Moderator of the Nashville Mayoral Debate Asks the Wrong Question About How to Improve Public Schools


On Tuesday’s Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Leahy talked about the recent mayoral debate in Nashville and how moderator Rhori Johnston asked a completely irrelevant question to both candidates who responded with non-answers and dodged the real issues facing public education in Davidson County schools.

As the show continued, Leahy explained why the schools aren’t functioning and urged parents to “wake up and smell the coffee” because the system is clearly broken. He cited examples of how this problem could be fixed by implementing direct instruction learning and adding classes like shop and home economics.

Leahy: Last night: so, the very, very, very, bad Mayor – David Briley – debated with the very, very bad Metro Council at large candidate for Mayor, John Cooper. And purportedly they were discussing issues. Except they really weren’t. They talked platitudes and they didn’t even address the real key problem and the most important issue I think for many parents which is education.

The real problem with public education in Nashville is, IT AIN’T WORKING! It’s a dangerous place for kids to go. We have kids that are graduating from these public schools who don’t know how to read, who don’t know how to write, who don’t know how to do basic mathematics. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission did a study of recent graduates and 65% needed remedial math. And 47% needed remedial reading. It was just awful!

Your paying all sorts of money for a system that doesn’t work and yet, when they “discuss” this at the debate last night between the very very very bad Mayor Briley and the very very bad Metro council at large member John Cooper.

Rhori Johnson of News Channel 5, who’s a nice guy, but obviously doesn’t understand the problem of the schools because he framed the question in a way that all these left-wing liberals who don’t care really about whether the kids learn or not. This is how they framed the question. Here’s the question from Rory Johnson. We’ll hear how the question is framed:

(Rhori Johnson clip plays) 

On Friday we reported the Metro Schools still has more than 170 classrooms without a permanent teacher. The district is struggling to recruit and retain teachers many say because of poor pay and low moral. So what specifically can you do as Mayor to ensure that MNPS can both recruit and retain the most effective teachers in our state?

We’ll come back with Mayor Briley’s answer and councilman Cooper’s answer. Rory, buddy, you’re not asking the right question! The way to ask this question is, why Mayor Briley, are our kids not learning how to read, and write and do math? That’s the question! And the answer, of course, is because the system is not working.

It’s a debacle of a system. And I’ve talked to many a time the number one thing you need to do to change this is you need to change the teaching methodology in grades K-6. So they can actually learn how to read and write and do math! That’s the whole point of education. Now they’re doing this common core idiocy.

Which is find 75 different ways not to understand how to add two plus two equals four. There’s an answer. The answer is a methodology called direct instruction. And that’s that same classic choral response, teacher-led, wrote learning that gives you the basics. Two plus two equals four. Three plus three equals six. That’s the way to do it.

It’s been tried for 35 years in very small areas. Actually, 50 years, tried and true very high level of performance. Our friends at Thales Academy use direct instruction, a private school coming to Nashville. It works! Their kids test very high in the 97th, 98th, and 99th percentile in the Iowa tests. Folks! Wake up and smell the coffee!

Our kids are not learning how to read and write. They’re learning how to be social justice warriors who can’t read, write, and add. OK? So, Rhori Johnson, you made a mistake. You just asked the question that is not the key question. The schools are not about the teachers. Now the teachers have a bad deal because they’re in a system that’s broken and that nobody is pointing out doesn’t work. And so then they frame the question as, “Well it’s teacher pay and poor morale.”

The reason you have poor moral is in part the poor pay but it’s also because they know they’re working in a system that doesn’t work. And nobody. Nobody is trying to fix it. Nobody in the administration. Nobody in the school board. And none of these two very bad Mayor candidates are being honest about what needs to be done to fix the public school system in Nashville.

And when we come back we’ll hear from both of these candidates. The very very very bad Mayor Briley. And the very very bad Metro Councilman John Cooper. They’ll give their answers which are non-answers which won’t do anything to improve schools here in Nashville.

(Mayor Briley clip plays)

That’s a great question. And it’s one of the most difficult and important questions in the city of Nashville. Pay and moral are the two biggest issues we have to confront. On the pay side, I have made a commitment. I have made a commitment to the teachers, to the students, to the parents in this city.

We are going to do a comprehensive pay plan. We are going to get our teachers in line. We are going to fund it no matter what. No matter what. We are going to get that funded because that is a critical element to making sure we can recruit and retain the teachers we need. Now on the flip side.

There is a fundamental moral problem in our district and it is in part because of decisions made by the board. I’ll give you one good example quickly. The boards last year changed the discipline policy.

OK. So, that’s Mayor Briley. Totally missing the point on education and blaming the school board for changing discipline policy. The moral problem is because of the school board and pay. He doesn’t address the elephant in the room which is the system is broken! It’s not working. You’ve got to change it fundamentally.

You’ve got to replace common core with direct instruction. You got to get all of this educational bureaucracy where they’re wasting money out of it. You’ve got to stop forcing teachers just to teach to the test and leave them alone a little bit and let them teach.

And oh, by the way, we had teacher Mike call in the other day who teaches in Davidson county and he said, “Look, there are a lot of kids in a class that don’t want to be there.” OK. So his suggestion is to let them go. Let them get jobs. And the other element to this which everybody is ignoring. Everybody is ignoring. I didn’t hear David Briley. I didn’t hear John Cooper.

I didn’t hear any of them talk about this. The other element of this is, which you’ve got to do is start teaching shop again. You’ve got to teach kids how to be welders. You’ve got to teach kids how to be carpenters. How to be electricians. And there’s one sole example of that here in Tennessee where we have a teacher who set up a program at Maplewood High School.

Maple Wood High School, by the way, is one of the poorest performing schools in all of the state in terms of their reading and their mathematics. So they’re doing an awful in the other classes but teacher TJ Williams is doing a fantastic job in her Firestone Service Center that’s set up with help from Firestone.

And the kids there are learning how to be automotive technicians. They’re learning how to get a job. They’re learning basic skills. You can go in there and get your car fixed. This is the direction that you need to be going. Also the other thing they need to bring back is, you used to call it home economics. They call it consumer sciences now.

High school kids need to know how to do a budget for their household. They need to know how to buy groceries. They need to know how to make simple meals. They need skills. They don’t need propaganda. We saw the case where they went to an Islamic center as part of a social studies thing. See this is not what the kids need.

They don’t need propaganda. They need skills. So Mayor Briley missed the entire point of that. And of course his leadership very very very bad. He makes promises he can’t fulfill. And teachers know that.

Listen to the full hour:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Nashville Mayoral Debate” by the Tennesseean



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4 Thoughts to “Moderator of the Nashville Mayoral Debate Asks the Wrong Question About How to Improve Public Schools”

  1. Overtaxed Nashvillian

    They don’t attack their own.

  2. Robert Roark

    Excuse the error in my third sentence. It should read “It is now rated”.

  3. Robert Roark

    Steve, evidence shows they are in complete control. The U. S. was once the highest rated for educational competence in the world. It is not rated somewhere between #17 and lower. As Mr. Leahy points out, no one is asking the right questions. These so-called “political” debates are a farce. There is no debate because there is no consensus on the meaning of words thrown out by moderators and understood by the general public. We are all talking past one another and, as the saying goes, never the twain shall meet.

  4. Steve Allen

    The result of Liberal control. Imagine the condition of our Nation if they were in complete control.