Hey. I thought there was a rule. You leave the guy's kids out of it. Guess not. I see this morning Dallas school board member Lew Blackburn is taking a back-handed swipe at the superintendent of schools for taking his kid out of the Dallas school system.
"You have to wonder if it's going to be any kind of detriment to the district," Blackburn tells The Dallas Morning News in a story in today's paper, reacting to news that Superintendent Mike Miles is sending his wife and kid back to their home in Colorado for next school year. "Right now, it doesn't come across as very supportive of the district."
Come. On. Now the people fighting Miles over school reform are going to get into his family? Just when I thought we'd found the bottom. No wonder he wants the kid out of here.
Egged on by the school unions, some trustees -- especially Bernadette Nutall, Carla Ranger, Elizabeth Jones and Blackburn -- have done everything they can to personalize the resistance to school reform by painting it as a foreign idea imported by rich fascists in their evil desire to torture teachers and principals for the fun of it. In their effort to turn the debate away from ideas and toward personality, Miles himself has been their voodoo doll.
Even if I don't like that stuff -- and I don't -- I recognize that it's life in the big city. Things get intense. People pick up their bats. I've been told by admirers that I'm not half-bad with a bat myself, especially when approaching from behind.
But the guy's kid? No. No. That's totally off limits. What he does with his kid is his private, personal family business. In these battles, there are soldiers, and there are civilians. Children are not combatants, ever.
But here we are. Miles isn't talking about his kid, but Blackburn is, so Blackburn has raised the issue. Can any of us think of a reason why the superintendent of schools in Dallas might not want to have his kid in the schools right now? Hey, we've been paying a little bit of attention, right?
Somebody -- either outgoing communications chief Rebecca Rodriguez or the authors of a messy internal investigation of her complaints against Miles -- chose to use the term "bullying" to describe Miles' behavior when he reprimanded Rodriguez recently for bad behavior in a board meeting. Bullying is a weird word to use for a boss chewing out a subordinate, yet there it was.
In the last couple of years, as state legislatures have tackled school bullying, the term has taken on a quasi-legal meaning, heavily freighted with criminal implications, most often as a reference to the beating and persecution of gay and lesbian students. Using it to describe a dressing down of a subordinate by Miles was a calculated ploy, part and parcel of a general campaign of personal slurs aimed at him to exploit his career earlier in life as an Army Ranger.
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If you follow comments here and elsewhere by teachers and other school district employees angry over classroom reforms, you know that Miles often is accused of being a cruel, out-of-control martinet. All of that flies in the face of his consistent observable manner -- courtly and extremely self-controlled -- but it also supposes that he somehow spends long hours every day visiting thousands of classrooms in order to bully teachers. How the hell else would teachers know so much about his personality?
They don't. They do know about his ideas, which have to do with them getting up from behind their desks, looking the kids in the eye, making sure they are looking back, teaching them something concrete and then checking to see if they get it. Does that sound like a bully or a dictator to you? Is it really way too much to ask of teachers in a school district that has been shipping thousands of dropouts straight to the pen for decades? But in late June, when protestors gathered near Miles' home, they held up placards with that word: "Dictator."
That stuff is way below the belt. And as I have already said, below-the-belt happens. It's part of the deal in local politics. But if you knew that your school system was full of teachers capable of that kind of invective, would you really turn your kid over to them? Blackburn's comment today is all the proof anybody should need that the anti-reform movement is not going to honor or accept any kind of sanctuary for the child. So would you send your kid into that?
OK, let's agree we're going to ignore Miles' career as a diplomat and his years in public education before he came here. We're only going to talk about him as a former Army Ranger. Fine. Do you know any Army Rangers who take their children into battle with them? Would you admire one who did?