Northern Valley Beacon

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Sunday, October 15, 2006


Education in Districts 2 and 3 and the need for it elsewhere

Or does the Newspeak language of contemporary politics and grammar mix?

Politics have gotten so f#@&ing stupid of late that one is not merely ashamed at times to be part of South Dakota, but of the whole human race. But that is a reminder, just as is the Hamas control over Palestine, that democracy does not always work out for the best. Sometimes the people screw up. Or are terrifyingly ignorant.

However, we have some self-appointed campaign experts in South Dakota who often posture as informed consultants when they frame their petty, mean, and often absurd political attacks. One of the lastest concerns my district, District 3, which is the product of the Republican legislature gerrymandering the Democrats out of the picture. As a result, District 3 resembles a bull snake trying to have sex with an octopus.

A post on South Dakota War College cites a television feature broadcast by KELO-TV that is one of those side-bar stories about the fact that the two Republican candidates for the State House are father and son Al and David Novstrup. We saw the KELO video truck outside our house last week taping the campaign signs across the street from us because, we assume, they feature signs from the two candidates in juxtaposition (which might be a good name for what a horny bullsnake might try with a coy octopus). KELO did not tape our forest of yard signs, which feature the opposing candidates. The theme of the KELO report was the matter of name recognition and that a Novstrup in the House might be worth two in the Bush-oriented state legislature.

Democratic candidates Ted Kneebone and Tom Black were interviewed and went along with the theme on how they are dealing with the name recognition matter. Ted asked how could anyone forget a name like Kneebone? Tom talked about knocking on doors in the district and getting to meet as many people as possible. Then the story deals with how the Novstrups are trying to project separate identities to the electorate.

SDWC reproduces the entire transcript in its Saturday post. It follows it with this comment:

It looks like the Dems are trying to insinuate that the Norvstrups [Well, so much for name recognition.) live in the same household, which couldn't be further from the truth. They live across town from each other with their respective spouses..

We cannot for the life of us find any place in the story where the Democrats insinuated anything in the nature of a family stance on issues. Furthermore, KELO, not Democrats, wrote the story, and if there is any implication, it is theirs. But we could not find what qualifies as an insinuation anywhere in the story, although people with a few operational brain cells who have lived on the planet long enough to know the nature of families might make a surmise on their own.

And I might make that surmise on the basis of a performance that the Novstrup family singers, which included Al and David, made at the Brown County Fair when they converged en chorus on the booth of the Committee for Healthy Families. When they chanted their anti-choice cant, they were clearly on the same page and really sounded like they were singing with the same voice. But we would never insinuate anything from that.

If you need a good example of an insinuation, read this:

The Grapes of Wrath?

One reader reported to me today that they observed State Senator Duane Sutton's daughter at the Gypsy Day parade in Aberdeen wearing an Al Hoerth t-shirt and handing out stickers for same.They were kind of surprised, because they thought she was a member of the Teenage Republicans.Of course, this comes after Isaac Latterell defeated her father in the Republican primary.

Now that is as good an example of insinuation as we can find. It comes from a Sept. 30 posting on SDWC.

This kind of campaigning gets damned tiresome. It is so petty, mean, and ignorant. With the real issues facing South Dakota, we don't need any more campaigning on the level of town-cafe character assassination and malicious gossip. We hope the voters out there recognize that there is one party which bases almost its total campaign on stupid accusations and mean representations about other people. There is a choice.

In South Dakota, education is a perennial issue, largely because the state is at the bottom of the list of 50 states for the way it funds and supports education. Our teachers are the lowest paid in the nation. Many districts are coming up short and having to cut programs and services.

So what is Al Novstrup's answer? Merit pay. On the candidate's forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters he said he has an abiding interest education and would like to see the best teachers get rewarded.

Merit pay has been a favorite topic during the last quarter century among politicians. It has been tried. Why is it still a topic to be proposed? Because it does not work.

Why doesn't it work? Because the vast percentage of teachers do their jobs competently and diligently. When administrators cite some teachers for merit pay, they find that they have created a divisions among their staff and anger and alienation supplants the kind of cooperation and cohesion that is required of a faculty to administer effective educational programs.

We have no doubt that education has problems to solve and needs to meet. It always has. It always will. That's the nature of the educational enterprise. But dividing teachers into groups of superior and inferior and creating alienations never addresses the real problems. Such tactics are a major part of the problems.

South Dakota Districts 2 and 3 have Democratic candidates who can address education with more knowledge and more proven expertise than any slate of candidates in the state.

District 2 Senate candidate Jim Hundstad, now a farmer, taught for many years in Brown County schools before taking charge of the family farm. Rep. Burt Elliott is a current teacher at Aberdeen Central, and is thought so highly of that he was asked to give the commencement address at graduation this past May. Rep. Paul Dennert has farmed all his life, but he has been active in 4-H and school business and is well steeped in the processes and programs of effective education. Paul is also the County's resident expert on state finances and budget.

In District 3, Senate candidate Al Hoerth just retired as a teacher at Aberdeen Central, and is well respected by students and parents. That just might be why young Ms. Sutton was working in his behalf at the Gypsy Day Parade. Ted Kneebone is a retired librarian and worked last at the South Dakota School for the Visually Handicapped, where he taught and worked closely with the special education programs. Tom Black is not a teacher, but trained as one.

In education, we have a lot to talk about and many people in Districts 2 and 3 who are qualified, able, and willing to address these issues with vast knowledge, intelligence, and respect.

We cannot help but contemplate what a change in atmosphere and attitude can be brought to Pierre if they all got elected. We might get some important things done. Like straightening out the bull snake and chasing the octopus back to its appropriate habitat.

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