Terry Adams

St. Louis NPR interviewed the candidates for the state Commissioner of Education. Take a look at some of Terry Adams’ answers and pretend they are part of a close reading assignment where you are asked to glean the author’s intent just from the text without applying any outside context or knowledge. What can we tell about Adams’ qualifications for the job?


“Why do you want to be commissioner of education?

I think I might be able to help. I have a lot of experience in education. And since the job is open, I thought I would have something to offer.”

The candidate has nothing better to do so he tossed his hat into the ring. Because he took that step, he is a good candidate.

“Is it a realistic goal for Missouri to be in the top 10 nationally in education by the year 2020?

It’s a great goal. You need to aim high. I think that it’s a good thing to have goals that cause you to reach and stretch. That goal certainly would do that, and I would do whatever I could to get to that point.”

The candidate cannot evaluate realistic goals but thinks that goals in general are a good idea. He is willing to spend tremendous resources pursuing a goal simply because someone said it was a good goal, even if it is not attainable.

“What could you do to help struggling districts like Normandy and Riverview Gardens?

I would do my best to work for all of the children of the state of Missouri. Certainly I would try to address the issues in the districts that you mentioned, but I probably would wish to share those views with the state board of education first rather than in the media.”

It is impossible to tell if the candidate has any specific ideas to help struggling districts. It would be pure conjecture to assume he has any.

“What personal qualities would you bring to the job that make you the best candidate?

There are five outstanding candidates. The best candidate will be judged by the state board of education. I think over the years I’ve learned some things about leadership, and I welcome the opportunity to use what I’ve learned to help the state of Missouri move forward.”

The candidate has held the title of leader and has learned something about the role.  He may have learned that leaders who buy donuts for meetings and never deny requests for spending are well liked and, in public service positions, tend to get to keep their jobs.  It is impossible to determine from the text whether Adams is a good leader or even what he thinks makes a good leader. Other than some undefined leadership qualities, he seems to have no qualifications for the position.


Read the other candidates’ responses here.


Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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