A self-proclaimed pragmatist, Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction Brad Smith made pragmatically flawed comments two weeks ago when he called a rally at Capitol Hill childish and greedy: “It reminded me of when my kid was 3 years old and they started crying on Christmas morning because they didn’t get one more thing.” The comment drew quite an outrage from educators and the community; Smith apologized Monday. But for someone who describes himself as a matter-of-fact guy, Smith sure didn’t realize the fact that his remarks were offensive. Promoted less than six months ago, the superintendent is already insulting and burning bridges between the same people he’s supposed to represent.
Looking back however, Smith’s throwing of his teachers under the school bus is not as surprising as it may seem. The Superintendent is a career lawyer with his own firm, accountable only to himself. Pragmatism looks different when you represent a large group of under-credited individuals within the most important public sector.
Smith’s professional experience within education, or lack thereof, began in just 2007 when he joined the Ogden school board. In 2010 he replaced Ogden’s Superintendent who had spent over 40 years in education. Smith’s October 2014 selection as State Superintendent caps a hasty rise to power, especially considering his sketchy past.
Between his credentials and behavior, educators in the state have plenty with which to be alarmed. Utah’s legislators historically have butted heads with educators, so a superintendent playing for the other team could have toxic consequences. The situation ought to be watched closely as Utah’s children will ultimately pay the price.