If it weren’t for his racist and asinine blog posts, former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal would likely be sitting in the same office today. Although the former conservative legislator and first-term education chief received a shitload of criticism from the left for his support of the Ethnic Studies ban in Tucson, as well as his constant pimping for charter schools, Huppenthal remained the GOP’s guy going into the 2014 election. Sure, he was primaried from the far right by moon-howlin’ Diane Douglas, but Huppenthal was generally seen as a safe bet to win the Republican primary and general election.
Oops! Then in June 2014 news broke that Huppenthal’s other job, which he occasionally performed at his real job, was as an online sockpuppet defending the indefensible policies of one John Huppenthal. The good folks at Blog for Arizona uncovered the ruse when they started to question the posts of “Thucydides,” that ancient historian. In his support of Arizona’s education policies, Thucydides revealed information about Superintendent Huppenthal and his state agency that only he could know. When confronted by the media, John Huppenthal confessed that, yes, he was Thucydides.
In itself, there’s nothing wrong here; heck, let’s encourage public officials to interact with citizens online. Nor is there a problem with Huppenthal blogging anonymously, a common tactic when the writer serves in a political or otherwise delicate position. The issue wasn’t that Huppenthal blogged anonymously: no, it was the nature of his posts, which were racist, historically inaccurate, insensitive and highly inappropriate, especially since he was in charge of public education.
"Obama is rewarding the lazy pigs with food stamps."
"It was Darwin, not Hitler, who named the Germans the master race."
"Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood was given the job of eliminating African-Americans."
"We now know that (Franklin D. Roosevelt) was almost completely responsible for the great depression."
You get the picture—writing worthy of the textbooks approved in Texas. His demeaning comments were even too much for Arizona’s looney tune GOP, and many called for him to exit the 2014 race. Huppenthal refused but was handed his ass in the primary by Diane Douglas, an ill-qualified, raving tea party pinhead. Given Arizona’s political demographics, in the November election Douglas defeated
Democrat David Garcia, an experienced educator who was endorsed by nearly everyone, from the conservative Arizona Republic
newspaper to political, community and education leaders statewide. Didn’t matter: Douglas had an R after her name, which is all that matters in too many Arizona races (think: Joe Arpaio).
Douglas and Gov. Doug Ducey immediately got into a highly publicized spat that seemed to indicate there’d be an ongoing war between the education department and executive office, but they did agree on one thing: students in Arizona don’t need so dang much government support. With help from the batshit crazy legislature, they cut K-12 another $13 million, wacked $95 million from the university system, and eliminated almost all community college funding. This hatchet job was on top of prior cuts to public schools and colleges that, since the recession, were among the deepest in the nation. Mission accomplished! After all, how else are they going to pay for those new prisons and corporate tax breaks?
The Chief of Staff for Diane Douglas who helped engineer this draconian policy is Michael Bradley, who was also responsible for the early standoff mentioned above between Douglas and Ducey, when he orchestrated the firing of two education board members because they weren’t as crazy as Douglas. Problem is, those appointments are gubernatorial and new Gov. Ducey did not look kindly upon the usurpation of his powers. He fired back and the two board members remained.
But now, in a scenario reminiscent of John Huppenthal’s online downfall, Bradley is being questioned for operating a website that some deem inappropriate for a person who’s in charge of education policy for over a million Arizona children.
Michael Bradley, who is in charge of day-to-day operations at the Arizona Department of Education, runs a website featuring items of general interest, including pictures of dogs and quirky news items, as well as thousands of photos of scantily clad women in costumes, and sexually suggestive images and humor.
The website (which I won't link to) receives about 3,000 hits a day and describes Bradley, who publishes a lot of time-travel books, as an author and public speaker, but it does not mention his role at the Arizona Department of Education. Like many personal websites, it includes a lot of pet photos, screen shots from movies and TV, jokes and his personal musings, including a recent rant about the Arizona Republic
story in the blockquote above. Back issues contain more big boob photos than I’ve seen in one place, which children’s advocates call “offensive,” and Bradley has agreed to remove some images.
He says he told Diane Douglas about his online activity when she appointed him to the $150,000 a year position, and he warned Douglas that her opponents will use the website to attack her. Which raises the question: If they both knew this why did Douglas hire him, or why didn’t he shut the site down or at least change the content?
Frankly, we should be less concerned about Bradley's website than the ugly policies he's helped to push through. The site is pretty tame compared to a lot of what’s online, and he certainly has every right to operate it, especially as an outlet for his writing, which doesn't include, like Huppenthal, bogus education BS. But what is on the site does call into question his common sense.
Former schools Superintendent Jaime Molera says he supports freedom of speech, but that given his position, Bradley's online activity crosses a line for parents and teachers.
"If he's a private guy and this is his genre of writing, that's his decision, and certainly there's a whole lot of people who are into that," Molera said. "At the same time, he's the chief of staff to the state schools superintendent and there is a standard that they have to portray to the public—particularly schoolkids.”
The shit gets deeper: Bradley hired one of the women who poses on his website to serve as executive assistant to Diane Douglas. But that’s okay he says, because her position is “low level”—only the assistant to the state’s public school chief.
Is it any wonder Arizona continually ranks at the bottom of nearly every education measurement? For too many years rightwing agenda-driven ideologues have run the state agency, and public schools have clearly paid the price. If I were their consultant, I'd advise today's education officials to steer clear of the blogosphere, but I'm happy they don't, if only to shine a light on what they're doing to Arizona's students and teachers.