Saunders: In Tata debate, let's watch the extreme language

bsaunders@newsobserver.comSeptember 24, 2012 


Wake County Public School Superintendent Tony Tata


Chill, sisterwoman. “Radical extremists” are those people who stormed our U.S. embassy and killed our ambassador and others in Libya, supposedly in protest of a poorly made movie that hardly anyone has seen.

A radical extremist is not someone who is dissatisfied with another’s job performance or philosophy and wants to meet to discuss whether or not to keep him or her in the job.

Yet Susan Bryant, chairwoman of the Wake County Republican Party, uncivilly leapt into the fray between Wake County Public School System Superintendent Tony Tata and the Democratic majority on the school board hurling invective, calling names and pretty much urging likeminded people to revolt.

In an e-mailed call-to-arms titled “War at the School Board” and addressed to “fellow Republicans,” Bryant warned that “the radical extremists who have taken over the Wake County School Board are preparing to fire our great Superintendent Tony Tata, and we have to do everything we can to stop them.”

Pot, meet kettle.

About 30 well-behaved protesters showed up at board headquarters Monday while the board met privately.

I disagree with the school board on some issues — for instance, I wish it would call upon parents to be more accountable for their children’s school performance and worry less about diversity — but the board majority is neither radical nor extreme.

Cheapening words

Using extreme language as Bryant does actually cheapens language and her argument. Just as crying “racism,” “sexism” or any other “ism” without real evidence lessens the words’ impact when they truly are appropriate, so does resorting to wild-eyed rhetoric cheapen Bryant’s argument.

War? Really?

Consider this: What’s going to happen when some radical extremists really do come in and execute at gunpoint a coup, taking it over and implementing some dastardly Commie plan, like making rich kids sit next to poor kids, black ones next to white ones, free-lunch eaters next to non-free-lunch eaters?

If Bryant sends out a warning e-mail about that, most recipients are going to read the heading “radical extremists” and conclude that maybe the board went $50 over budget or something. “Oh, that’s just Susan being Susan,” they’ll conclude and delete it, unread.

Face facts. Not only are the Democratic board members not radical by any rational definition of the term, but they didn’t “take over” the school board: as far as is known, all were democratically elected.


As for the board “preparing to fire our great leader,” I doubt if even Tata would rate himself as being “great.”

Would a great superintendent have been unprepared on opening day, when chaos reigned,? When buses were too few, hours late or never showed, and when some children didn’t get home until it was almost time to go back to school?

(See, that latter line is greatly exaggerated. Sorry.)

Under a great superintendent, more than one head would’ve rolled when the buses didn’t.

The board may have a right to fire Tata, but if it wants to replace him before his contract is up, it’d better have 256,000 very good reasons. That’s how many dollars — a year’s salary — the system would have to pay him if he is fired without cause. We can’t afford that.

Nor can we afford politicians and their operatives who so recklessly and thoughtlessly toss around inciting terms such as “radical extremists.” They risk being deemed precisely that when they do. or 919-836-2811

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