Gov. Lee’s education advisor: Teachers come from ‘dumbest parts of dumbest colleges’

A new report claims that Gov. Bill Lee did not stand up for Tennessee’s teachers as a state education advisor mocked and belittled them.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee(Action News 5)
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 4:21 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 1, 2022 at 11:31 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A new report from CBS affiliate WTVF claimed that Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s education advisor has been mocking the state’s public education teachers and questioning their roles in the classroom.

WTVF reported that they managed to obtain hidden-camera footage of a closed-door reception between the governor and Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Michigan’s ultra-conservative Hillsdale College. In the video, Arnn reportedly belittled diversity efforts in higher education and claimed that people have education degrees because they are “easy” and you “don’t have to know anything.”

The report also said that, throughout the nearly two-hour video, Lee never once stood up in defense of Tennessee’s teachers and only offered praise for Arnn, who Lee has in charge of setting up Tennessee charter schools across the state. Additionally, Lee did not mention his own wife, Maria Lee, who has a degree in elementary education and worked as a teacher for 14 years.

WTVF also listed examples Arnn’s remarks:

  • “The teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.”
  • “They are taught that they are going to go and do something to those kids.... Do they ever talk about anything except what they are going to do to these kids?”
  • “In colleges, what you hire now is administrators…. Now, because they are appointing all these diversity officers, what are their degrees in? Education. It’s easy. You don’t have to know anything.”
  • “The philosophic understanding at the heart of modern education is enslavement…. They’re messing with people’s children, and they feel entitled to do anything to them.”
  • “You will see how education destroys generations of people. It’s devastating. It’s like the plague.”
  • “Here’s a key thing that we’re going to try to do. We are going to try to demonstrate that you don’t have to be an expert to educate a child because basically anybody can do it.”

WVLT News reached out to Lee’s communications office, who responded with a statement on Lee’s education plan for the future of the state.

“Under Gov. Lee, the future of public education looks like well-paid teachers and growing a workforce to support our students and build the profession,” Lee representative Casey Black told WVLT News.

Governor Lee has been an outspoken advocate for Tennessee public school teachers by raising their pay each year in his term. Under Gov. Lee’s leadership, the future of public education in Tennessee means a new funding formula that closed the bureaucratic loopholes that often prevented raises from making their way to classrooms. When it comes to supporting the profession of teaching, Gov. Lee’s Department of Education built a pipeline to encourage public high school students to pursue teaching through the “Grow Your Own” program. This program is now a national model and was the first in the nation to become a federally recognized apprenticeship program.

Under Gov. Lee, the future of public education looks like well-paid teachers and growing a workforce to support our students and build the profession.

Office of Gov. Bill Lee

WVLT News has asked again for a comment on the situation itself, rather than the statement provided, but office representatives declined to address the video directly.

Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Knoxville democrat and former teacher, commented on the video as well.

“It boggles the mind that someone could be so evil and so ignorant at the same time and so cowardly as to say nothing and not stand up for a single Tennessee child or a Tennessee teacher,” Johnson said.

Lee announced in January a plan to partner with Hillsdale College and use tax dollars to set up charter schools in Tennessee communities. The governor said Hillsdale had a history of being “champions of American exceptionalism.”

“If you work in a college, you’ll know this -- unless you work in the ed department. Ours is different. But they are the dumbest part of every college,” Arnn reportedly said in the video, earning a laugh from the audience.

Johnson responded to that interaction specifically, saying “He just called teachers the most ignorant people on a college campus, and they laughed. And the governor is sitting here while this is happening, saying nothing. This is horrific. This is horrific for Tennessee.””

WVLT News reached out to the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, J.C. Bowman, for comment, and he provided a statement, saying:

“Larry Arnn’s comments are reprehensible and irresponsible. What was even more hurtful than Arnn’s comments is that Tennessee Governor Bill Lee sat there while educators, Colleges of Education, and public education were disparaged. Lee’s silence spoke volumes. Lee then told the audience that this ‘vision for educating children…is a vision that Tennesseans will embrace.’ I disagree.”

Arnn continued to belittle teachers in the video, WTVF reported, saying, “The teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country, and they are taught that they are going to do something to those kids.”

Bowman told WTVF that the problem with the video is not specifically Arnn’s comments, but rather the governor’s lack of response. “But what really is the problem here is that our governor stood there and let this be said about the people that are educating,” he said.

“And the administrators you hire are all diversity people — and that helps you, by the way, with your federal requirements that you have a certain number by color,” Arnn said. “Now, because they are appointing all these diversity officers, what are their degrees in? Education. It’s easy. You don’t have to know anything.”

Hillside reportedly teaches its students that conservative ideals are what the United State’s founding fathers intended, and that progressive ideals are not.

WTVF reported in another investigative piece, that Hillsdale teaches that federal laws protecting Americans from discrimination in business is “where the line between private conscience and government coercion began to blur.”

Arnn’s appreciation of teachers also extends to the toughness of the job. WTVF reported that he told Gov. Lee “We are going to try to demonstrate that you don’t have to be an expert to educate a child because basically anybody can do it.”

Johnson announced Thursday afternoon that she plans to host a press conference about the video at Edgewood Park. WVLT News will be there.

Copyright 2022 WVLT. All rights reserved.