McCrory's Education

Published January 30, 2013

By Tom Campbell

by Tom Campbell

Pat McCrory learned (or ought to have) three lessons of his own following his radio interview with former US Education Secretary Bill Bennett.

Lesson 1: When you are governor everything you say will be noted. Don’t ask if the media or your opposition will find out. Instead ask how it will be reported and spun.

Lesson 2: Think before you speak. Pat McCrory likes to speak without scripting…and he is generally good at it. But before doing so he needs to consider the topic and what he really wants to say. And if the interview ventures into areas where he isn’t prepared he needs to keep quiet or say things that are benign. That is problematic because we want leaders willing to speak up. We want to know what they think without having PR and press staff measuring every word. But with spontaneity comes great risk.

Lesson 3: When he puts his foot in his mouth he needs to pull it out quickly and decisively rather than letting it stay. Case in point. When McCrory made his comments about wanting to fund higher education on outcomes, then ventured into not wanting to fund students in gender studies everybody on the planet recognizes he stepped in it. But his press team didn’t help him. Saying, “This was not meant to be a personal attack on UNC. Gov. McCrory did not mean to tarnish UNC’s reputation” was a lame response and wasn’t going to put out the fire. In fact, it only spread.

McCrory could learn lessons from former Governor Jim Hunt. Whenever faced with a mistake Hunt was the first one to get in front of the cameras, admit the mistake or problem, then tell what he was going to do to fix it.

McCrory didn’t own it. What could the governor have said? “Boy, that didn’t come out right. It is obvious my tongue was moving faster than my brain. I apologize for any offense but what I was trying to say was that we must do a better job of tying education outcomes to investments. And yes, I recognize that getting a job isn’t the only worthy outcome of higher education. Maybe my mistake will help us come together to have some meaningful discussion about is the true purpose of higher education.”

In our book, “Tom’s Columns,” we quote former House Speaker Joe Mavretic, who says it is to graduate students who have the necessary skills demanded in the marketplace and the capacity to enjoy contemporary society.”

Let’s talk about how we get there.