Is The Delaware DOE Evil, Or Just Extremely Misguided?

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In the past year, with all the articles I’ve written about the Delaware Department of Education, I have never had anyone come up to me and say “The DOE is awesome, they’re doing a great job.”  They’ve had supporters, but even they say there are issues.  I’ve often wondered if the DOE, Governor Markell, the State Board, Rodel, and all the rest are truly evil.

I don’t think they are.  I think they are operating in a climate of fear where they buy into everything hook, line, and sinker.  But I also think they believe their mantra about teachers, and students needing to be assessed to “close the gaps”.  People can be easily swayed if they are only given one argument.  I’ve had quite a few DOE employees tell me offline “Don’t publish this, but the Smarter Balanced Assessment really sucks!”  But at heart, most of them are Kool-Aid drinkers.

I’m not saying they are all good people either.  I took a course in college called “The Problem of Evil”.  The professor posited that all people are neither inherently good or completely evil.  We all operate on “tainted decency”, which states that everything we do has some sort of selfish motivation for us.  We tried to come up with anything anyone in this world does without a self-interest clause, and the only thing we could come up with is volunteer fireman.

What we don’t know about the DOE is their innermost thoughts, their soul, their conscience.  We can’t even guess what they think about late at night.  They are people just like the rest of us.  I’m not defending them, but I think it’s important to separate the job from the person.  Everyone I’ve talked to at the DOE is very nice and cordial.  Now when I say “talked to”, there are some who won’t even glance in my direction.

For all the razzing bloggers give them in Delaware, they have some pretty thick skin.  Especially when it involves charter schools.  But to this date, with the numerous times I’ve seen him, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy has only said two words to me, and those were “Thank you.”  This was on June 24th last year at Governor’s Café in Dover.  He was rushing out the door, and I held it open for him.  He has tried staring me down a few times, but I don’t let him.  I just keep staring back.

For some of these people, there is a factor I like to call greed.  They are making a lot of money, more than the average Delawarean.  They are young, and some of these employees are making over $100,000 to essentially destroy public education as we know it.  Wealth and an imagined power can make anyone submit to authority if it keeps the pipeline flowing.

What bothers me though, are the outright lies.  Lines like “Smarter Balanced is the best test this state ever made”, or “Were entitled to our opinions, but not facts” when those “facts” are very wrong.

The companies surrounding the DOE and whispering in their ear, along with the Governor’s office, I don’t think they are evil either.  Pretty close to it though.  They are a business.  Businesses make money.  And that’s what it’s all about!

But for the most part, many of the employees at the DOE are just more state worker bees.  I tend to focus on the big dogs there because they set the policies and guidelines.  When I go to the DOE, it is the hub I visit, not the kiosks with eight employees in a row.

The big question is how many of these chiefs for academic excellence down at the Townshend Building in Dover will still be there in two years?