Mitchell school superintendent Joe Graves is still bucking for a promotion. He took to the pages of the Mitchell Daily Republic last week to continue his shameless flacking for Governor Daugaard's really bad education policy, Referred Law 16.

Remarkably, given that a good superintendent ought to be a sharp policy wonk, Graves mostly wages advocacy by bromide, innuendo, and wishful thinking.

Much of his essay is the "change for change's sake" argument. He tries to turn the old curse "May you live in interesting times" into a moral imperative and casts those who would oppose what he finds interesting as regressives:

Frankly, I don't see it as a curse. Who exactly would want to live in uninteresting times? And the answer is: apparently a lot of people. The good news is that regardless of just how many people do want their lives to be unchanging, they typically can't do much about it other than to stew and lament [Joe Graves, "Despite Backlash in SD and Chicago, Educational Sea Change Happening," Mitchell Daily Republic, September 18, 2012].

Graves cheerfully disdains the public school "establishment" in which he works:

Twenty-five years ago, K-12 education was a cultural institution with almost no outside competition and the 8 mm movie projector its most compelling technology. Today, public education has competition from private schools, home schools, virtual schools, charter schools (though not yet in South Dakota) and other public schools (through open enrollment).

In each of these cases, at least some part of the public school establishment has railed against and fought the legality of the new competitors and, in every case, they have been unsuccessful in doing so. And through all of it, public education has survived and in some cases thrived in the face of that competition [Graves, 2012.09.18].

Note the compound generalizations here. Graves creates the impression that you can count on the public school "establishment," that vague and thus irrefutable monster of his and neighbor Sibby's paranoid fantasies, to throw some obstacle against every new policy or practice. Public education still exists; therefore, Graves implies, you should ignore those silly public educators when they protest some policy, because no change is bad and no change can hurt the public schools.

Graves says change is "inexorable" and "inevitable." In his mind, that means we public school teachers have no business suggesting that some forms of change, like Governor Daugaard's Referred Law 16, are the wrong kinds of change:

...advocates for South Dakota teachers, who have always argued correctly that our state's teachers are not paid enough, sponsor and advocate for a referendum to defeat recently passed legislation, HB1234, which provides tens of millions of new dollars for teacher salaries, provides both market and merit incentives, and ends a state mandate for teacher continuing contract rights (tenure), i.e. job security [Graves, 2012.09.18].

Graves is getting a bit hyperbolic here. Referred Law 16 includes no funding, but the Governor promises that he'll get the Legislature to allocate $15 million to fund his selective bonus proposal. Graves apparently rounds that 15 up to 20 and calls it two "tens of millions." He also calls continuing contract "job security," when in fact the slim security that Graves and Daugaard insist they must take away from teachers is the simple requirement that if Graves doesn't want to offer a contract to a veteran teacher, Graves must write that veteran teacher a letter explaining why he's changed his mind about that teacher's fitness to serve the Mitchell school district.

Graves then proceeds to inflate his anti-public-school ideology to a global consensus:

So what if the whole world now recognizes that market forces must be allowed to solve the problems of teacher shortages? Who cares that a compensation system which offers no recognition of teacher effort or merit is patently unfair? And big deal that tenure means that some students will continue to have mediocre, or worse, teachers.

The whole world? No, Joe, the whole world does not view market forces as the solution to school woes. South Dakota has been failing to recognize teacher effort and merit with last-in-the-nation teacher pay for at least two generations, but that doesn't justify imposing a bonus pay system that research shows doesn't work. And by saying that some students will continue to have mediocre teachers, you admit that you aren't doing your job as an administrator with the training and legal tools you have to ensure your school only employs qualified, effective teachers.

Graves's advocacy for the Governor's really bad education ideas exemplify the shifty rhetoric to which supporters of Referred Law 16 must support. They can't back the specific policies of Referred Law 16 with evidence. They know if we get into the details, voters will see that bonuses for an arbitrary 20% of teachers, cutting continuing contract, and state-mandated test-based teacher evaluations won't help their kids learn more. Graves and Daugaard thus have to resort to vilifying teachers. Graves and Daugaard will accuse us of wanting to destroy the public schools by standing in the way of "change"... even though the change they advocate is the real hazard to public K-12 education.