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REVEALED: Tennessee teacher colleges call on Gov. Bill Lee to repudiate friend's educator insults

"We stand behind Tennessee’s teachers who our institutions prepare. We urge you to do so as well."
Posted: 4:54 PM, Jul 01, 2022
Updated: 2022-07-01 23:12:56-04
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee's teacher colleges are calling upon Gov. Bill Lee to repudiate disparaging comments by his charter school friend that public school teachers come from "the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges," according to a letter obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

The letter to Lee from the Tennessee Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (TACTE) cites NewsChannel 5's hidden-camera video from a private reception in which Lee joined Hillsdale College president Larry Arnn on stage as Arnn argued that "you don't have to know anything" to get an education degree. Arnn also claimed that education departments train teachers to indoctrinate students.

Related:

Teachers come from 'dumbest parts of dumbest colleges,' Tenn. governor's education advisor tells him

Educators 'offended and disgusted' by comments from Tennessee governor's charter school friend

As NewsChannel 5 Investigates reported, the video shows that Lee never defended teachers or teacher education programs during that reception, nor did a spokesperson for the Governor's Office offer any repudiation of Arnn's words.

Lee has invited Arnn and Hillsdale College to set up taxpayer-financed, privately operated charter schools across the state. Arnn's plan: "demonstrate that you don't have to be an expert to educate a child because basically anybody can do it."

"While we have not seen an unedited video of this meeting, this reporting did not show a response from you in defense of Tennessee’s teachers," TACTE President David Cihak wrote in the letter sent Friday.

"We urge you to speak out now in defense of teachers and professional educators.

"Dr. Arnn’s comments insult Tennesseans dedicated to teaching and learning, as well as thousands of students across the State attending programs with the goal of becoming professional educators. "

Read letter below:

Page 1 of TACTE letter re-Dr. Larry Arnn comments 07.01.22
Contributed to DocumentCloud by Phil Williams (WTVF NewsChannel 5) • View document or read text

TACTE represents all public, private, and independent education preparation providers in Tennessee.

Cihak is a professor of special education at University of Tennessee-Knoxville, as well as associate dean of professional licensure and director of the CEHHS Graduate School of Education, according to his bio.

The letter says that "Tennessee’s standards for becoming a teacher are some of the highest in the nation."

"Devaluing and insulting these educators is not in the best interest of Tennessee’s children, economy, or reputation," Cihak wrote.

"We stand behind Tennessee’s teachers who our institutions prepare. We urge you to do so as well."

The letter also argues that Arnn's statements "minimize a foundational principle of our democracy — the importance of education. "

"Schools, like many professions and industries right now, are struggling with persistent vacancies and hard-to-staff positions," Cihak added.

"Dr. Arnn’s divisive rhetoric undercuts efforts to recruit individuals into the profession during a time when teachers are desperately needed.

"His statements are particularly discouraging for aspiring teachers who are inspired to help make an even brighter future for Tennessee’s schoolchildren. "

SPECIAL SECTION: Revealed

Do you have information for our investigation? Email us: investigate@newschannel5.com