Saturday, November 19, 2005


The New Loyalty Oath

Back in the 50s, when Red State Rabble was a little younger than he is now, it was not uncommon for government agencies and corporations to demand that their employees sign a loyalty oath as a condition of employment.

In those days a palpable fear hung over the nation , much like the cigarette smoke that permeates the atmosphere in the brilliant new movie by George Clooney about newsman Edward R. Murrow's epic battle with Joseph McCarthy.

Most of us look back at that dark period in American history with a shudder and wonder how things could have gotten so out of hand. Others, all of them on the right, look back at the witch-hunt era as something of a golden age in American politics.

Those people are now in charge at the Kansas State Department of Education, and they've wasted little time in bringing back the old methods.

Scott Rothschild reports in this morning's Lawrence Journal-World that the transition team, put in place by newly appointed Kansas Education Commissioner, Bob Corkins, "has been asking State Department of Education employees whether they support private school vouchers."

Corkin's transition team is headed by G. Daniel Harden, a conservative professor at Washburn University.

"In private interviews with employees," reports Rothschild, "the transition team, appointed by Corkins after he was hired last month, has asked, 'What is your general reaction to school choice, charter schools and parental empowerment?'”

"Christy Levings, president of the Kansas-National Education Assn., said the question was unfair," according to Rothschild.

“'It’s a difficult position to put state employees in,' Levings said because Corkins is a known supporter of vouchers, which allows the use of state tax dollars to send students to private schools."

As the appointment of Corkins, the hiring of David Awbrey, and the contract with Harden demonstrate, political loyalty -- not competence -- will now be the standard by which all things are judged at the department of education.

RSR has already predicted that it will not be long before career professionals are forced out at the education department. These "interviews" about the "general reaction" of employees to "school choice, charter schools and parental empowerment" will be just the opening round of a systematic political cleansing at the department.

Kansans may be able to reclaim the board in next November. We may be able to overturn the vote to redefine science. We may be able to hire a new Education Commissioner. We may be able to end cronyism. We may even get a fresh start.

But, how long will it take to fix the damage done between now and then?


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