Dear Gwen Graham,
Some people may think you’re out of touch, or that you fake outrage, and orchestrate cheap stunts to score political points, but not me. I think you’re a bold leader who dares to say the things that, for most people, make little to no sense.
I mean just last week, your execution of jokes at the annual Associated Press shindig became the laughingstock, but those reporters obviously just don’t have the intellect to get your humor. I mean, when you landed that knee-slapper right out of the gate:
“The burning question of the day – I know, right? I’m wearing black heels, high heels. And I can go backwards in the high heels. For those of you who have the shoe question, that’s the answer to my shoes.”
I. Was. Dying!
And when I saw that video of you going elbow-deep into that cow’s rear end, just to prove how relatable your life is to the rest of us, I stood up at my desk and slow-clapped for you.
But more important than your wit and your folksy charm, is your sound and studied rhetoric on school policy.
I was awestruck when I saw the video of you telling an audience in Palm Beach that you were going to “end labeling of schools.” But you didn’t stop there. “Labeling?” you said incredulously. “How dare the state of Florida degrade our students by saying to them you are less than. You are a D, you are an F. That’s going to end.”
And I’m thinking, “I know, right?”
Who cares that 70 percent of kids in those D and F schools (on average) can’t read or do math at their grade level? I mean, of course we all care, but we shouldn’t actually tell people this stuff. How dare the state of Florida make anyone feel bad about stuff that really sucks.
At first, I thought — you know, picking up on your suggestion here — that we should just give all the D and F schools a rating of “Sunshine” or “Rainbow,” respectively. Those labels feel really good to me. But then I realized that eventually people would pick up on the fact that these schools are still grossly under-serving our kids, so really the best thing to do is to stop looking at performance altogether.
Critics might argue that’ll risk neglecting poor and minority students, and students with disabilities even more than we already do, but if you just help them understand the reward of nobody ever feeling bad, I think we can win that fight.
Nobody wants to feel bad, and it’s your job (or it will be as our next governor) to protect them from that.
While you’re at it, I think we should get rid of labels in other areas of our lives. Can you also ban reviews of restaurants, businesses, hotels, colleges, hospitals and products? People spend a lot of time and money building and running those things, so nobody should be allowed to tell them if they’re not doing well.
I think we can all agree scorecards that rate politicians can go too.
Of course, we would have to get rid of the grades that a committee of engineers gave Florida’s coastal and storm water infrastructure. Remember those? You quoted those grades fervently in your criticism of Governor Scott after Hurricane Irma came through, but I’m sure you didn’t mean to.
After all, how dare a group of civil engineers criticize the hard-working state employees who handle infrastructure and label them as “less than.”
Anyway, I think you see where I’m going with this. Nobody likes labels or ratings, or accountability in general, for that matter, so as Governor (crossing my fingers here), I hope your first official act will be to ban all labels of every kind.
Just think of what that would do for your approval ratings.
Your Education Ally
Lane Wright is a father of three in Tallahassee, former press secretary for Governor Rick Scott, and current editor for Education Post, a national education nonprofit focused on creating better conversations around improving our schools.