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The perfect excuse not to Step Up, Oklahoma
Written by Dr. Tom Deighan, LPS Superintendent
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

If you wish to make anything impossible, simply insert the word perfect, and you create the perfect excuse to reject it. For example, I can freehand a “perfect” circle with a pencil that looks just as good as a circle drawn with a compass. The only perceivable difference would be the inevitable mark in the center left by the compass, which means my freehand circle looks better. Examine either circle, however, under a magnifying glass, and we must reevaluate perfect. Magnify the line and it disintegrates, more resembling a jagged stone path than the thin line of a pencil. No matter how precise the compass or the pencil, our perfect circle falls apart if the line forming the circle is not perfect. Minute imperfections will inevitably disqualify both circles under the perfect excuse. Imperfect tools and imperfect people ensure a perfect circle is perfectly impossible. That is why the perfect excuse is so perfect: it keeps everyone running in circles to satisfy impossible standards.

I am always on high moral ground if a proposal does not go far enough, deep enough, or fast enough. I can always reject your imperfect process, imperfect plan, imperfect optics, and imperfect timing. If all else fails, I am always perfectly safe repudiating imperfect people. This seems to be what is happening as Oklahoma legislators consider the Step Up Oklahoma plan – the most bi-partisan, coalesced plan to emerge in decades. The response by faux-perfectionists has been perfectly predictable, however, since Oklahoma has become the state where nothing is OK. No wonder people make fun of us Okies; we seem perfectly intent on making a perfect mess of our state — all in some quixotic quest for perfection. Step Up Oklahoma certainly is not perfect. If anything, it was drawn freehand by an unlikely coalition. The Step Up crowd would have used a compass if one had been available, but Oklahoma’s political process has been broken lately, only able to produce spirals.

Nevertheless, Step Up Oklahoma has somehow drawn a circle that includes Chambers of Commerce and teachers’ unions. With enough magnification, we can find flaws with the plan, the process, and the people involved. Its biggest flaw may be that too many diverse interests support it. The plan is not perfect, but I see no other plan on the table, and sanctimoniously rejecting everything is not a plan. At some point, it all just becomes the perfect excuse to do nothing.

Step Up Oklahoma is not perfect. Its supporters are not perfect, and the right people are apparently not getting the credit, but if Step Up Oklahoma is not good enough, we should demand the perfect alternative. Anyone using the perfect excuse to hijack progress should be required to produce a perfect circle themselves. We will even let them use a compass! Alternatives are rare, however, because demanders of perfection know they cannot produce a perfect plan either.

The only perfect thing about Oklahoma politics lately is the perfect irony of our situation. We consistently fight for the most shameful rankings for health care, incarceration rates, education, and other quality of life indicators, but Step Up Oklahoma is not good enough? A bi-partisan plan that proposes actual solutions and increased accountability? Without viable alternatives, we are simply held hostage by obstructionism disguised as high standards and political courage. Let’s step back, draw a circle around Oklahoma and objectively determine how many of our needs Step Up Oklahoma addresses. I promise the party lines will not be perfect, but it is the best circle of support we have seen in years. Even if it has been drawn freehand.