• Category Archives Op/Ed by Gorrell
  • The Old Man Versus The Grey Lady

    Ken Gorrellby Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    The Old Man of the Mountains fell from high above Profile Lake fifteen years ago, but it remains the symbol of the Granite State, and always will.
    I can’t pinpoint the year when the Gray Lady – the New York Times – fell from journalistic grace, but I’m having a hard time remembering when the “paper of record” wasn’t just a Progressive shill. “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” isn’t supposed to be ironic, yet with every edition one imagines the editors smirking at their own masthead.
    A case in point comes from the July 27th edition, under the patently-offensive headline, “New Hampshire, 94 Percent White, Asks: How Do You Diversify a Whole State?” Talk about a question nobody is asking – at least nobody who isn’t a race-hustler, misguided politician, or champion of corporate welfare.
    New Hampshire is one of the least racially-diverse states in the nation. But our “Whiteness” isn’t a problem, much less something that needs to be “fixed” by newspaper editors, business and political leaders, or crusading busybodies. We are a product of historical and geographical forces, and our status quo is not just fine, it’s better than most.
    Our history doesn’t include enslaved Africans working our small family farms. When emancipated slaves left the South, many followed the navigable rivers north into what would become the industrial heartland. Some were part of the westward expansion, while others settled in the cities of the mid-Atlantic and northeast. New Hampshire wasn’t on their map.
    Waves of foreign immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries largely bypassed us as well. We lack large cities or open land that historically attracted new arrivals from Europe. We are far from the Mexican border and the flow of Latinos northward; further still from Pacific ports where Asian immigrants landed.
    None of those factors are race-based. But at the New York Times, every important issue has a racial component, and race shapes the questions asked and not asked. Fear of running afoul of the Thought Police limits the questions many in the political center will dare ask out loud. These days any utterance, even one grounded in facts and spoken in plain, rational language, will be labeled “racist” if it fails to put racism at the top of the What’s-Wrong-with-America pyramid.
    The Times quotes business and “community” leaders telling us that we need to attract young working families to maintain our healthy economy and standard of living. But it then pivots to the race angle and the idea that we must therefore be more “welcoming” to “lure other racial and ethnic groups.” The idea of doing a better job growing our own never occurs.
    Even “with nonwhites poised to make up a majority of the American population in the next three decades,” the huge US labor market dwarfs the NH market to the point where we are little more than a rounding error. In other words, there are plenty of fish in the sea. There is no need to use the heavy hand of government to change who and what we are to accommodate anyone’s race-based “requirements.”
    What are some of those requirements? The Times leads the article with the story of a woman who moved here from Lynn, MA, where she had provided cultural training to hospital workers. Her complaint: “I went from being able to speak Spanish every day to not speaking Spanish at all…”
    She couldn’t find an ethnic hairdresser. She had trouble finding ethnic restaurants, supermarkets, and clothing stores, referring to these as “basic services,” as if she expected them to be available to her simply because she chose to move here. Call me old-fashioned, but I find such carping rude and ungracious.
    Speaking of rude, one week after publishing its article critical of our “ethnic vacuum,” the Times hired an Asian woman to an editorial position whose Twitter history would have made her radioactive if she were a White man. “Dumba– f—–white people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs p—— on fire hydrants” is just one of her bon mots. If you want more like that, Google “Sarah Jeong.”
    Adding an Asian woman to its editorial staff makes the Times more diverse, but does that make it a wise choice? Diversity qua diversity isn’t an unalloyed good.
    In survey after survey, New Hampshire ranks near the top for quality of life, place to raise a family, strong economy, school outcomes, per-capita income, low crime, low taxes, and general happiness. That should be enough of a draw for people – minority or otherwise – to join us. But the thought that our strengths might come from our small-town homogeneity wouldn’t occur to reporters at the Times. Even if it did, they would never write it. And even if they did stray so far off the Progressive reservation, editors like Sarah Jeong would never let it go to print.
    “All the News That Fits the Narrative.” If they were honest, they’d change the masthead.


  • Giant Sucking Sound

    Ken Gorrellby Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    “Correction: An earlier version of this article included a debunked statistic that Americans throw away 500M drinking straws a day, or 1.6 a day per person. Previous tweets with the article will be deleted, and an updated tweet will be issued.”
    That’s what happens when a mainstream media outlet, NBC News, runs with a story based on a “statistic” produced by “research” from a nine-year-old boy.
    Let that sink in. You probably saw one of the many articles that cited the 500-million-a-day figure, usually without any reference to the source of the data. A few newspapers claimed that the National Park Service had provided the number, but it turns out the NPS had been quoting…that same 9-year-old. A budding Einstein? No, just a brainwashed boy on a mission.
    After being caught using a fourth-grader as a subject matter expert, another member of the Democrat-Media Complex, the Washington Post, backed away from the dubious number – for a few days. Soon they were back at it, this time with the unhelpful qualifier “by some estimates.” What are they teaching in journalism school these days?
    That nice, big, round number was perfect for social media – easy for tweeting and sharing to promote the Green narrative that our addiction to plastics is killing lots of sea life. When being virtuous could be as painless and simple as banning something so ordinary and unnecessary, the bogus statistic was seized upon to support a movement to ban plastic straws.
    I just got back from a morning walk along the beach in Ocean City, NJ. I saw nary a straw – not a one, and I was looking. Maybe straws aren’t such a problem for fish after all. Would a major news organization use my direct observations – an adult who used to get paid to write research reports – to challenge a statistic produced by an elementary school kid? Of course not. It’s all about the Narrative.
    The Narrative isn’t simply that there is a lot of plastic in the sea. It isn’t simply that some of that plastic ends up killing fish. The Narrative is that Americans can do something about it that will make a difference, and that “something” needs to be codified into laws.
    Naturally, California (the “land of fruits and nuts”, in Archie Bunker’s immortal phrasing) is leading the way. Some municipalities in the state have already banned plastic straws, bravely tackling one of the least important challenges facing their citizens. A bill making its way through the legislature of the state with fully a quarter of the nation’s welfare cases and a third of the chronically homeless would criminalize the serving of straws unless requested. A violation would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, six months in county jail, or both.
    A writer at Inverse.com opined that “Regardless of the exact number of straws Americans actually use each day, we know it’s a lot. The moral case for limiting plastic straw use is founded on sound logic and backed up by ample evidence that they end up in the stomachs of all sorts of animals.” Never mind that there is no exact number. Never mind that the most-widely quoted number used to chum the emotional waters came from a kid who made three phone calls and calculated a simple average. The moral case is closed. Time to impose fines and jail time!
    The problem with this “moral case” is easily identified by anyone who thinks about it for a moment. Where does all that plastic in the world’s oceans come from? What percentage comes from America? And of all of America’s plastic waste that goes into the sea, how much is made up of plastic straws?
    The answers – based on real research, by real researchers, easily found on public-access web sites, are: 1) about 90% comes from Asia and Africa; 2) about 1% comes from America; and 3) of that 1%, a tiny fraction is plastic straws. So even if straws were banned across the country and every straw now in America was seized and disposed of in landfills, the effect on reducing plastics in the seas would be immeasurably small.
    The Left has shown that it will use and abuse children to spread false information, from emotional and misleading photos to “research” by a kid that doesn’t pass the smell test. It insults the senses of anyone with any sense. This election cycle, Republican candidates need to ask swing voters, “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?”

    Ken Gorrell can be reached at kengorrell@gmail.com


  • Right To Try

    Ken Gorrellby Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    “Thousands of terminally ill Americans will finally have hope, and the fighting chance…that they will be helped…,” Trump said while signing the “Right to Try” bill giving terminally ill patients access to experimental treatments not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (May, 2018)

    “Millions of young Americans will finally have hope, and the fighting chance…that they will be educated…,” Trump said while signing the “Education Right to Try” bill giving students in terminally-underperforming school districts access to education programs not yet approved by the Department of Education (DoED). (May, 2019)

    I can’t predict the future, but if I could write it, I would have President Trump signing an education “Right to Try” bill next year. Just as terminally-ill patients should have access to unconventional treatments that might improve their lives, so too should parents, school districts, and states be able to try unconventional education methods to improve lives.
    Every year millions of American students either don’t graduate from high school or graduate functionally-illiterate and innumerate. These young adults suffer, society suffers, and taxpayers suffer when public funds are spent without generating a reasonable return on investment.
    Yet each school year we continue down the same path, usually with the same excuse for not getting where we expected to be: If only we had spent more…
    The drama in Franklin over the past few weeks provides a perfect local example. Franklin has a tax cap that limits spending. It also has a failing school system. To allocate additional funding requested by the school district, the city council voted to override the tax cap. The mayor vetoed to measure. The council overrode the veto, but days later reconsidered the override, deciding to live within tax-cap spending limits.
    How bad is the education situation in Franklin? According to the state Department of Education website, district enrollment has been trending down for more than a decade. Barely half of the city’s 11th-graders were proficient in reading; only a quarter were proficient in mathematics; and Franklin students qualify for free/reduced lunch at twice the state average. Franklin’s per-pupil spending is $2,300 below state average, but at $13,003 it is above the average in 34 states.
    From media reports and social media postings, it seems that many Franklin residents firmly believe that more money – from breaking the tax-cap and increasing state aid – will fix what ails them. Of course, “more” has never fixed any school system anywhere.
    Franklin has been on a typical 19th-century-mill-town trajectory for a very long time. Unless Jeff Bezos builds an Amazon facility on Industrial Park Drive or gold is discovered at the confluence of the Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee rivers, that trajectory isn’t changing.
    What can change – what must change – is how the people of Franklin (and similar towns across the state) deal with their reality. The irony is that the same factory model that failed Franklin’s economy decades ago is being defended even as it fails its schools. Franklin is trying to save an education factory that produces damaged goods at high cost. No amount of subsidy can save it.
    This is why an education “Right to Try” approach is crucial. And the political planets have aligned perfectly to support change: At the state and federal levels, we may never again have leaders more open to new ideas, more willing to find new paths.
    Here are a few things Franklin could try to solve its education expenditure and return-on-investment dilemma:
    – Disband the SAU. Reduce overhead by empowering principals, the school board, or outside vendors to meet requirements the superintendent’s office fulfilled. Work with the state to adjust mandates as needed.
    – Focus more resources on elementary education, ensuring that all capable students are at grade-level in reading and math before starting middle school. This will save money in later years. Students entering middle school behind in reading ability fall behind in other subject areas, necessitating costly interventions.
    – Replace intermural sports with intramural teams that include all students.
    – Shift to a district-wide charter model. Charters cost much less and deliver more. We already have VLACS, a free online charter school that meets all requirements for middle and high school. VLACS could provide most Franklin students with all classes needed for graduation. – Encourage home schooling and other school choice options to reduce student population and the fixed costs associated with operating a school district. Offer unused facility space to start-up public charter or private schools.
    Turning Franklin into a district charter would provide financial and educational advantages. Salary and benefit costs could be cut dramatically by changing the faculty model to having a few on-site “master teachers” supported by classroom managers, with most instruction provided by online educators. It would also support truly individualized education plans, replacing grade level advancement by allowing students to proceed at their own pace in each class even when in the same classroom.
    Thinking outside the proverbial box is relatively easy. What’s hard is implementing ideas that chafe status quo minds. Curing what ails school districts like Franklin requires courage and the right to try something new.

    Ken can be reached at kengorrell@gmail.com

     

     


  • A Little Child Shall (Mis)lead Them

    Ken Gorrellby Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    To be fair, it’s not the children who are doing the misleading. It’s the adults who are using them as props. Children are being used as tools to game (and beat) our immigration laws and to advance a pro-illegal alien political position. It’s a disgusting spectacle, brought to you by Democrats and their media overlords.
    If that sounds harsh, stop reading now; it’s going to get rougher from here. What we’ve witnessed over the past few weeks, from the national border to the halls of power, has been the opening of a new front in the un-Civil War raging since the election of Donald Trump.
    Today it’s nearly impossible to have a civil conversation on any topic of importance. The Left has corrupted our language, worked hard to make some subjects radioactive, and made once-unthinkable comparisons the norm so that we end up either speaking in euphemisms or risk our friendships and livelihoods when speaking our minds. It’s the stuff of totalitarian states, which is the direction Democrat partisans have been pushing us for decades. They are a cancer in the body politic.
    When “illegal alien” morphed into “undocumented migrant,” the Left won a key victory. When enforcement of eminently-reasonable US laws governing immigration is compared to the Holocaust and the depravity of German Nazis, the Left wins. When threats or acts of violence succeed in cowing citizens from expressing non-Leftist-approved opinions, the Left wins. The common theme: The Left wins by denigrating our nation, encouraging lawlessness, and menacing law-abiding people who disagree with them. That’s their playbook, and God help us if we ever again give Democrats a majority.
    Boston Celtics-great Kevin McHale learned this lesson last week. McHale attended a Trump rally in Duluth – not as a speaker or even on stage – but some freakish fanatic found his face in the crowd and “outed” him on social media. Outrage and threats followed. His wife was harassed. People called for his dismissal as an NBA announcer. (At least no one has called for his removal from the NBA Hall of Fame – yet.) All because he attended an event featuring the President of the United States.
    For the Left, no behavior is out of bounds. A washed-up actor targets the First Family’s 12-year-old son with this gem: “We should rip Barron Trump from his mother’s arms and put him in a cage with pedophiles.” After 78 years on this planet, you’d think a man would know better. Well, a man would; I can’t identify the creature Peter Fonda has become, but for him there is a special place in Hell. Fonda vents mindless rage on an adolescent simply because he objects to his father’s “zero tolerance” policy protecting our borders.
    “Zero tolerance” = “100% enforcement” (and it’s another semantic victory by the Left to make “100% enforcement” appear to be what’s wrong here). For 8 years Obama used his “phone and pen” to run roughshod over his Constitutional duty to faithfully-execute the laws as passed by the legislature. I am grateful that we now have a president who understands his obligations. Which brings us back to the children. Simply put, the only people separating children from families are the ones using them as props to game the immigration system.
    One particularly egregious example: A Getty photographer’s viral photo of a crying child standing next to her mother as she was being arrested by federal agents. The mother had taken the 2-year-old on a perilous journey from Honduras and illegally crossed the Rio Grande. The Instagram caption began, “A Honduran asylum seeker, 2, and her mother…” Wait. What?
    A two-year-old is not an asylum seeker. Her mother isn’t either, since she purposely failed to follow rules we have established for asylum seekers. The rules are a high bar to cross; higher than the waters of the Rio Grande. So she took the path of least resistance, and for good reason: She was a previously-deported economic migrant, here to jump the line and steal a job.
    Despite what media initially reported, mother and daughter were never separated by federal agents. In fact, mother separated father from daughter in Honduras without permission; the father said he wasn’t even allowed a proper goodbye.
    By entering the US illegally, this Honduran woman committed a crime on US soil. What happens to US citizen parents who break the law? They are separated from their kids, sometimes permanently. Why should foreigners get a break?
    Our social services net frays and American families suffer, yet Democrats look beyond our borders to add to our problems. Prioritizing foreign law-breakers over our neighbors should disqualify any person running for office. While the Left uses social media and anti-social behavior to advance its political interests, the Right needs to be resolute and settle the issue at the ballot box.

    Ken Gorrell welcomes yoir comments at kengorrell@gmail.com


  • Mr. Negron Goes to Washington

    Ken Gorrellby Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    If the voters of the 2nd Congressional District are smart, we’ll send Steve Negron to Washington, D.C. next year.
    While any of the declared Republican challengers to Rep. Ann McLane Kuster would be preferable to the incumbent, I believe Mr. Negron is the best candidate for the office. Goodness knows, we deserve better than what we’ve got. Or rather, what we’ve done to ourselves.
    A Navy officer I met years ago had a sign on his stateroom door: You Deserve What You Tolerate. I think that’s largely true. But getting what you deserve can be painful. We’ve elected and re-elected an extreme liberal, attorney, and lobbyist to represent us in the Federal government, and she has done what extreme liberals do: Fought to drain away power and responsibility from our state and communities, in favor of the bureaucrats in Washington. The time for toleration is over.
    I don’t expect a Democrat to score well on the American Conservative Union’s rankings, but Rep. Kuster’s lifetime score is closer to former Speaker of House and California uber-liberal Nancy Pelosi’s than to her CD1 counterpart, outgoing Democrat Shea-Porter. In CD2, we have a California-liberal who would be a reliable vote for every hairbrained bill Pelosi would support if as a nation we are foolish enough to give control of the House to Democrats.
    Kuster voted to close Guantanamo and bring terrorists to US soil. She continues to support ObamaCare, opposing the bill to repeal major provisions over time. (For those of you who lost the insurance plan you liked, the doctor you preferred, and really expected $2,500 back from “bending the cost curve down,” Rep. Kuster thinks she knows your wants and needs better than you do.) She aligned with special interests against the best interests of NH’s students, opposing a measure to reduce federal mandates in education and return power to the states. And of course, being a Pelosian, she supported sanctuary cites over the rule of immigration law enforcement. Naturally, she also supports chain migration and the visa lottery, but opposes any measure to wrest control of our borders from lawless gangs and those whose first act on stepping on US soil is to violate our law.
    Perhaps part of Rep. Kuster’s success as a politician lies in her relative anonymity. In a St. Anslem’s College poll conducted in April, 4.7% of respondents had “No Opinion” of the three other Democrats in our Washington delegation. But nearly a quarter of those polled – 23% – had no opinion of Rep. Kuster. That’s an astonishingly high number for a multi-term incumbent.
    It would be in our best interests to send Rep. Kuster back to lobbying or lawyering or whatever else she’d like to do instead of putting the interests of the Democrat National Committee ahead of the interests of New Hampshire. We aren’t California and we shouldn’t have a “representative” who could easily be part of the CA delegation. The issue is to whom should we entrust the responsibility of representing New Hampshire values in swampy DC?
    Enter Steve Negron. I’ve heard him speak – along with some of the other Republican candidates vying for the honor of unseating the incumbent. I am impressed with his command of the issues, his easy manner, and his obvious honesty and good character. His stump speech and answers to questions from the crowd lacked the Washington polish – thank goodness. He clearly hasn’t memorized lines honed by focus-groups and political puppet masters.
    As befitting a former military officer and current business owner, he calls them as he sees them. And he sees them the way New Hampshire’s working families see them. Unlike the incumbent, he supports tax policies that allow workers to keep more of their earnings. He’s experienced the damage and drag on our economy from over-regulation and the DC-knows-best mentality. He understands the challenges of leadership, the difficulties of making payroll and predicting the economic future when making business decisions that affect other people’s lives.
    The “Vision & Priorities” section of his campaign website (negron4congress.com) provides a list of issues that could easily have come from any of us: Border Security; Veterans’ Care; Public Safety; Debt. He also includes “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” and “Restoring American Confidence,” both touchstone issues for those of us who believe we’ve strayed too far from our nation’s founding principles.
    Candidate Negron is also Rep. Negron. In representing Nashua Ward 5, he has shown himself to be a thoughtful conservative with a strong moral foundation. He is also very approachable, both in-person as he travels the length of CD-2, and in online forums. If you haven’t yet, I urge you to attend one of his campaign events, and then to vote to send Mr. Negron to Washington.

     


  • Appropriate This!

    Ken Gorrellby Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    An old Scottish proverb holds that open confession is good for the soul. To honor my Scottish ancestors, I have a confession to make: In middle school, I was a drug-pushing pimp.
    Well, I played a drug-pushing pimp on stage. In 1977, I played the role of Sportin’ Life in what was likely New Hampshire’s only all-White middle school production of Porgy and Bess. It might have been America’s only such staging of Gershwin’s operatic-musical that year. Or any year.
    So here is my real confession: At the tender age of 14, I was a cultural appropriator. Never mind that I played the villainous pimp (a character made famous by Sammy Davis, Jr.) who enticed drug-addled Bess to leave her lover, Porgy, and join him for the “high life in New York.” Ignore the fact that seventh- and eighth-graders were dramatizing for our parents, teachers, and community a saga that included drugs, rape, blasphemy, and murder. No, the real sin – though we wouldn’t recognize it as such for decades – was that we were appropriating a culture utterly foreign to us.
    The opera’s setting is a Black fishing village near Charleston, SC, in the early 1900s. The only White characters are the police investigating the murder. In our version, every character was White. Our show went on without protest, but forty years later a dramatization with a similar “defect” was a national controversy in Hungary. The enlightened keepers of culture insisted that productions of Porgy and Bess be true to the race of the characters as written. That’s as difficult to do in today’s Hungary as it was impossible to do in a small NH middle school in the ‘70s.
    The student thespians at Ithaca High School in NY weren’t so lucky. Their production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame was cancelled after students protested the awarding of the role of Esmerelda to a White student. Even though Victor Hugo’s novel describes the character as half Roma, half French, the musical version based on the novel reframed her as “an outcast racially and culturally.” Today, that means no Whites allowed.
    When did the charge of “cultural appropriation” become an arrow in the quiver of the ever-petulant, race-consumed Left? Like so many loony ideas, it seems to have come out of nowhere (a.k.a. liberal arts colleges).
    What anyone with more than an ounce of historical knowledge recognizes as the cultural synthesis that has been improving the human condition for millennia, lefty academics and the students they indoctrinate see as a “power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.”
    To the Left, everything is a power dynamic. Those who lack power are excused everything (which is why it’s okay for them to take advantage of social, governmental, and technological structures they didn’t and couldn’t create). But individuals racially connected to the dominant culture are condemned for everything. Even making sandwiches.
    At Oberlin College a few years ago, a student of Vietnamese descent forced the dining hall to stop serving its version of Banh Mi – a traditional Vietnamese sandwich. It seems that bad imitation is not a form of flattery. As told in The Atlantic earlier this month, the dining hall used pulled pork instead of grilled pork; ciabatta bread instead of crusty baguette; coleslaw instead of pickled veggies. And they left off the pâté.
    “It was ridiculous,” the student complained. “How could they just throw out something completely different and label it as another country’s traditional food?” The Atlantic journalist pointed out the obvious flaw in the student’s rant: How traditionally-Vietnamese could that sandwich be if it uses baguettes and pâté, foods associated with the French colonizers of the nation now known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam? I guess that’s where the power dynamic kicks in, except that the French were defeated in Indochina…
    From sandwiches to prom dresses, nothing is beyond the rage of the cultural appropriation police. A Utah high school student was slammed on social media a few weeks ago for wearing a cheongsam – a traditional Chinese dress – to her prom. One Chinese-American student critic posted “My culture is not your g*ddam prom dress.”
    But, funnily enough, actual Chinese citizens were overwhelmingly supportive. And the Chinese-American grievance-monger seems both well-assimilated into his appropriated Western culture and ignorant of the cultural history of that particular garment.
    Will this latest line of attack on personal freedoms by so-called social justice warriors (SJW) succeed? Only if we let it. Cultural freedom fighters need to appropriate Rule #5 from that master of the totalitarian Left, Saul Alinsky: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
    When plays, sandwiches, and prom dresses spark political outrage, ridicule is the correct response.


  • BSA, RIP

    Ken Gorrellby Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    We must depend upon the Boy Scout Movement to produce the MEN of the future.

    – Daniel Carter Beard

    It’s never easy to lose something close to our hearts. It’s especially hard when the loss was preventable and the result of pure malevolence.
    The Boy Scouts of America is dead. The cowed leadership of an organization founded by greater men has rebranded itself as Scouts BSA, a name that reeks of focus-grouping and social fashion. They dropped “Boys” because the group is now co-ed.
    The spirit of Lord Baden-Powell, founder of Scouting in Britain, and Daniel Carter Beard, founder of the Sons of Daniel Boone, which later merged with the Boy Scouts in America, has been trashed by the radical feminist movement corroding its way through society. Feminists aren’t finished, but the organization long dedicated to helping boys become good men is. Whatever Scouts BSA does, it cannot live up to the high calling of its founders.
    I’ve written about my involvement with Boy Scouts as an adult volunteer, my high regard for the organization’s purpose, and the quality of Troop leaders with whom I served. These accomplished men dedicated much time and effort to provide boys with adventure and character-building opportunities they would not otherwise have, in an all-male setting that was ideal for the purpose.
    A few of our Troop’s boys lacked male role-models outside of Scouting, though as a group we beat the national averages. In America’s homes, a quarter of children live in female-headed households. Nearly four-in-ten do not live with their biological fathers. In school, three-quarters of teachers are women. At the places where kids spend most of their waking hours, many boys never receive the constructive and undivided attention from the types of men they should aspire to become. Boy Scouts filled a crucial gap.
    Feminists attack beneficial all-male institutions (and even the idea of maleness – see the October 2016 Cover”girl,” James Charles), even as more boys are growing into troubled men. Compared to girls, boys perform poorly in school. More girls than boys go to college and complete advanced degrees. Young men are more likely to be victims of homicide and drug overdose. They have higher rates of suicide and incarceration. It should surprise no one that growing up without positive male role-models in female-dominated homes and schools has negative consequences for boys.
    In a 2014 article, Atlantic Monthly quoted a teacher positing that “[G]irls work best when sitting in a circle facing each other and find it more comfortable to learn in a group setting. Instead, boys often excel in a traditional class structure with desks lined in rows, which could support their more competitive energies and attention getting behaviors.”
    The article noted that in school, girls “are more apt to plan ahead, set academic goals, and put effort into achieving those goals. They also are more likely than boys to feel intrinsically satisfied with the whole enterprise of organizing their work, and more invested in impressing themselves and their teachers with their efforts.” By statistics and observation, boys and girls do better in different settings and respond to authority differently.
    Our classrooms are aligned more to the needs of girls than boys. And “boys being boys” isn’t tolerated. In Maryland, a judge upheld the suspension of an elementary school boy who chewed a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun and “disrupted” his class. In North Carolina, a middle school student was suspended for doodling a sword-wielding Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Our feminized school system is alienating boys at alarming rates, and when many of these boys go home, there’s no one there with a shared perspective and experience.
    What’s wrong with having an organization dedicated to boys’ unique needs and learning styles? What’s wrong with helping to fill the blank spaces that exist in too many boys’ lives? There are plenty of co-ed activity-focused organizations – including Venturing and Sea Scout programs operated by the former Boy Scouts of America. Girls still have Girl Scouts, which will probably remain dedicated to girls only. Why destroy the all-male focus of Boy Scouts?
    Scouts BSA gave many reasons for the change, but none focused on meeting the unique needs of boys. The simple fact is that modern feminism is a powerful force that has infiltrated all parts of society. It won’t tolerate the literal or figurative “old boys network” in any manifestation, and it has no sense of humor or humility. It also won’t engage in the hard work of building up its own organizations; it’s easier and more emotionally-rewarding for them to destroy the creations of others.
    The war on boys continues. Boy Scouts of America is simply the latest casualty. But it won’t be the last.


  • Making Schoolhouse Rock

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    Bob Dorough died last week, but his music lives on. It lives on not just in his jazz recordings, but also in the minds of millions of kids who grew up watching “Schoolhouse Rock,” the animated series of educational cartoon shorts that first hit the air on Saturday mornings back in ’73.
    Dorough’s ditties engaged kids with lessons in language (“Conjunction Junction”), math (“Three is a Magic Number”), and civics (“I’m Just a Bill”). They were clever, educational, and memorable. It’s been more than 40 years, but just writing those titles put the tunes in my head and a smile on my face.
    Few of us have his jazz chops (Dorough co-wrote “Comin’ Home Baby”, a Top 40 hit for Mel Tormé), but many of us can put smiles on the faces of students across the Granite State. Instead of penning catchy songs, we can pen contributions to a scholarship organization that empowers lower-income New Hampshire families to choose the right educational path for their children.
    For New Hampshire businesses, funding scholarships through the state’s Education Tax Credit (ETC) program spreads smiles all around. Their donations provide low- and middle-income children the education opportunities wealthier families take for granted, and businesses receive an 85% tax credit from the state against business profits tax (BPT) and/or business enterprise tax (BET). Companies can, of course, also take the federal tax deduction for their entire charitable contribution. Imagine writing a check that goes to a student instead of the state.
    Who are the current recipients helped by generous business donors? They are families who could not otherwise afford educational alternatives but knew the right alternative existed. They are kids who didn’t fit the mold, and whose frustrations interfered with their learning. Of the students awarded scholarships this school year, 77% are eligible for free and reduced lunch and 11% have special needs. All have parents who made the necessary sacrifices to contribute at least 25% towards their tuition.
    What do these scholarships mean for local kids? Children’s Scholarship Fund New Hampshire (CSF-NH), the largest scholarship program in the state, works with thousands of parents searching for education options. They see their children struggling in their assigned public schools and want to provide them with a different educational environment. Whether the challenge is academic, social, or behavioral, these parents are striving to help their children reach their full potential but lack the financial resources to do it alone. These scholarships make the difference.
    Since I can’t put it to music, I’ll let parents tell their stories:
    “Changing schools has been a lifesaver for my child. She is noticeably different and has improved both socially and academically. This school has been a miracle for our family.”
    “It broke my heart when my wonderful, smart daughter started dreading school in only the fourth grade because she was being bullied. By sixth grade, I knew I had to do something…As a low-income family, our choices are limited. CSF’s scholarships are so important! They allow families like mine the freedom to help their children excel in safe and nurturing environments.”
    “This program has been a miracle for us.”
    As a member of the CSF-NH Advisory Board, I’ve attended donor-parent events and heard directly from parents, students, and business leaders. Some of the family stories are heartbreaking, but all are life-affirming. In a world with too much unwelcome news, these parents and students have refreshing news to tell. What had seemed like a dead-end to them became a door opening to a world of possibilities.
    “Making a difference” is an overworked phrase, but it accurately describes what businesses across the state are doing right now for NH families. This school year, CSF-NH has awarded more than half-a-million dollars in tuition scholarships to help 260 New Hampshire families provide their kids with the educational option that fits each one – whether that’s public, private, virtual, homeschool, or blended learning. While doing that, businesses also gain a measure of control over their tax liability. The ETC turns that liability into the ability to change how a child sees the future.
    But the race is on. There are more applications each year as the program gains popularity through word-of-mouth and the accomplishments of the children awarded these scholarships. Businesses have until June to apply for the tax credit that changes lives. Please consider assisting underprivileged children for the 2018-2019 school year with your 2018 NH Education Tax Credit contribution.. NH Education Tax Credit Applications are submitted to the NH Department of Revenue. The process is surprisingly easy and described step-by-step at www.csfnewhampshire.org. It’s not too late to help more New Hampshire children succeed!


  • Esse Quam Videri

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    As state mottos go, “Live Free or Die” is unrivaled. We have the best state motto in the nation. But North Carolina’s Latin motto, Esse Quam Videri – translated as “To Be, Rather Than to Seem” – makes my list of the Top Five.
    The idea of “being” rather than “seeming” struck me as I endured that New Hampshire rite of spring, the annual school district meeting. Approving a budget of nearly $27 million dollars for a district with fewer than 1500 students (do the math – that’s more than $18,000 per student) to fund a system that is not, to put it charitably, a beacon of learning, was hard enough to swallow. What made this year extra special was having to debate (again) that ultimate feel-good-over-do-good issue, full-day kindergarten.
    Brought to the floor as a petitioned warrant article, the nearly $500,000 measure failed handily. The debate didn’t live up to the moral calling of either New Hampshire’s or North Carolina’s state motto. A relative handful of voters tried to push a costly program onto all taxpayers that might benefit a few parents but would not solve any of our district’s education challenges. Had it passed, full-day kindergarten (FDK) would have been an example of tyranny of the minority and the triumph of seeming over being. (Only 235 voters participated in the meeting.)
    The floor debate split along familiar lines. Those opposed focused on the fact that FDK programs have no documented success at improving education outcomes. What little measurable academic improvement was found for certain students had disappeared by second grade. This proposal was the wrong answer to the wrong question; we needed to be asking how we could best address our district’s mediocre academic performance, not how could we be like other districts.
    Yet proponents used that disreputable “but everyone else has it” argument (Did that ever work for you when you were a kid?), along with the equally odoriferous “for the children” as fallback. No amount of data was going to sway them from wanting to do what seemed or felt right, rather than figuring out what the right thing might be.
    Beyond the motto, the Tar Heel state has something to teach us Granite Staters about education. North Carolina has implemented an interesting program aimed at “being” – accomplishing the objective – rather than seeming to do so.
    Read to Achieve (RtA) was passed by the NC legislature in 2012. The program focuses on getting third-grade students to grade-level proficiency in reading before moving up to fourth grade. The Vision Statement is clear, simple, and measurable: All children will be proficient readers by the end of third grade.
    That metric is important because “Learning to read by the end of third grade is the gateway to lifelong success. When students are not able to read by the end of third grade, their risk of falling behind grows exponentially. In fact, research shows that nine out of ten high school dropouts were struggling readers in third grade. Students reading below grade level are almost six times more likely than proficient readers to not finish high school on time.” The clarity and logic of that statement stands in stark contrast to the emotional arguments used to try foisting FDK on a district struggling academically and financially.
    The results of RtA are promising. In the first 4 years, fourth graders improved half a grade level on the reading section of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Students scoring below basic in reading decreased 5 percentage points. Students scoring at or above proficiency increased 4 points.
    In an education policy report card by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), NC received a C+ grade; NH earned a C-. WalletHub’s comparison of state school systems ranked NC 13th; NH was 3rd. North Carolina has more large, urban districts and students from racial minorities than we have; those factors tend to lower academic performance. That said, NC spends half of what we spend per pupil yet achieves comparable NEAP test scores. What could we learn from them?
    The achievement of “being” should trump the virtue-signaling of “seeming,” but I won’t hold my breath. Despite all the reasons to oppose FDK (neither the Winnisquam School Board nor Budget Committee supported the warrant article), the chairman stated that the Board recognized the value of the program and were working on ways to implement it. I challenge him to craft a Vision Statement for FDK as clear as the Read to Achieve declaration – and to promise similar, measurable results.
    In Winnisquam as in all school districts across the state, we deserve what we tolerate. But for education, when we prefer seeming to do the right thing over being right, it’s the next generation that suffers from our folly.


  • Context and Confidence

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    Three years ago this week I penned “School-to-Prison Pipeline?,” for the March 5th, 2015 edition of the Weirs Times. It could have been written yesterday.
    I wrote that “Our education system should be refocused on meeting the educational needs of those children capable of functioning in a classroom. For many reasons, some children simply aren’t capable, and some make up what we call the criminal element.” I then asked if you’d want your child seated next to such a child.
    When those words were printed, the future Parkland, FL, high school mass-murderer had already been placed at Cross Creek, a special school for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. A few months later, a school report would say that this young man was “distracted by inappropriate conversations by classmates” about “guns, people being killed, or the armed forces.” Less than a year later, he was reintegrated into regular classes at Stoneman Douglas High.
    For that 2015 essay, I pulled this quote from neaToday, the mouthpiece for the nation’s largest teachers’ union:
    ”Fueled by zero tolerance policies and the presence of police officers in schools, and made worse by school funding cuts that overburden counselors and high-stakes tests that stress teachers, these excessive [discipline] practices have resulted in the suspensions, expulsions, and arrests of tens of millions of public school students, especially students of color and those with disabilities or who identify as LGBT.”
    Talk about a swing and a miss. At the time, I described the article as “displaying the childlike quality of being simultaneously simplistic, self-aggrandizing, and just plain wrong.” Add to that list: Deadly.
    The NEA complained that “…a quarter-million [students] were ‘referred’ to police officers for misdemeanor tickets, very often for offenses that once would have elicited a stern talking-to.”
    We now know that officials at Stoneman Douglas shielded students’ criminal behaviors – including drug use and assaults – from the justice system, part of a federally-funded policy to bribe schools across the country into ignoring real criminality and focusing only on reportable crime metrics. The idea of reducing crime by not reporting it is insane.
    The reality is that the prison pipeline predominately starts with bad families and dangerous communities. Does it surprise anyone that of the young men who turned into mass murderers since 2005, only one was raised by his biological father? (And that one – the Virginia Tech killer – was known to have been mentally unstable since childhood.)
    Those who have long fought to end or substantially restrict of our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms – the right that “shall not be infringed” – ignore that reality. They use every mass shooting to advance their cause, focusing on the gun rather than the person wielding it.
    On the other side, the NRA may come across as dogmatic. But it stands fast against “common sense gun reforms,” because it knows full well that the American Left uses “common sense” only euphemistically; the phrase is simply a means to hide its true goal. NRA members like me know that the common denominator of violent crimes is not a particular weapon; it’s a person with criminal intent.
    Nothing substantive will come from this most recent horrible experience. Nothing will come from the next. Solutions are beyond our grasp because one side simply can’t trust the other. I revere the wisdom of the Bill of Rights. I believe our Constitution is a living document only in the sense that there’s a well-defined process to amend it when necessary. I will never trust those who seek to circumvent that process and undermine those rights, especially when using dead or traumatized teenagers to advance a political agenda.
    Trust requires context and confidence. As a sociopolitical movement, the American Left is undeserving of trust because, when viewed in context, its actions align not to the rule of law under our Constitution, but to a global political movement seeking to consolidate power within large bureaucracies. How can one confidently negotiate with such people when their North Star lies outside the Constitutional firmament?
    These are the same people, after all, who also lead, encourage, and defend campus protests against the First Amendment’s free speech protections, using “hate speech” as their hook. When pressed, “hate speech” quickly devolves into “anything we don’t like or makes us feel bad.” That such a belief has become normalized at institutions dedicated to knowledge and inquiry is irony defined.
    We will not solve cultural problems like mass shootings so long as the Right must work valiantly to shore up the Constitutional protections the Left is working feverishly to erode.


  • The Seed of Evil

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    Destroy the seed of evil, or it will grow up to your ruin.  ― Aesop

    Evil has been with mankind since the beginning. Yet we still seem surprised when it moves out of the shadows and makes its presence known, as it did in Parkland, Florida, last week.
    Before the shock wore off – or even fully set in – of seventeen dead at a school, the usual lines were drawn and invectives hurled. In the social media and “regular” media firestorm, many observers applied the label “evil” to their political opponents and to an inanimate object rather than the perpetrator. So Parkland joins Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Columbine on the list of atrocities from which we will learn nothing.
    The sixth century BC call-to-action credited to Aesop is helpful only for those who can recognize the “seed of evil” when they see it. Many twenty-first century Americans seem incapable of accepting evil as a concept, much less recognizing it for what it is, even when it stares at them in digital brilliance just hours after committing a horrible act. Too many of us can look into evil’s eyes and see only the tool used, not the broken man who used it.
    Except, of course, when the tool is fertilizer, or an airliner, or a rented truck. Then, the tool is less important than the motivation. Except when the motivation is jihad, in which case the search for “evil” turns perversely to the perceived wrongdoing of the victims’ culture or society. Solzhenitsyn recognized that “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” Evil is a human trait only; no mere object is inherently evil.
    T.S. Eliot wrote, “Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.” I’m not sure that was true even when he wrote it. Given what has transpired or been fully revealed since his death in 1965 – the full scope of Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean communist atrocities, the killing fields of Cambodia, African genocides – one wonders if even he would stand by his words today. Much mischief has been done by people with good intentions, but evil is an altogether different quality; it is done by people with evil intent.
    The concepts of evil and good are religious at heart. The more we’ve marginalized religion in modern society, the less able we are to deal with evil. Mass killings, especially at schools, grab headlines and our attention, and deservedly so. The death of young innocents wounds us all, which is why I can’t imagine a more emotionally-draining job than pediatric oncologist. But the oncologist fights a mindless disease; when we fight against evil, we fight against the actions of a heart and mind. Divorcing that fight from religion and morality disarms us.
    Other than the shock of mass death, we seem immune to the murder and mayhem that have become principal features of American society. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that while guns have been part of America since the Founding – and for a time even fully-automatic weapons were largely unregulated – it is our society that has changed. We have come to accept a level of evil that cannot long be maintained if we want to pass on a civic order to today’s children.
    In 2016, according to FBI statistics, 47 Americans died violently every day, on average. That’s 17,250 dead divided by 366 days in that leap year. Many of those people were young, and most had families and friends, hopes and dreams, and started out their day assuming they’d go to sleep that night. Except for local coverage, few of those deaths made headlines, though as a group they represent more than two-and-a-half Parkland massacres – every day of the year.
    As long as we debate tools and laws – as if just one more law on the books restricting the freedoms of law-abiding citizens will alter the calculus of evil people – we will have to endure more Parklands, more Columbines. Eventually they will merge with the background noise along with those 47 daily murder victims. Politicians do not have the answers. Foreign cultures do not provide meaningful guidance, because the cultural, demographic, and geographic variables are too significant.
    The answer to the question, “How do we reduce gun violence?” is as simple to state as it is hard to implement: We must raise moral citizens and enforce moral laws. That this answer is considered bizarre or unacceptable to about half our population and most of our media elites shows us just how far we’ve slipped, and how far we have to go.


  • To-Do, or Not-To-Do

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    The new year brought new state laws across the land, new experiments in the “laboratories of democracy.” That phrase, coined by Progressive jurist Louis Brandeis, sounds like a strength of our federal system: Fifty states, implementing laws and regulations that fit each one’s unique circumstances, within the framework of our national Constitution.
    It would be a strength, if not for the fact that some people – like Brandeis himself – see these experiments as merely a first step. Instead of letting states innovate, their ultimate goal is to impose some experiments on the rest of us, using one state’s “success” as justification. The worst and most recent example of this was ObamaCare.
    Only one state had experimented with a program similar to the ObamaCare blueprint: Massachusetts. President Obama’s touted his now-discredited law as a national extension of Republican Governor Romney’s state health insurance experiment. When he ran against Obama’s reelection, Romney was in the awkward position of advocating the repeal of a federal law that had been based on his own signature achievement as governor.
    RomneyCare wasn’t successful, yet the president and congressional Democrats covered their ObamaCare lies in part by invoking Massachusetts as democracy’s laboratory.
    A valid experiment must be replicable under similar conditions. But our states are not similar enough to justify the federalization of one state’s attempt at policy innovation.
    Geography, demographics, and history all play parts in making our states unique. Even in small and relatively homogeneous New England, each state has distinctive characteristics. I like to think that such as Bernie Sanders could never be elected to high office in New Hampshire. We have a very different tax structure than Taxachussetts. Connecticut seems intent on following in the footsteps of near-bankrupt Illinois, rather than applying the lessons of small-government in the Granite State.
    NH ranked #1 for economic freedom in a 2017 Fraser Institute report, followed by Florida, Texas, and South Dakota. Four very different states, but on Fraser’s measures of government spending, taxes, and labor market freedom, we are similar. At the other end of the spectrum, the least-free state was New York, at the bottom with California, New Mexico, and West Virginia. Again, states that otherwise have little in common share that ignoble distinction. Continue reading  Post ID 3332


  • Ten Years After

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    I’d love to change the world
    But I don’t know what to do
    So I’ll leave it up to you
    “I’d Love to Change the World”
    —Ten Years After (1971)

    British blues-rock group Ten Years After is one of my favorite Woodstock-era bands. They probably didn’t sing it this way, but when I hear “I’d Love to Change the World” on classic rock stations, I picture them with wistful, ironic smiles.
    The refrain reflects the disconnect so many young people felt at the time; wanting change, but not knowing how to accomplish it.

    Tax the rich, feed the poor
    Till there are no rich no more

    Acknowledging that we’ll run out of rich people before we run out of poor, hungry folks means your solution it has a major shortcoming.
    Looking to others to solve problems while proposing flawed solutions is part of the human condition, a bit of childhood we can’t shake as adults. And nowhere is this on better display than when we talk about improving public education.
    In my last essay I reached back twenty years to a 1997 scholarly paper on disengaged students to show that problems identified two decades ago were still hounding public education today.
    This week I’m reaching back just ten years, to one of my own essays. “Math Wars” struck a chord with mathematics “traditionalists” who opposed new mathematics curricula. It was posted on a few math-related online forums. It was even quoted in a 2008 paper by Prof. George Cunningham, published by the Pope Center for Higher Education Quality.
    I share this not because I’m entirely too pleased with myself, but because it shows that one doesn’t have to be a mathematician or teacher to understand a basic truth about teaching math. Prof. Cunningham pulled this quote from my essay:
    If by “meaningful computational algorithms,” we mean simple, accurate and repeatable – things like the traditional addition algorithm, or long division, then the average student will never develop such an algorithm and should not have to try. Universal mathematical algorithms were developed ages ago by Archimedes, Euclid, Descartes and Pascal. There are not many budding Pascals in our school districts, but there are plenty of children capable of learning from the methods discovered by the great mathematicians in history.
    Math traditionalists – mainly parent groups and mathematicians – believed in teaching those traditional algorithms. Getting the right answer using clear, concrete standards based on actually solving math problems was key.
    Reformists – mainly the education establishment – eschewed the memorizing of such core knowledge, preferring student “self-discovery.” For them the journey was key.
    I’m not making this up. Their own words: “The authors of Everyday Mathematics [a now-discredited reformist curriculum] do not believe it is worth students’ time and effort to fully develop highly efficient paper-and-pencil algorithms for all whole number, fraction, and decimal division problems.”
    How did that work out? Cunningham noted that “In the past, most students learned all of the traditional algorithms in fourth and fifth grades without great difficulty, as do students in other countries.” College students “without the ability to multiply or divide multi-digit numbers without the use of a calculator will quickly find themselves enrolled in remedial math, where they will be taught what they should have learned in fourth grade.” Which is, of course, exactly where many college students find themselves today. Mastering higher mathematics requires a solid foundation. Only an “expert” could fail to understand that.
    Prof. Cunningham was exploring whether the University of North Carolina’s education schools were helping or hindering potential teachers. Answer: UNC’s education schools, “like most throughout the United States, are very much in the thrall of the progressive educational culture” and “newly trained and certified teachers are not likely to be ready to help their students make the best progress they can.
    Leaving K-12 education up to “the experts” has been a disaster, and not just for math. Millions of young minds have been damaged in what can only be described as wide-scale progressive social experiments on live and unwitting subjects using unproven methods. (Yes, Common Core, I’m talking about you.)
    Sometimes the world doesn’t need to be changed. Sometimes we just need to rely on timeless truths, like mathematical algorithms. Since our public education system seems loathe to accept that, we need to apply the only leverage we have: Choice.
    Choice brings competition. Competition will lessen the impact of the “experts” who have been designing and imposing these damaging, universal social experiments, and whose livelihoods are enhanced when pedagogy shifts like women’s fashion. Competition brings control. It’s time to take control of public education.


  • Everything Old Is New Again

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    Last week, advocates for education who put children ahead of institutions were given a reason to smile: SB 193, establishing education freedom savings accounts, passed a critical vote in the House. If all goes well, new doors will open for parents seeking the right educational opportunities for their children.
    When it becomes law, individual student accounts can be created using ninety-five percent of the state’s per-pupil adequate education grant designated for that specific child. The details are available on-line. Basically, education savings accounts (ESAs) will empower parents of modest means to take advantage of a wider variety of schooling options if they believe their local public school is not a good fit. Who could be against that?
    The usual suspects are against it: The state’s elected Democrats; the public-sector unions NEA and AFT; the ACLU; and organizations that want school choice to extend only to those parents rich enough to be able to opt-out of the public system. I think of these people as modern-day Aztecs: Like priests of that Mesoamerican civilization, they have a penchant for human sacrifice. Opponents of ESAs are willing to sacrifice other people’s children on the altar of a public-school system they deify.
    They are also hypocrites. I haven’t read anything from ESA opponents denouncing rich parents who fail to support their local public schools when they send their kids elsewhere (depriving their districts of that state adequacy grant). The same people who never miss an opportunity to denounce “tax cuts for the rich” refuse to denounce “education choice for the rich,” and oppose efforts to expand opportunity to all.
    Why might more parents want that opportunity? Perhaps it has to do with public school’s track record. I read an article recently decrying “Disengaged Students and the Decline of Academic Standards.” The author, Paul Trout, an associate professor of English, began by stating that “It is bad enough that many students who enter college are underprepared, underskilled and generally dumbed down. What is worse is that more and more of them are entering college – according to UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute – ‘increasingly disengaged from the academic experience.’”
    Students are spending less time studying, doing homework, and engaging in academic pursuits. Record numbers say they are frequently bored in class. Children are “sitting for hours in mental states that approach suspended animation,” learning to “get by with the least possible effort.”
    The author places some blame for this on the “success model,” where “every student – regardless of talent, inclination, and attitude – must succeed.” Academic rigor is “jettisoned to preserve self-esteem.” And now, lowered standards, expectations, and preparation in K-12 is poisoning higher education. In a vicious circle, colleges lower their standards to meet the (in)abilities of “college ready” high school students, while also training and certifying the “earnest pedagogues who imposed the stultifying ‘success’ model on primary and secondary schools in the first place.”
    Trout believes that the number of disengaged students “has reached some sort of critical mass at the primary, secondary, and now college levels.” He provides some possible remedial actions and….oh, did I mention that the article was written in 1997?
    The problems Trout highlighted two decades ago are still with us today. Solutions have been proposed, tried, and failed – repeatedly – as that critical mass has grown. Yet the deifiers of public education refuse to question their dogma. Their faith in one system is unshaken, despite what the data show. They can look at drop-out rates, test scores proving large numbers of graduates aren’t proficient in core subjects, and higher public education spending per capita buying lower test scores than our economic competitors, while condemning as heretics those who seek a different path. For decades they’ve been burying their record of failure under a mound of edu-speak and arrogance.
    This is what their failure looks like: In the Smarter Balanced tests, students are assessed as either being on-track to demonstrating the knowledge and skills necessary for college and career readiness (whatever that means, given decades of dumbed-down of standards), or not on-track. Last year, for all NH schools and all tested grades, more than 4 in 10 students were not on-track in reading. More than 5 in 10 were not on-track in math. More than 6 in 10 were not on-track in science.
    There are real children attached to each of those statistics. Advocates for ESAs see them as individuals, worthy of the chance to go where they can succeed. Opponents treat them as just so much grist for the mill.
    Education freedom savings accounts are part of a badly-needed education Reformation.


  • Tribal Tribulations

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    E pluribus unum. It’s one of the few Latin phrases kids learn in school – or used to. Given the sorry state of civics education, perhaps the motto of the Great Seal of the United States has been left on the curriculum cutting room floor.
    The American ideal of a single people forged out of many – the melting pot – has fallen out of favor. In its place we have a strange mélange of micro-tribalism and identity-politics, pitting small groups against each other and the best interests of the nation. Soon we may need to update the Great Seal’s motto to E pluribus chao: Out of many, chaos.
    The irony of this regression into ever-smaller and more bizarre tribes is that we have never been more “melty.” Race had been the big dividing line, not just for blacks but Asians as well. Even within the “white” label there was a pecking order, with Irish, Italians, Poles, and Jews struggling at times at the bottom of the pile. The lines have blurred in 21st century America.
    Mixed-race marriages no longer merit notice in most of America. Christian churches ordain and marry homosexuals. More women than men earn advanced degrees. Movement between income quintiles is much more fluid than the “income inequality” protestors acknowledge. Race, sex, and hereditary wealth aren’t the gatekeepers they used to be.
    It’s hard to tell from the twelve-year-old black & white photo that accompanies these essays, but I am a ruddy-complected red-head; by appearance my ancestry is clearly “UK mongrel”. A recent DNA test confirmed that, but with a twist.
    Seventy-five percent of my DNA is from the UK, which Ancestry.com defines as not just England, Wales, and Scotland, but also Normandy and a bit of the Low Countries. The test picked up my St. Lawrence River French settler connection. My great-grandfather’s marriage to a French-Canadian Catholic girl got him kicked out of our Anglo-Protestant family, a banishment that lasted two generations. Times have changed.
    The only other high-confidence match – meaning there definitely is a DNA connection – was Senegal. Yes, West Africa. It was only 4%, but it’s there. Senegal was a big slave-trading area for centuries. It seems one of my distant relatives did more than sample the native cuisine.
    Based on the science of DNA, I’m more “African” than Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is “Native American.” Unlike Fauxcahontas, I won’t try to capitalize on a genetic connection (real, in my case) to get preferential treatment at Harvard.
    The senator’s former employer is being investigated by the Department of Justice for its race-based quota system that limits its Asian student population to about half of what it would be under a policy based on academic performance. Maybe Harvard should follow its Ivy League compatriot Brown University and adopt a process that allows applicants to “self-identify” as a “person of color.”
    Does that sound crazy? It’s the direction we’re heading, pushed along by Progressives who believe in the daffy notion of “social constructs.” Liberals claim the mantel of science, yet want us to believe that we can create our own reality just by wishing it so. Non-believers can either acquiesce or be forced out of the public square – violently, as we’ve seen on college campuses across the nation.
    DNA – our genetic code – is being cast aside in this rush to create personal realities. The problem with this, besides the obvious, is that newly-minted subgroups are now jockeying for position in the grievance hierarchy.
    Rachel Dolezal, the Caucasian woman forced to resign from her leadership position in the NAACP when she was outed as Black-in-her-mind-only, is still playing dress-up and staging a comeback. Blacks rightly reject the idea of race as a matter of “self-identification” that ignores their history and would open the racial preference system to, well, people like me.
    An administrator at a state university claims that campus LGBTQ centers are bastions of “homonormative whiteness.” The multi-colored rainbow flag is too “White,” it seems. The transgender movement works to normalize a psychiatric condition that favors “feelings” over the reality of XX and XY, leading to head-scratching headlines like this: “High School Boy Wins All-State Honors in Girls Track and Field.”
    When reality is considered a social construct, all bets are off. People will construct things that make sense only in their minds. Each “reality” will demand pride of place in the social hierarchy and spoils system. Progressives will insist that we accept these flights of fancy or risk the worst label modern society can apply: Judgmental.
    So, hang on. The social-construct roller derby is going to be bloody fun to watch.

    Ken’s email is kengorrell@gmail.com