In 1964 Richard J. Hofstadter wrote “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” It noted how conspiracy theories had impacted American politics. Hofstadter said he used “paranoid style” because nothing else “adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.”
We wonder what Hofstadter would think of some Oklahoma school administrators' illogical musings.
Fort Gibson Superintendent Derald Glover recently suggested that state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi and the A-F school grading system were responsible for superintendents' resignations and retirements — although the resignations peaked several years before Barresi was elected. We hope his students have a better understanding of cause and effect than he apparently does. Stan Trout, principal of Charles Page High School in Sand Springs, implied the new A-F school grading system was part of a conspiracy to make income tax cuts possible by promoting vouchers and charter schools.
In the fever swamps these men apparently inhabit, education reform can't be designed to benefit students. There must be a sinister, secret reason. But these claims are nonsense. Neither Gov. Mary Fallin nor Barresi has promoted statewide vouchers; they've supported them only for children with special needs. And charter schools are public schools just like Charles Page High School (although charters don't get local property tax funding, in exchange for fewer regulations).
Even if vouchers were provided to every Oklahoma student and charter schools expanded to every county, state taxes would still fund them all. The alternative school system of Trout's imagination would require taxpayer funding just like the current system. Barresi has also requested a budget increase of $289 million for K-12 schools next year, further undermining Trout's oddball analysis.
Instead of concocting alternative-reality theories to explain away deficiencies, school officials must rise to the challenge and ensure all Oklahoma children get a quality education. Oklahoma schools should develop students' critical thinking skills, not foment “paranoid style” delusions.