Commissioner King & Special Interests

Last month, NY State Education Commissioner John King launched a series of town hall meetings with parents in an effort to educate school communities about the Common Core Standards. The recent forum in Poughkeepsie, available on YouTube , has been viewed 51,309 times. The 25-minute video illustrates the 12 years of frustration endured by New York parents.

For over a decade parents have been voicing concerns about: school closures, co-locations of multiple schools in one building, high stakes testing, teaching to the test, ever-growing class sizes, charter schools and more.

Mr. King became visibly frustrated with parents (who sat through his one-hour-and-forty-minute presentation and were only given 20 minutes to voice their concerns). After two of these town halls yielded similar confrontations Mr. King, according to gothamschools.org, “called off parent meetings that he said were ‘co-opted by special interests,’ “…’and announced a slate of new forums that will be moderated on different terms.’” (Decker, Geoff. King Unveils Slate of New Common Core Forums for Parents. Gothamschools.org 18 Oct. 2103. Web.)

I googled “special interest [group]”–

“A group of persons working on behalf of or strongly supporting a particular cause, such as an item of legislation, an industry, or a special segment of society.”

Yes. Parents and guardians of students enrolled in traditional district/public schools are people who strongly support their children’s education because children, especially the disabled, those who struggle with emotional problems and/or have a limited capacity to learn are an important segment of society.

“A person, group or organization attempting to influence legislators in favor of one particular interest or issue.”

Yes. Parents and guardians of students enrolled in traditional district/public schools (by now) have grouped together on their own or with other community-based organizations to influence the representatives they’ve elected to political offices. “Attempting to influence” is accurate. At the writing of this blog post, it’s unclear whether parents have succeeded in influencing legislators.

“A body of persons, a corporation, or an industry that seeks or receives benefits or privileged treatment, especially through legislation.”

Yes and No. Yes, parents and guardians of students enrolled in traditional district/public schools seek benefits (the education of a child/children); no, they don’t receive benefits or privileged treatment.

Mr. King is in a position of power; is his labeling of the people he serves as “co-opted by special interests” an insult? Yes, it’s disrespectful and demeaning, especially because its clear that corporations like Pearson and billionaires like Bill Gates of InBloom – corporation, person/corporation – are clearly seeking and receiving benefits and privileged treatment…from New York State.

Given Mr. King’s position, his openly contemptuous opinion of parents and guardians is curious; I looked up projection defense mechanism . According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Projection is a form of defense in which unwanted feelings are displaced onto another person, where they then appear as a threat from the external world. A common form of projection occurs when an individual, threatened by his own angry feelings, accuses another of harboring [sic] hostile thoughts.”