At last week’s New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) meeting, Education Commissioner King was an invited guest. At a time when teachers throughout the state are angrier than I have ever seen them, feeling themselves the scapegoats of disreputable politicians and corporate interests, I was, at first admiring of King’s willingness to stand before almost two thousand of the angry and take a pasting over the policies of the State Ed Department. That is, until, trying to warm the crowd to him, he told a story of his father, a career teacher and administrator.
King told a tale about his father having broken his arm and arriving at his school with a cast on it. His principal told him that he could not work with his arm in a cast and that he had to go home sick. King’s father protested and protested to no avail. His principal would not let him teach with a cast on his arm. At this point the elder King smashed his casted arm on the office counter, breaking the cast and announcing that he was going to his room to teach his class.
While I’m sure the Commissioner meant his story to convey a sense of his genetically determined will to see the policies of State Ed through, upon reflection, the story offered an insight into what in more appropriately dubbed fanaticism, a fanaticism in support of failed policies every bit as extreme in degree as his father’s breaking of his cast. Suddenly, his very smooth, articulate defense of the indefensible policies of State Ed made sense to me, scary though that sense may be.