some courage and professionalism and DO NOT delete my opinion. This is a country where everyone has a right to express his opinion. You can not delete my post just because I don't serve your agenda.

    I don't support Senator Biden in the presidential election and I am neither black nor white. However, I agree with the content of his argument because it's true that schools performence depends on the composition of demographics. I live in NY and my son's school districts have many students from inner cities. I found 3 schools in our school districts are about 40% worse compared to other schools within 10 miles from us. I did some research on class room size and quality of teachers and all were comparable. I also looked at percent of student that are white in school (more stable home and more attention at home) and percent student who recieve free lunch at school (overall economic condition of households) and how the school performance is related to these factors. I have seen there is a DIRECT correlation between school's performance in math, science and english in NY state tests and these two factors. About 40% minority students and 45% students recieveing free lunch at school perfectly accounted for the poor performance of these schools.

    I am not saying minority kids are less smart or can not learn. It's a sad fact that more minority people live in poverty compared to white people. Many students are raised by grand parents in the absence of a responsible or caring parents. Guardian's don't or can't help with home work or talk to teachers on children's progress. It's a viscious cycle. Many parents are poor because they are not educated or without a decent wage. Since they are not responsible and/or educated themselves, they are not paying enough attention to the kid's education who are falling behind every day and dropping out at some point and dragging school's performance along the way.

    One thing is true though. This is not a minority problem. This is an American problem that need to be dealt with head on. People's health and education can not be treated as a highly profitable business in 21st century. We are not talking about socialist solution but some form of government intervention that make these affordable while keeping individuals resposnible for them. Otherwise, the world is moving toward a global knowledge economy, the population in US by 2040 will be 50% minority (lation, black, Asian). If we ignore these issues, 50% of American workforce will become uncompetitive, underskilled compared to the rest of the world. In next 30/40 years, US economy will compete with India and China's head on, not with EU or Latin America. A healthy, highly educated population is the only way to keep American competitiveness alive. George Bush's solution of "here is $300 in tax cut, go spend in shopping mall and that will increase demand of goods/job and improve economy for the country" is nothing but short sighted and ridiculous. We need visionary leadership that think about where this world is headed and how we can keep this country competitive in next 50 years and beyond. That does not happen automatically, without a plan or strategy and without a nation with courage to take on the challenge.

    Obama, is the man with vision, enthusiasm, willing to tell the truth, willing to stand tall against special interest, willing to solve long standing problems like education and healthcare and energy. It's a question of whether, we the people will support him. I will support him 100% and vote for him. WOULD YOU? For the sake of the future of this great country and nation. WOULD YOU????? It's not about Clinton, Biden or Obama. It's about us and our kid's future and the world they will live in after all of us.

    October 25, 2007 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  2. james, Minneapolis, MN

    Again where is this great truth that he spoke?

    You people keep talking about this bold face truth well what truth did he speak aside from saying that there are less African Americans in Iowa.

    Everyone seems to think he is telling it like it is but they can't seem to pinpoint the words he used that is actually doing so.

    Was the truth the part about the kids not having books in their homes or maybe the part about the mothers not talking to them.

    I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say he is not racist, but I need to know what truth he spoke. Any takers???

    October 25, 2007 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  3. bill clinton arkansas, ny, marthas wherever us

    so joe you opened your mouth again.
    if it were a republican ( sorry he would have been gone the first time)

    This is typical democratic hear no evil see no evil.

    I thought the gop were racists.

    October 25, 2007 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  4. Jillian, Chandler, Az

    This is so ridiculous. Biden did not say anything wrong. Statistics prove that minorities score lower on tests and have lower graduation rates. Biden is trying to do something about it.
    What am I missing here other then Biden speaking the truth?

    October 25, 2007 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  5. Damion, Atlanta, GA.

    LOL! Oh how rich is this? He says it: it's ok. When Republicans make the same point: racism.

    Anybody with a D on their name gets a free ride from accusations of being prejudiced...doesn't matter if you are a former Klan member or if you're a former defender of a deranged homophobe who killed gay politicians simply because they were gay.

    This is funny.

    October 25, 2007 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  6. Erin13, Fort Lee, NJ

    The NAACP invited Sen. Joe Biden to lead their Martin Luther King Day memorial in Columbia, South Carolina.

    They did not invite Senators Dodd, Clinton or Obama. They didn't ask Mike Gravel, Bill Richardson, John Edwards or Dennis Kucinich.

    The NAACP knows Joe Biden's record on civil rights, and they respect him for it.

    What CNN media today took to mean one thing actually means another, and it is CNN who should apologize for their mistake - not brow beat the senator for his news comments to the Washington Post - a rival news media to CNN, I might add.....

    October 25, 2007 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  7. Paul, Stuart, Fl.

    Blacks in Washington are more or less welfare plantation serfs. The D.C. school system is a jobs program for loyal black capos. The kids and education are just props.

    It's not about learning; it's about the money.

    Anyone who doesn't want the effects of the DC racket can get on a bus and get. They don't. Therefore they must be satisfied, or compensated. The Democrats have always known the price of slaving, they now just use adult blacks as their intermediaries.

    October 25, 2007 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  8. Dave, Washington DC

    I work for a public school in Southeast DC. Our students are 99% black and 1% latino. Joe's views on education are the most well-informed in the whole race. How many of you even know what Cledwama's Education plan is? Biden's is comprehensive and will improve the American public school system. I am constantly amazed by people's zealotry to cry racism. Joe Biden has a 100% NAACP rating, and his involvement with the Civil Rights movement in his 20s was instrumental in his decision to enter politics, and for the past 4 decades he has been a champion of civil rights. Where are you bandwagon race-card players hiding whenever Joe passes a Senate resolution that could save thousands of lives in Iraq, or when he passes the Violence Against Women act?

    The problems facing our decrepit education system in this country are real and very complex. And they will require real and complex solutions, not cosmetic ones.

    If we continue to ignore what's staring us right in the face we'll never fix education in this country.

    October 25, 2007 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  9. Santosh

    Gosh Biden, why do you always do this? You are the only smart and sincere candidates that the Democrats have yet you always say something politically incorrect and get yourself in trouble. I know what you meant and it was an intelligent point but gosh, do u want to have a shot at this election or what?

    Sen. Biden is the most moderate and thoughtful person on foreign policy and I would vote for him over most of the Republican candidates. I just wish his political savvy was a little more and he'd watch his tongue better so he can at least get elected.

    October 25, 2007 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  10. james, Minneapolis, MN

    None of you can say what he was right about. What is more disturbing is how some of you that say you come from the public school system are defending him when he didnt even say anything I hope all of you are retired.

    October 25, 2007 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  11. Jon, Kansas City

    He's the best candidate, and though he was indelicate in his reply, he certainly has a grasp of the problem.

    October 25, 2007 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  12. Sick and Disgusted, Anywhere USA

    Buh-bye Joe....You want fries wit dat foot samich?

    October 25, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  13. Salita

    its obvious ...i did as you said i did a little research....Whites committed 65.3% of all forcible rapes in 2006...while blacks 32.5%. So much for 3 or 4 times more likely. LOL!

    I dont think i need to go any further with your post Its clearly you were incorrect in your information but i suspect that is nothing new.

    October 25, 2007 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  14. Sick and Disgusted, Anywhere USA

    As an African American mother, what concerns/distresses me is that Joe's statement generalizes all African Americans and not those parents who have books in their home, read and talk intelligently to their children, not let "race" drag them down. Yes we do have some in the black community who posess the 40 acres and a mule mentality, but to those who want to believe all blacks are slackers... how do you explain Clarence Thomas, Condi Rice, Vernon Jordan, Barbara Jordon, Charles Drew, etc. etc.?

    I agree with Bill Cosby and yes he was shouted down by other Poverty Pimps (you know who) that make their living off of instilling victimhood in African Americans.


    October 25, 2007 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  15. josh thompson joplin mo.

    is this the same thing bill cosby has been trying so hard to tell for years now.

    October 25, 2007 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  16. las vegas nv

    it is common facts that avery community in the world where they is poverty they will always be lack of education be in south america,poor areas in asia, africa/middle east and ghettos etc" Las Vegas.

    spoken like a true intellectual person. Lets invest every cent that any nonblack or latino makes and invest in them. that way all the poor white kids which there are plenty of can say "what about me, arent we victims too." I was a teacher in a urban mostly black and latino school in houston. It was a brand new school, new books, new science equipment etc. Do you think the kids gave a crap. no. Do you think the parents cared. nope. They were to busy telling there kids not to listen to me because "I didnt have the (black)kids best intentions in my heart." Do you think that kid will ever listen to what I would teach. Nope. So this desparity in education crap needs to stop. Urban kids are to focused on being rappers, and cant be happy with just being middle class, and their parents are to busy teaching entitlement. If you cant take care of youself dont be surprised if noone else will either.

    Posted By james, buda, tx : October 25, 2007 3:27 pm
    james you missing my point u just said it your self,parents dont encourage their kids the way they are suppose to the reason being? the things i mentioned above .poverty ,racisim etc.look at how black people dominate sports in america,the reason being sky is the limit, if that sort of atmosphere existed in all walks of life thing would be different. you one of those fox who say we are all equal blacks and whites knowing very well thats not the case,stop cheating yourself,

    October 25, 2007 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  17. Adam, Baltimore, MD

    This proves why Biden is the dumbest member of congress.

    October 25, 2007 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  18. James, Phoenix AZ

    No No Nooo.. you people JUST don't understand!!

    When a Democrat says something like this – he's telling the "truth".

    When a Republican says the same thing, he's a "racist".

    Democrats are "progressive tolerants" when you belong to their club. But if you belong to a different club – different rules apply.

    Now... let's get back to defending Joe Biden and telling everyone how "ok" it is to blame low education scores on the color of the children's skin.

    October 25, 2007 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  19. Missy Davis Macon GA

    OK, I was going to read all the comments and then reply, but I stopped at Shane Smith in TN and had to set the record straight. I am a black woman raised in a 2 parent home and they both worked and I was not raised on welfare. It's ignorant comments like that which causes issues. You cannot make blanket statements like this because not everyone fits what you think is your normal status quo. It goes back to parenting, regardless if you're a white parent or a black parent!

    October 25, 2007 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    All Democrat Learders feel this way bit they don't talk about it to the media.

    October 25, 2007 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  21. H Keenan

    I think Joe Biden is a moron, but in this case, his comments may be legitimate. All the money that has been pumped into inter-city school systems has been wasted...everything that minorities have screamed about they've gotten. Bill Cosby's comments should be a reference on this point.
    As far as Indians in the Md area, I have no problem with those people owning their own business, but I will add that I will avoid them, especially hotels, as I have never seen one that didn't smell of mold, have dirty floors or where all the furniture was in some state of disrepair. Call me racicst if you want, but the health department needs to come down hard on this.

    October 25, 2007 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  22. Ken McCall

    I see a pattern. Listen to his comments on immigrants from India – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIT3jUrNTX0.

    You thought Trent Lott's comments were offensive. This putz has got to go!

    October 25, 2007 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  23. Cory Scotti


    October 25, 2007 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  24. Harvey, Lancaster

    the democrats are the true racists in the usa. who always stirs up trouble between the races. who fans the flames?
    liberal democrats, liberal cnn, liberal rever ends, liberal press.


    October 25, 2007 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  25. Roger A, Lake Forest, CA

    I wonder what people would say if a white reporter asked a Japanese- or Chinese-American Senator what should be done about the poor test results and college attendance rates of white people compared to Asians. The answer is the same. It is culture and values. Nothing more. The real question is how do we create a culture that can compete with Asia. Has anyone noticed that while we are trying to figure out why some "minorities" are not doing as well as whites, the global majority (that would be Asians) are outperforming us in school and now manufacture everything we buy !!!!!!!

    October 25, 2007 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
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