Mike Pompeo and his filthy attack on Randi Weingarten, schools, and teachers…

So, the 2024 Republican sweepstakes have begun, and it’s a battle to the bottom. I am sure that you have heard that Mike Pompeo- the candidate with “pompous” right there in his name has decided to name Randi Weingarten as the most dangerous person in… the…world!

‘I get asked “Who’s the most dangerous person in the world? Is it Chairman Kim, is it Xi Jinping?” The most dangerous person in the world is Randi Weingarten. It’s not a close call. If you ask, “Who’s the most likely to take this republic down?” It would be the teacher’s unions, and the filth that they’re teaching our kids. . .’

- Wall Street Journal, Notable & Quotable: Pompeo on Randi Weingarten, November 21, 2022

- this bit of tripe from the former CIA Director under Trump when Jamal Khashoggi was slaughtered by the Saudi Prince whose white-robed butt has been attached to the Trump family’s lips. Pompeo couldn’t determine responsibility for that murder despite overwhelming evidence developed by his own intelligence sources and audio tapes from Turkish officials who bugged the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. Pompeo was then elevated to Secretary of State where he distinguished himself by cheering on the ex-president’s most egregious foreign policy failures by backing Trump’s assault on NATO, leading the charge to unilaterally dismantle the Iranian Nuclear agreement, and playing coy pimp as Trump fell in love with Kim Jung-un. Pompeo looked on as Chairman Kim shared a romantic rendezvous and lettres d’amour with his morally promiscuous and naively stupid American dotard.

This is the man who has a problem with Randi Weingarten.

While his claim on its face can be viewed as a fawning bow to the lunatic right, he forgets that both Trump and Putin still breathe, making his charge not only ridiculous but dangerous. To label Weingarten as he does as an enemy is to target her for violence, endangering her- and Pompeo knows it.

As a retired educator, I can attest that Randi Weingarten is far less dangerous than the cowardly Pompeo who has chosen to use her in his own filth-inspired campaign for Republican relevance. She is a renowned labor leader who, by the way, is Jewish, gay, and a woman- all favorite Republican right-wing scapegoats. For Pompeo’s purposes. the schools, teachers, and children she and many other educators represent are fair game in the Republican war on democracy. Weingarten and the institution she represents are indeed dangerous- to those who have decided that education is an existential threat to their warped vision of America. Theirs is an America that is white, straight, Christian- and racist. Weingarten and teachers have become a whipping post for them because the right hates truth and cannot stand the scrutiny that an educated citizenry represents. They would prefer to luxuriate in ignorance. Too harsh? Consider where Republicans stand among more educated voters. According to Pew Research Center’s deep dive into voter demographics, Biden’s victory in 2020 was fueled by many factors, one of which was the educational level attained. The graphic below identifies voters by preferences:

Pompeo’s attack on Weingarten, teachers, and schools is more than the required appeal to the Republican base, it is a look at the Republican playbook for election suppression. In a demographically changing America, they represent the past. The playbook they have written for 2024 and beyond is a fascist grand design of voter suppression. Another way of looking at the Pew findings is to assess the Republican Party’s list of “Most Dangerous Voters”- a list that includes minorities of all types, women in general, but mostly educated millennials, Black women, gays, and urban voters. This, in effect, is their “enemies list” of citizens whose vote should not count.

For Pompeo, targeting Randi Weingarten is a smart move only if you are willing to admit that public education is inimical to his agenda. It creates a whole new front in the culture wars that target knowledge and the freedom to think for oneself. Schools are a place where the cultural and social integration of most children begins. Pompeo has decided that neither is good for their party and that indoctrination is far better. Once proclaimed The Great American Experiment, free and universal public education was a catalyst for the American century which helped assimilate millions of immigrants, and promoted a pathway to a more prosperous- and educated- middle class.

In what world, then, is Randi Weingarten who has served as head of the largest public education union dangerous? And when did the public education system suddenly become a left-wing bastion to be attacked by right-wing extremists — whose public disapproval and relentless “reforms” of public education roughly coincide with the Civil Rights movement, school integration, and the expanding importance of educational attainment as a democratic ideal?

Pompeo has ripped the scab from a deep-seated wound in the American psyche that has been with us for a while now. Just ask who has benefitted from a public education system that embraces all children regardless of race, social status, or abilities? Attacking Weingarten and by extension public schools is simply another strategy by Republicans to attack democratic institutions, controlling them through coercion. Republicans who led the charge for public funding of private and religious schools, support school vouchers, and private charters funded with public dollars have learned that public school students outperformed their rivals. The government imposed “reforms” that created a testing and content culture in schools that forgot how (because they must and at their own pace) and why (because they must) children learn already has burdened teachers who are experts in their field unlike the faux reformers and critics, like Pompeo, who pretend to know our profession better than us and presume to tell us how and what schools should teach.

Those of us who have worked in schools know better. Public schools are not perfect, but they are better than all the alternatives. Schools suffer from the tinkerers and tweakers whose credentials are personal grievance and political gain. In this case, Republicans realize that an educated citizenry is truly most dangerous to their agenda. Mike Pompeo’s absurd statement regarding Randi Weingarten speaks volumes about Mike Pompeo whose immigrant roots were enriched by a public educational system that helped him to West Point, Harvard Law, and the halls of Congress. He would deny others born in similar circumstances an equal shot, a better opportunity, a brighter future- because the more they know the worse it is for him and a party that fears an educated voter.

This is all about whose ox is being gored- theirs, ours. The truth is there is but one ox and in a democracy, it has to be shared. Pompeo and friends are wrong about schools, wrong about America, and clueless about dangerous things. His words demonstrate a man ill-prepared to lead- a man whose own education has been wasted.

To paraphrase his thoughtless statement above,

“Who’s the most likely to take this republic down?” It would be the the enemies of education, and the filth that they would have us teach in our schools…”

It is long past the time when educators who, like Randi Weingarten, have dedicated their lives to children, to take back their profession. In their classrooms every day, children are taught the tools to enlighten a world long darkened by the kind of ignorance displayed by Mike Pompeo. The filth Pompeo speaks of is his own as he panders and indulges the worst among us.

Like a chastened bully placed in a corner with his back to the class, Pompeo has disgraced himself. He epitomizes the warning coined in an ad by the United Negro College Fund in a campaign launched nationally in 1972, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” What he adds to that discussion is a warning of what filthy minds are capable of.

Nothing good, I suspect.

Originally published at https://vincerizzo.substack.com on November 23, 2022.

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Vince Rizzo

Former president of the International Association of Laboratory Schools (IALS) and a founder of a charter school based on MI theory.