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The PTA forum's the thing wherein we’ll catch the conscience of John King

Publication Date: 2013-10-14

This is from Teacherbiz blog, by a public school teacher, Oct. 14, 2013. It seems wild that Commissioner King was outraged that "special interests deprived parents of the opportunity to listen." that's what he demanded parents do--Listen quietly to the corporate line. When he insisted on interrupting parent comment time with his justifications for sending his own children to Montessori school, parents shouted, "Sit down!" King had already had his turn to speak (for over an hour). Parents wanted their turn (two minutes each). From his reaction, one would guess Commissioner King had never been told to shut up before. He did not react well.

On October 12th, two days after a contentious NY PTA-sponsored forum during which parents and educators questioned the implementation and ethics of the Common Core State Standards and the testing and data-sharing that accompany them, NY Education Commissioner John King decided to cancel the rest of his Common Core promotion tour, blaming "special interests whose stated goal is to 'dominate' the questions and manipulate the forum."

He lamented that "The disruptions caused by the special interests have deprived parents of the opportunity to listen, ask questions and offer comments. Essentially, dialogue has been denied. In light of the clear intention of these special interest groups to continue to manipulate the forum, the PTA-sponsored events scheduled have been suspended."

Indeed, "dialogue has been denied"-- but by Commissioner King himself. And these cancellations beg the questions: Why the paranoia? Why the certainty that the questions and challenges directed at him in Poughkeepsie would be repeated in the four remaining forums? Is it because King realizes that parents and educators understand the extent to which his harmful policies have hurt children and damaged the landscape of public education in the state of New Yorkâ"and that theyâre not going to keep quite anymore? Parents and educators are not "special interest" groups, but the millionaires and corporations who profit from King's damaging reforms are. And from King's recent behavior, it's clear that he's feeling the heat.

The degree to which King was rattled at the Poughkeepsie meeting, coupled with his abrupt cancellation of the remaining events, is glaringly Shakespearean--and speaks volumes about what must either be King's troublesome inner conflict or a brazen display of dictatorial arrogance. Though his outward attitude suggests the latter, a cursory review of a scene from Hamlet might lead some to suspect the former.

Those familiar with Hamlet will no doubt see parallels between Shakespeare's play and the current (rotten) state of educational affairs in New York. In order to confirm his belief that his uncle (Claudius, the reigning King --how ironic) has killed Hamlet's father, Hamlet plots to stage a public play that employs actors who dramatize Claudius's offense. During the performance, Hamlet observes the King's behavior to determine whether heâs rattled--a sure sign, Hamlet insists, of a guilty conscience:

I have heard

That guilty creatures sitting at a play

Have, by the very cunning of the scene,

Been struck so to the soul that presently

They have proclaimed their malefactions (2.2.617-621).

And Hamlet's instinct is correct; when King Claudius realizes that the play mimics his murder of Hamlet's father, the guilt he feels (because he is, indeed, guilty) proves to be too much for him. He stands up, says,"Give me some light. Away!"--and the play is cut short.

And then Claudius leaves--and refuses to negotiate any further with Hamlet, since he knows that Hamlet recognizes him to be a fraud. In essence, Hamlet is a very real threat to Claudius's power.

You know, sort of like concerned parents and educators, when theyâre loud enough, are a threat to Commissioner King's power. Like Claudius, Commissioner King bailedâ"and declared that he refuses to engage in further dialogue about the Common Core--when parents and educators challenged him in Poughkeepsie.

Give it up, Commissioner King. You've been exposed, and it's time to resign.

Your offense is rank; it smells to heaven.

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