To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Tuesday, June 25, 2024


Hoisted By Our Own Petard



Perryman, DavidDuring the age of moats and fortified castles, attacking armies trained troops as petardiers. The dangerous job of the petardier was to affix a bomb to a wall or gate in an attempt to blow a hole in the fortification.

This type of weapon was called a petard and was designed so that, ideally, the force of the explosion would be directed toward the barrier or wall to which the petard was attached and allow it to be breached. Petardiers, however, did not have the modern advantage of remote or electronic detonation and therefore lighting a fuse and escaping the consequences of an explosion gone awry were risky endeavors.

Shakespeare referred to an engineer, in Act 3 of Hamlet, who would not escape the explosion and would be “hoisted by his own petard.” The phrase today refers to the unintended harm caused by one’s own devices. An idiom with similar meaning and which we are much more familiar is to shoot oneself in the foot.

Unfortunately, these are maladies that afflict Oklahoma and Oklahomans far too frequently. The list of faux pas involves education, corrections, roads, bridges and highways, tax credits, and a host of other issues which voters will one day realize that we need to start digging out of.

Case in point: Without exception, each and every corporation, employer or business entity who we want to bring jobs to our state says that an educated and trained workforce is the No. 1 economic development issue that must exist here before they invest in the state.

How does state government respond?

The Legislature attempts to undermine the OHLAP program – Oklahoma’s Promise – that is producing quality college graduates in record numbers. The governor and State Superintendent saddle Oklahoma’s school districts with a dysfunctional A-F Report Card that is calculated to favor charter schools and is faulty in design and implementation.

With a total lack of direction, the state Legislature in 2010 adopts Common Core, ushers in high stakes testing that does not accurately gauge student achievement or teacher effectiveness, but effectively eliminates instruction on any subject other than the test mandates.

Millions of dollars are spent on common core training and curriculum and before its implementation, the state, without a back-up plan, repeals Common Core, reverts to Priority Academic Student Skills [PASS Skills] which were the old educational standards having previously universally declared to be insufficient to make students “college and career ready.”

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education have now been asked to reverse course and make a determination that the insufficient PASS skills are now sufficient; otherwise Oklahoma will likely lose its No Child Left Behind [NCLB] waiver.

According to Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard, the loss of the NCLB waiver could cost Oklahoma millions of dollars. Some sources say up to $27 million with additional restrictions on about $70 million more. Oklahoma, already among the most federally dependent states can ill afford that to happen.

Alarmingly, Oklahoma Department of Education spokesman, Phil Bacharach, confirmed last week that mid-year teacher layoffs were possible in the absence of the NCLB waiver.

As Ollie would say to Stan, “Well here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”

Educators implore the state to set the standards, stop moving the target and let them teach their students to excel.

Incredibly, despite the shenanigans of the governor, the state superintendent, the Legislature and a multitude of special interests, Oklahoma teachers are performing well. Despite low pay, low classroom funding, high statistics of poverty, divorce and domestic abuse, Oklahoma is being well served by its educators and test scores are improving.

This week, the Tulsa World reported that Oklahoma student’s 2014 ACT scores exceeded the national average in English and in reading. Think what Oklahoma could do if it only had a plan and stuck with it.

After all, when bent on self-destruction, having shot oneself in both feet, the next logical step is being hoisted by one’s own petard … and we don’t want to go there.

David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives


  1. I enjoyed your piece – it captures much of my feeling on this matter. A question that you may know the answer to or have an opinion on:

    Will the Feds accept a state determination that the PASS standards are sufficient, especially in light of the states own previous finding that they were insufficient? More accurately do the Regents have an un-contestable say on the standards?

Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.