At least, according to Kristin Martin, a math teacher at Powell Elementary School in Fairfax – a school that happens to be within my district, and where I spent plenty of time campaigning last fall.
The Daily Caller reported yesterday that Martin told a class full of sixth graders that “Republicans are stupid,” “they don’t care about anyone but wealthy people and businesses,” and “Democrats do more for the community and schools.”
What prompted this outburst? Super Tuesday. Voters were visiting the polls at her elementary school, named for Republican General Colin Powell, in Centreville. When one of her students came in and started naming all the Republican candidates for President, she decided it was a good idea to get political with a class of sixth graders.
Shocking? Not really. This comes on the heels of a story where another Fairfax teacher had his class do opposition research for the Obama campaign. But the fact that teachers tend to vote Democratic isn’t a shock to anyone.
Nor is it shocking that the best arguments she can come up with are that we’re stupid and only care about the wealthy and businesses. This is a common theme amongst Democrats, and one I met with often on the campaign trail. And as President Obama stumps around the country, claiming all we want are more tax cuts for the rich – ignoring that he himself signed an extension of the Bush “tax cuts for the rich” that he now attacks as reckless – it’s understandable that the talking points have trickled down to the ground troops. As for the stupid comment, that’s almost an axiom among the left. The right would agree with them on every issue, if only we weren’t so damn ignorant.
I would have loved to point out the areas where Ms. Martin is wrong – all she would have had to do is come outside and talk to me on August 23 or November 8, when I was outside Powell Elementary greeting voters, or on one of the back-to-school nights where both I and my opponent were out greeting parents as they came in to visit their kids’ schools. We could have talked about Tim Kaine’s record as Governor, where he cut higher education funding while tuition at Virginia’s four year universities rose by 30%. Or we could have talked about George Bush’s spending on education, where he increased federal spending on education 58% faster than the inflation rate. And we could point out all the various ways Republicans serve the community in Fairfax. But that would have been trying to argue logic with emotion.
What will happen to Ms. Martin? Nothing. FCPS will give her a stern talking to, reminding her of the policies about political discussions in the school system. That’s wrong, but it’s reality. But my biggest concern is that nobody will address the more troubling point with Ms. Martin: that she would actually say something like “Republicans are stupid” to a group of twelve year olds.
This is the kind of socially acceptable prejudice that has infested our political discussion. It has to stop. We all know that if she’d said “Blacks are stupid” or “Asians are stupid” there would have been major consequences for her. We would have been in an uproar if she’d said “Christians are stupid” and we know there would be national press coverage if she’d said “Muslims are stupid.” But calling Republicans stupid is just written off as political, not what it really is, which is the kind of soft bigotry that has made politics so bitterly divisive. To me, saying Republicans (or Democrats for that matter) are stupid and meaning it is no better than saying the same thing about somebody’s race, religion, sexual orientation or disability. But it’s not treated that way, because calling the other side names has become a time honored tradition in our political life. That doesn’t make it right, and it’s high time that we stop tolerating it, especially from people in positions of authority.
At the end of the day, both sides have their fair share of folks who can’t articulate themselves well. But when we’re talking about someone who is teaching our kids, who is supposed to be preparing them for life outside the classroom, giving them the tools to become good citizens, we should expect more. Fairfax Schools are notorious for their zero tolerance policies when it comes to kids breaking the rules – how about a little less tolerance for teachers doing the same thing?