Ask Questions, Become an Enemy?

In a review of the tenure of Bob Corkins, political reporter John Hanna notes a distressing attitude concerning K-12 education: ask questions, and you’ll become the enemy.

“But Corkins’ lack of education experience can’t explain the depth of hostility he faced or the stunned response to his appointment from prominent legislators. … To many educators, Corkins came from the enemy camp: the conservative bloc in society that sustains a vibrant home school movement and complains about the supposedly too-secular values being taught in public schools.”

The enemy camp? OK, we can understand that teachers and administrators would resent someone coming in (as the State Board of Education did) and saying “No, you can’t teach that, you’ve got to teach this.” But the opposition to home schooling is baffling. Granted, the motivations and methods of some home schoolers are not to everyone’s liking. But shouldn’t the chief concern of educators be that children . . . receive an education, even if it’s not in their own school?

Some large school districts in the nation have brought in non-educators to be superintendents, in part because they are not part of the status quo. Sometimes it is easier for an outsider to see the need for change than outsiders. By their nature, organizations have a tendency towards ossification, refusing to make changes necessary to respond to a changing environment. Bringing in an outsider can be a good thing, if the person has leadership skills, is willing to learn, and so forth.

At least one Kansas superintendent was willing to go on the record that complacency can be dangerous:

“Little River Superintendent Milt Dougherty  . . . said employers constantly express concerns to him that too many students are leaving school without the skills they’ll need to get good jobs in a globally competitive economy.

His prediction: The new commissioner will be from Kansas, ‘an educator well accepted by the educational establishment, upbeat, outgoing, a cheerleader, who maybe talks a little about change and innovation but really isn’t going to get serious about it.’

‘The problem is if you get someone who is accepted by the education establishment, they’re probably pretty much status quo,’ he said. ‘If you get somebody who’s not status quo, then they’re not accepted by the education establishment.'”

We have no idea who the new commissioner will be. And we agree that an insider can do the job. But we’re troubled by the complacency that seems to govern Kansas schools.

Source: Corkins replacement likely to have establishment credentials, Kansas City Star, December 3.

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