By Steve Hunley
Anyone expecting anything new in Superintendent of Schools Jim McIntyre’s annual State of the Schools address had to be terribly disappointed. Recently, there has been an attempt to make McIntyre more human; the fact a public official who has been here six years needs to be humanized should be quite telling. McIntyre related some personal family history, displayed some family photos, but the main thrust of his address was more of the same.
Clearly, Jim McIntyre is not a people person. He doesn’t seem to relate well to individuals and surely many of the teachers who have endured undue stress under his control and suffering have family albums as well. Not to mention the janitors, whom he wished to contract out. The janitors certainly have faces and families, too. What teachers and janitors don’t have is the superintendent’s well-funded public relations machine working twenty-four hours, seven days a week on their behalf. Nor do they have the business and political elite propping them up.
McIntyre referred to his entire year of teaching experience, loaded with McIntyre’s usual use of adjectives; in fact, that seems to be the Superintendent’s most singular talent. If there was a Nobel Prize for use of glittering generalities, Jim McIntyre would need to add an extra room to his house to keep them all on display. Glittering generalities is a tool used by advertising companies and political campaigns. They employ vague phrases specifically designed to give one a positive feeling about a particular thing. If one listens carefully, one will note these same phrases do not convey a single particle of information. The best propagandists utilize these same glittering generalities effectively and McIntyre is positively masterful in this art form. Conversations are “great”; dialogues are “great”; there is “some extraordinary learning” going on in our schools. His one year of teaching was an “incredible experience.” Think about it.
Would you vote for a constable, who had served for all of one year to be President of the United States?
McIntyre has substituted glittering generalities for real progress. If one pays attention to the very real problems confronting the school system, one will note what is absent is any real solution. McIntyre regularly proposes what he considers to be a solutions to his rubber stamp Board of Education, assuring those gullible people he will give them the details later. Rarely ever does McIntyre lay out a specific proposal to resolve any particular problem. It’s either because he’s incompetent or has no answers. It’s either because he’s incompetent, lacks experience or both.
Jim McIntyre has clung to Governor Bill Haslam like a frightened little boy clings to his daddy’s leg. The superintendent and his advisors are feeling the need to humanize McIntyre because the last year hasn’t been a good one for him and whatever popularity he has enjoyed in the past is melting like a snowman in Hades. The revolt of teachers fed up with McIntyre’s imperial superintendency and parents upset by children who have been overwhelmed by over testing have pressed McIntyre and suddenly he needs to appear to be human and actually have feelings. Now, all of a sudden, we are supposed to have feelings for him and sympathize with his plight.
The fact is, McIntyre never gave a hoot about the teachers until he started getting negative publicity. He has ruled like an dictator and now the peasants are crowding around the palace and demanding his head. That would make any dictator uneasy.
If Governor Bill Haslam’s “Tennessee Promise” program is approved by the General Assembly, it will have the effect of upending a lot of the bureaucracy, which has been McIntyre’s biggest accomplishment. McIntyre has proven to be a superlative bureaucrat and the bureaucracy has grown exceedingly bloated and arrogant. Just how many students will truly be prepared to enter college or a technical institution after graduating from high school? My guess is all of sudden people might start paying attention to preparation rates. That would be the percentage of students prepared to further their education or get a job and lest you forget, that really is the sole purpose of education in this country. If the great majority of these student burn up the two years of free education taking remedial courses, that will be irrefutable proof against and completely debunk to McIntyre’s claim of “extraordinary learning.”
It’s time for McIntyre to talk less, do more or move on.