July 28, 2004
Education official's comments strike
I was appalled at our state education secretary's remarks
to a 6-year-old girl in Santa Barbara this month! Richard
Riordan told the young child that her name meant "stupid
dirty girl" when she told him her name meant "Egyptian
goddess." Although he has apologized, his comment
was unacceptable. Is this the type of individual we want
as the education secretary for California? What kind
of message is our governor sending by not asking Riordan
Children are special because they are young, innocent
and capable of absorbing so very much that adults and
the world have to teach them. They are precious because
they are the stewards of the very culture we bestow upon
them. At the moment when any role model behaves inappropriately
-- or cruelly, as in the instance you cite -- then action
must be taken.
Like you, I have seen the videotape of the Riordan's
sarcastic response to this young child. She cried. He
laughed. How utterly unacceptable was his behavior.
Such callousness, thoughtlessness and impropriety have
no place in positions of leadership and most certainly
not in roles that are designed to nurture education and
build bridges of understanding and trust.
Secretary Riordan, for the embarrassment he has caused
a child, his office, the state he serves and the governor
who appointed him, should tender his resignation -- immediately.
Has Riordan served California well as mayor of Los Angeles?
I am not reviewing his public service record here. What
can be known is that when citizens, even highly visible,
rich and powerful ones, behave in ways that are out of
bounds -- culturally, racially, sexually, religiously
and in other social ways -- they sometimes lose their
positions of authority and power.