larry arnn

Larry Arnn’s ‘dumbest’ teachers remark gets weaponized in state House race

The Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, is sending out mailers in a key state House primary featuring the likeness of Larry Arnn, the Hillsdale College president who recently said some unkind things about teachers and the colleges that educate them.

Arnn, whose school has designed a charter school curriculum backed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, said at recent event in Franklin that teachers “are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.” Lee, who sat alongside Arnn at the closed-door meeting, didn’t say anything about the comments at the time. Lee has since insisted he supports public school teachers but refused to repudiate Arnn’s remarks.

The mailer is in support of Bob Ravener, a retired Navy submarine officers who is running against trial lawyer — and school choice supporter — Gino Bulso in the Republican primary in District 61 in northern Williamson County. The seat is being vacated by Rep. Brandon Ogles (R-Franklin) who famously declared during his first election campaign in 2018 that he was opposed to school vouchers only to vote for a bill creating the private school tuition subsidies the following year.

Here’s the other side of the TEA mailer backing Ravener:

Oops, I did it again? Arnn strikes differing tones in Tennessean, USA Today op-eds

Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn penned two op-eds last week to try to explain his remarks about teachers and education programs. “Teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country,” Arnn said at the event attended by Gov. Bill Lee, who has refused to repudiate the comment.

One of Arnn’s op-eds appeared in The Tennessean while the other was published in Gannett’s flagship USA Today. They struck surprisingly differing tones. In the USA Today piece, Arnn started out by declaring “I have said this many times, in public and in private, and will likely say it again.” He also said he’d apologize to Lee if he caused him any embarrassment.

Arnn did not pledge to “say it again” in the Tennessean item and also made no offer of apology to Lee. Both op-eds are dated July 18 and it’s unclear why Arnn took differing approaches for the national and local audiences.

Here’s the top of the Arnn piece in The Tennessean:

At a recent event with Gov. Bill Lee, I remarked that “Teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.” I’ve made similar critiques of the education bureaucracy my entire career.

This does not contradict my deep and abiding affection for teachers. After the students, the most important people in the college where I work are teachers (the maintenance workers are third — and I tell everyone this often).

Dumb can mean “unintelligent,” which I did not mean. Dumb also means “ill-conceived” or “misdirected,” which is, sadly, a fitting description for many education schools today.

And here’s how Arnn started out in in USA Today:

During a recent event in Nashville, I made news by saying, “Teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.”

I have said this many times, in public and in private, and will likely say it again. This time it was important because Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee was present. Many were outraged. I was not speaking for the governor, and I would rather do anything than embarrass him. If I have done that, I apologize to him.