Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
It turns out there's more to Ryan Walters than you think there is. Also, it doesn't matter
Say this much for Ryan Walters.
He succeeds in being the hero of his own story.
He’s also the least self-aware person on earth.
This became exorbitantly clear early Monday morning when this interview, from NonDoc, popped into the world under the bylines of Tres Savage and Bennett Brinkman, and the headline of “Historical and rhetorical: A conversation with Ryan Walters about ‘woke.’”
Oh, but if just one cable news channel could embody the tone and stance of Savage and Brinkman during their sit-down — which, I’m pretty sure, was a stand-up — with the man who really was elected Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction.
As Savage and Brinkman explained, the interview was impromptu, taking place “in a mostly empty Capitol hallway on April 24,” yet not put into the world until Monday.
I don’t want to say it humanized Walters, the man who one week after giving NonDoc the unscheduled interview would walk into a house committee meeting and, in addition to proving how not on top of his job he’s been from the start, decided to throw out this line, too:
“The teachers union? I don’t negotiate with the teacher’s union, they’re a terrorist organization.”
But it kind of humanized him.
At one point, as Walters was trying to sound fairly reasonable — saying the “middle ground” on education should be teaching “math, science, history, reading and emphasizing those things and finding what best practice is” — Savage turned the discussion to Walters’ history teaching experience, including his teaching the Civil Rights Movement not only to McAlester students, but also to Milwood students.
And would you believe it, after Walters said he taught the same curriculum similarly to both sets of students, he went deep into the subject and sounded like a guy who really knows the movement’s history, believes in its rightness, who even had “my students do a deep dive on [Martin Luther King’s] Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
It was something.
On Twitter, the guy begs to be treated like an absolute buffoon because he is an absolute buffoon.
Yet, agreeing to an impromptu interview by two journalists with no bigger agenda than trying to understand what he thinks and how he thinks about what he thinks, Walters quit sounding like a projecting and shame-filled zealot and began sounding like a real person.
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Kudos to NonDoc.
Kudos to Walters for, at least once, not sounding like the guy who’s willing to sound crazier than every other guy.
Also, kudos to Walters for revealing his true self, a man with a bionic lack of self awareness.
At one point in the discussion, after Walters called out what he believes to be the overreach, and what many might call the overwokeness of “the left” — which he imagines to be the entire left rather than a narrow fraction the rest of the left wishes would pipe down because it makes winning elections harder, which is what it really us — Savage tried pointing out Walters is playing his own politically divisive role, too.
Here’s how that went:
Savage: You said the “left” is being very divisive. I hear you saying the “left” is being very divisive —
Savage: — and is sowing this discontent and all these sorts of things. But it is a two-way street, right? Like it’s — we live in this country now where … we just get further and further apart. I mean, would you say — do you feel like you have ever, you know, sown —
Walters: No! No!
Savage: You’ve never sown divisiveness?
Walters: No! No!
Which led to this:
Savage: And I think you would admit you call out people you consider to be radicals. You know, “leftists.”
Walters: Yep. 100 percent.
Savage: Those things with sort of pejorative terminology, right? And so is that — how does that not — you’re like, “People are being so divisive over here.” But then, you know, you get on Twitter, and it’s the other side of the coin, right? Is it not?
Which leads to this:
Though not without his own real thoughts.
Though capable of critical thinking.
Though able to speak passionately about subject matter — The Civil Rights Movement — many, many, many in his party can take or leave or are ignorant of …
Ryan Walters remains hopeless.
Also, in that committee meeting in which he equated teachers unions with terrorists?
“It was an absolute dumpster fire when we got to the agency,” Walters said. “Joy Hofmeister had ran this administration, this agency, into the ground.”
Funny, but I don’t remember Republicans or Democrats complaining about Hofmeister’s lack of professionalism, though I’ve heard it about Walters from both parties.
“Democrats want to strike out any mention of the Bible from our history,” Walters said.
Funny, but I don’t remember any Democrat saying American or world history could be taught without mention of Christianity, ergo the Bible, as an historical movement, a cultural influence, etc.
I do, though, remember a time when separation of church and state was a thing, an absolute norm, in this country.
Then Saturday, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona tweeted, “When Students learn about other cultures, they’re taught to be tolerant. Stop banning books.”
To which Walters, on his official state twitter account — @RyanWaltersSupt —could not help put reply, “Ha, in Oklahoma we have chosen to teach academics not porn. Stop indoctrinating our kids and lying to the American Public.”
Did Cardona mention porn?
Did Walters come out against tolerance?
Thanks to a great piece of journalism offering a window into the man previously not offered, we know Ryan Walters doesn’t have to be so impossible, so divisive, such a tool.
He just is.