Media, district levy advocacy not appropriate, not leadership

Feb 3, 2012 by

Laurie H. Rogers Member of the executive committee for Where's the Math? Author of "Betrayed

By Laurie H. Rogers –

“And I tell you this: you do not lead by hitting people over the head. Any damn fool can do that, but it’s usually called ‘assault’ – not ‘leadership’.”     
—     Dwight D. Eisenhower, as told to Emmet John Hughes, for “Re-Viewing the Cold War: Domestic Factors and Foreign Policy in the East-West Confrontation”

Last year, someone said to me: “Laurie, I heard you’re a nut job. So tell me, who are you, really?” I said: “You’ve heard me talk. What do you think?” The person chuckled and said: “I kind of like you. I think you care.”

I do care. I have a fierce protective instinct toward the community, the country, and the children. I’m a patriot, but no politician. I’m not interested in making money or gaining political allies through District 81, the union or the media. I was trained as an old-style reporter, with an eye to supportable facts and a determination to know and report the truth. I’m not a natural extrovert, but five years of dealing with administrators and board directors have turned me into a fighter. I’m not a liar, and I’m no quitter, and I don’t know how to do just the bare minimum of anything (except dusting).

In my mind, the truth is the truth, and I’m not inclined to sugar-coat truth so as to avoid aggravating little feelings or interfering with grasping for dollars. People can call that polarizing or extremist. I think those people don’t want to be sidelined by the truth.

I was thinking about the face in the mirror Jan. 30, as I was blown off yet again by a local reporter who wanted me to fit into her agenda. She called because she wanted to talk with local businessman Duane Alton about his opposition to local levies. She couldn’t find Alton, and she heard I might be part of his group. I told the reporter I’m not part of Alton’s group, and not necessarily “anti-levy” but rather “pro-disclosure.” I said the districts were not giving voters full information (or even truthful information, I could have said), and they were not engaging in full disclosure.

After exactly two minutes, having determined that I wasn’t going to fit into the story the way she wanted, the reporter asked if she could call back. I smiled, knowing she wouldn’t. Her TV report and subsequent article painted the levy discussion as polarized, with the poor, allegedly underfunded district on one side, and the evil “mysterious” anti-levy folks on the other. There was no mention of the solid and supportable information I have put together on the Spokane levy. The reporter offered no questioning of the districts’ claims, and no contrary information. Other local TV stations have reported in a similar fashion.

Local media are complicit in their willful failure to properly inform the public about education issues that affect our children and community. Have you seen Spokane lately? I mean, really looked around? Empty buildings, “for lease” signs everywhere. This city is suffocating, slowly choking on an undereducated, unmotivated, frightened populace. And rather than inform us about those who perpetuate this failure, the media are “hitting us over the head” with fake information and fake district claims.

Despite the possibly illegal, certainly inappropriate and arguably false activity all around them, the media instead polarize the conversation in favor of the districts, and they hound people who are doing something they believe in and who are breaking no election laws. It’s pitiful.

Notice the daily “vote for the levy” drumbeat in the local newspapers. An article here, an editorial there, pro-levy advertisements strategically placed every single day. In this ad, see all of the people who advocate for the levy — while they work for the district, make money off the district, or align politically with the district. There are “vote yes” signs everywhere in the city. Flyers are sent home with the kids. There is open advocating in the schools, with “pro-levy” commentary to children and “Vote for the kids” buttons. The districts’ supposedly “factual” information often is actually promotional, highly subjective, and designed to frighten us, make us feel guilty, and, most of all, push us to vote “yes.” They are leading by hitting us over the head, and it’s all done at an extra cost to us.

Keep this in mind: These talks of possible “cuts” in programs and teaching positions qualify as threats, not facts. As long as districts have school directors, multiple assistant principals, expenditures for a new data system (and new administrators to go with it) and a new, unproved national program, they have places to cut. As long as districts keep torturing teachers with “professional development” and interfering instructional coaches, and as long as districts keep flipping inadequate curricula and supplementary materials in and out, they have places to cut. As long as ineffective administrators make more than $100,000 per year just in base salary, districts have places to cut.

Many of the people making these threats about cutting teaching positions and programs have no compunction about using the children, either, sending home flyers with them, pulling them out of class to talk about campaigning, and showing them pro-levy material on a daily basis.

A parent in Central Valley wrote to me Jan. 30: “I was so heartbroken for my son, when this morning he said to me and his mother: ‘Vote for the levy.’ I responded, ‘I will not be voting for the levy.’ He then began to cry and said 60 teachers will be losing their jobs…. I asked him who told him (that). He answered his teacher. I responded understandingly, but in the negative, and he asked, ‘Why would my teacher lie to me’? Then, ‘She wouldn’t lie to me.’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t lie to you. You know that, right?’ I asked him who he believes, and he responded after several seconds, ‘I guess you.’ He was genuinely perplexed.”

The father expressed a desire to sue the district over the emotional distress on his son. “Good thing for them I am not a sue-happy American,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, our children are being raised academically feral. Left on their own to figure things out – and not provided sufficient guidance, discipline, academics or individual work – they are incapable of following their dreams when they leave high school.

Carol Landa-McVicar, trustee of Community Colleges of Spokane, told The Spokesman-Review recently: “We are not graduating enough kids from high school, and when we do, they are coming to college unprepared, delaying their progression to a higher education degree. … how do we address the high number of students that are coming into the college who need remedial math?”
A local politician told me, “You have to work with somebody,” as he refused to lift a finger to help me. I can’t work with people who lie, who want me to lie, or who don’t care about what matters to the children. And I do work with others. When I show parents and grandparents what’s being taught and not taught, they see it right away. They don’t call me names, accuse me of lying or suggest that I’m the problem. They see me for what I am: Just the messenger, delivering to them a critically important message that they need to hear.

So, I work with We, the People. I work for the children. I help teachers where I can. I work for academics. I work for math. I work for this country. I work for the future, and I work for what’s right.

My efforts, my insistence on solid, provable information, and my refusal to play purposefully polarizing games aren’t respected by the district, the school board, the media, or various “players” in the city. But my family respects it, and the people respect it. I suspect the folks on the “anti-levy” side also respect it.

In the end, I’m trying to help parents and grandparents learn enough to step in and save their children from these grasping, self-interested school districts and the sycophantic media. And that’s what matters.

Laurie H. Rogers – Member of the executive committee for Where’s the Math? Author of “Betrayed: How the Education Establishment Has Betrayed America and What You Can Do about it” and the blog “Betrayed,” located at http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com

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