The Kansas City Star, which is keen on accusing others of racism and anti-Semitism, might want to start decoding its own dog whistles.
From the day Eric Greitens was elected the first Jewish governor in Missouri history just a year ago, the Star has gone full stereotype on him, portraying Greitens as a ruthless and friendless conniver, driven only by greed and ambition.
This is not an exaggeration. Consider the following sentence from a Tuesday editorial, “Eric Greitens doesn’t care about schoolchildren any more than he cares about veterans, or the elderly, or the disabled, or college students, or other Missourians. Greitens cares about Greitens, and the White House. This latest bully-boy episode is further proof of that.” Yikes!
The “bully boy” episode in question has Greitens working to replace Missouri Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven. The Star would like Greitens to keep Vandeven in place because “a majority of teachers, administrators, and elected school board members appear to support her work.” A majority? Appear? This is not the most ringing of endorsements, but it is enough for the Star to question Greitens’s right to remove her.
Greitens does not have that power himself. The State Board of Education has that power. So, according to the Star, Greiten has “worked over the summer and fall to manipulate the membership on the state Board of Education, which does have the power to dismiss her.” Ah yes, manipulate! More dog-whistling from the Star. And Greitens has to work fast, we are told, because “Senators in both parties do not like the governor.” Yes, an adult actually actually wrote that sentence.
So why does Greitens want to remove Vandeven? The Star reaches into the stereotype bag once again and comes up with–what else?–money. “Vandeven is considered a strong supporter of public education,” write the editors. “That irritates Greitens, and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who supports school choice and charter schools. DeVos and other school choice supporters gave Greitens $370,000 for his 2016 gubernatorial campaign. That’s a debt the governor wants to repay.”
The simpler explanation would be that Greitens is a supporter of school choice, and Vandeven is not. The Star hints at the same. In August, the reader is told, Greitens “used campaign funds to bring a man named Kenneth Zeff to the state. Zeff once worked in charter school management and is an advocate for charter schools. So the fix is in.” Zeff, huh? Funny name.
In reality, Zeff has done a little bit more than work for chapter school management. He served as interim superintendent and chief strategy and innovation officer for Fulton County Schools–that’s Atlanta–which serve some 96,000 students. Zeff is now the executive director of Learn4Life, a nonprofit whose mission is to “harness the collective impact of metro area business, philanthropy and nonprofit partners to support public schools and common education goals across the Atlanta region.” The Star would have us believe this mission is somehow subversive.
If Missouri public schools were prospering, Greitens’s desire to change leadership might be as cynical as the Star imagines, but in no system of national ranking does Missouri score better than mediocre.
In Education Week’s 2016 “Quality Counts” survey, Missouri scores below the national average, 31st out of 50 states, several notches below the much maligned Kansas. In the U.S. News “Best High School” rankings for 2017, Missouri finishes 39.
For the record, the Sentinel is not really accusing the Star of anti-Semitism. Rather we hope to show Star editors how one can find anti-Semitism or racism or sexism or fascism or xenophobia or homophobia or Islamophobia in the most innocent of commentaries if one chooses to see nothing else.
“There is no legitimate reason Vandeven must step down now,” writes the Star; yes, maybe so, but there are a ton of legitimate reasons why she should. Elections, Barack Obama told us, have consequences.