Whispers and waiting

Appointed assistant Education secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development, Bill Evers has been waiting for confirmation since February. Evers, a Hoover Institution fellow, made enemies in the school reform battles of 10 years ago. They’ve launched a whispering campaign to stall his confirmation, reports Paul Lewis of the Washington Post.

Lewis interviewed me for the story because I wrote about Evers’ role in the bitter standards fight in California as part of It Takes a Vision. I met Evers in 1970 when we both worked on the Stanford Daily: We met when we wrote dueling op-ed pieces on a controversy at the medical center. We disagreed vociferously — and became friends.

The whisperers are focusing on manners, writes Lewis.

“If he was a child in school, you would think he had attention-deficit disorder,” said Delaine Eastin, then California’s superintendent of public instruction, the highest-ranking education official. “I’m talking about not letting people talk — being rude, being unprofessional, thinking that because his voice was loudest he should dominate,” she said, adding that she knows several people who experienced Evers’s “temperament.” Like her, she said they are now briefing influential friends in Washington about his unsuitability for the department’s post, but doing so quietly.

I’m not surprised opponents think Evers is a steamroller, but ADD? That’s just weird. Evers dominates discussions because he focuses intently on an issue, learns everything he can about it and works hard to persuade others that he’s right. I’ve never found him intimidating. OK, I’m not easily intimidated. But shouldn’t people in public life be a little tougher?

Evers’s supporters, who include a number of Democrats, say his booming voice and uncompromising commitment to high standards give the misleading impression that he does not listen. They portray his detractors as a vocal minority — sore losers, angry that Evers stood his ground and won over more senior officials during California’s contentious education reforms.

When I interviewed Evers on the standards fight, he credited his main opponent on the committee with being right on some issues. He considered her a worthy foe. She had nothing good to say about him. I thought she was honest, not unmannerly.

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  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    When you are too lazy to evaluate someone on his merits sometimes it is enough to see who his enemies are.