• Category Archives Op/Ed by Gorrell
  • I Like The Blue One

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    Last week, we got our first glimpse of the eight border wall prototypes vying to replace the inadequate – or non-existent – barriers along our nearly 2,000 mile national demarcation with Mexico. I like the blue one.
    We call it a border, but it is much more than that. It is a boundary containing our national identity; our political, economic, and social order. Without it, we are not a nation-state, and our political rights – from the Bill of Rights to present laws – are meaningless. That millions of Americans fail to understand this is testament that we have done a poor job teaching civics in our public school classrooms.
    The promise of a physical barrier along our southern border was a big part of what put Donald Trump in the White House. Seeing those prototypes put a smile on my face. The concrete and steel sections lack grace, but what they represent is beautiful national resolve.
    Six wall sections were the color of desert sand, one was gray metal, but one was sand-color at the base with dark blue metal stretching toward the sky. I don’t know which will prove the most impervious to illegals trying to steal that which doesn’t belong to them, but the blue one struck me as most esthetically-pleasing.
    Function must trump esthetics for our border barrier, but I have one suggestion for the final design: Make the wall educational. Use the wall as a classroom white board, a place where ideas can be written and lessons taught. In those areas where Mexicans and Central Americans are most likely to try to break into our country, let’s adorn the wall with engravings of the words that make the United States a great nation, that separate us from all others.
    What could be more natural on a wall marking a national boundary than the ideas that mark us as unique? For some, “nationalism” is a dirty word. But the desire to form a distinct state, a “more perfect union,” is what created our nation in the first place. Nationalism is embodied in our Constitution’s preamble: “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
    The words – in English and Spanish, of course – that should be permanently engraved on the south-side of the wall include the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. I’d add the Gettysburg Address and a couple of other historic presidential speeches. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, Reagan’s “Tear Down this Wall” speech from Berlin should be up there. After all, this is not a wall holding a people prisoner to a tyrannical state; this is a wall protecting a free people from those who would take from us that which is not theirs.
    Pictures worth thousands of words might cause a few potential illegal aliens to pause in their tracks. Despite Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s claim that Mexico is “a proudly mestizo, multi-cultural and diverse nation” and a country that “firmly believe(s) that this mestizo fusion is the future and destiny of human kind,” a collage of the most recent 10 Mexican presidents and first ladies shows a very Spanish-looking, and in some cases Anglo-looking, group. Mexico is a racially and ethnically-stratified county where indigenes hold little power; Pena Nieto throws stones from his perch in a glass house.
    Pena Nieto is leader of country with a national average IQ 10 points below ours. Illegal immigrants from Central America passing through Mexico come from countries with average IQs 10 points lower still. This is one reason why the debate about who will pay for the “big, beautiful wall” misses the point. Even if President Trump can’t find a way to tax remittances from Mexicans living in the US – money earned here but spent in Mexico – the wall will pay for itself by stopping even a small percentage of illegals from settling in our country.
    The Center for Immigration Studies made a compelling case in a paper earlier this year that due to lower earning ability and higher use of social services, “illegal border-crossers create an average fiscal burden of approximately $74,722 during their lifetimes.” If a wall stopped a mere “9 to 12 percent of those expected to successfully cross in the next decade” the social and economic savings would be $12 to $15 billion – enough to cover the cost of the wall.
    A nation has a sovereign right and obligation to its citizens to protect its interests and control its territory. The United States has been failing at this basic duty for decades, at substantial social and economic cost. Mr. Trump, build up this wall!

    Ken can be reached at kengorrell@gmail.com


  • The Iron Lady

    Margaret Thatcher, 1925-2013

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    Had she lived, Margaret Thatcher would have celebrated her 92nd birthday last week. I wonder how many in the U.K. would prefer the Iron Lady’s ghost to their current prime minister, the hapless Theresa May. When it comes to female prime ministers, the Brits are batting .500.
    The 1980’s triad of Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II changed the course of history in ways I’m afraid most Millennials fail to appreciate. America would be a very different place today if, instead of pointless inquiries into “Russian meddling” in an election, we were still facing the very real threats from the Soviet Union. Thanks in large part to Mrs. Thatcher, in 1991 the Evil Empire crumbled in the face of Western resolve, ending the Cold War in a win for the West.
    In my favorite photo of Mrs. Thatcher (which I have in a small frame on my deck), she and President Reagan are walking purposefully at Camp David, deep in discussion. She’s wearing a broad-shouldered coat in style at the time, and sensible shoes. He’s in a leather flight jacket and cowboy boots. When I think of the 1980s, that’s the picture that comes to mind.


    This anniversary of her passing didn’t end in a zero or a five, but it still deserved more media attention than it received. When we lose our connection to history, we lose ourselves. As Mrs. Thatcher said, “If… many influential people have failed to understand, or have just forgotten, what we were up against in the Cold War and how we overcame it, they are not going to be capable of securing, let alone enlarging, the gains that liberty has made.” She could have been speaking directly to former President Obama and his fecklessness in the fight against our Islamic enemy.
    Betsy Pearson, writing at Independent Women’s Forum, supplied us with the “Top Five Reasons Margaret Thatcher is Still an Inspiration to Women Today”. The article is worth reading in its entirety – and passing along to young women you care about.
    Pearson’s top five: She didn’t use her sex to influence her career; she was principled; she challenged the status quo, not caring about being popular (earning her the nickname “Iron Lady”); she had to work for her success; and she was a modern feminist, but not of the Left-leaning variety, which shunned her.
    So much of what she said and did transcends her time. Addressing the Conservative Party conference in 1983, she said: “Let us never forget this fundamental truth. The state has no source of money other the money people earn themselves. If the state wishes to spend more, it can do so only by borrowing your savings or by taxing you more. There is no such thing as public money, there is only taxpayers’ money.” I hope Republicans in the House and Senate keep those words in mind as they debate tax cuts and tax reform.
    So, too, they should hear Mrs. Thatcher’s voice saying “It is a very fundamental truth that is frequently and almost universally forgotten. Any time you see the terms ‘public funding,’ ‘public funds,’ ‘government funding,’ or ‘government funds’ be sure to substitute ‘taxpayer funding’ and ‘taxpayer funds.’” as they reform government health insurance and craft the next budget.
    A few other quotes from the Iron Lady that should resonate in the halls of Congress, as well as on college campuses and in our homes:
    “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”
    “Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction.”
    “The spirit of envy can destroy; it can never build.”
    “Nothing is more obstinate than a fashionable consensus.”
    “Every family should have the right to spend their money, after tax, as they wish, and not as the government dictates. Let us extend choice, extend the will to choose and the chance to choose.”
    “There can be no liberty unless there is economic liberty.”
    “There are still people in my party who believe in consensus politics. I regard them as Quislings, as traitors… I mean it.”
    “To wear your heart on your sleeve isn’t a very good plan; you should wear it inside, where it functions best.”
    And finally, “No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well.” We should remember Margaret Thatcher not just because of her intentions, but because of her achievements and her effect on our lives.

    Ken can be reached at kengorrell@gmail.com


  • Getting What They Paid For

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    Using public polling as a political weapon is nothing new. A recent bought-and-paid-for-by-the-AFT poll simply lowers the bar.
    The leaders of the American Federation of Teachers, a public-sector union representing employees of an education system where nearly two-thirds of its graduates lack proficiency in reading, want you to know that “Parents Prefer Good Neighborhood Schools Over More Choice.” Surprising result? Of course not. They got what they paid for.
    The survey by Hart Research Associates is available online, so you can see for yourself how to craft questions to elicit a client’s desired responses. The claims that “five central themes emerge clearly and consistently” and that “choice” isn’t among parental priorities sound impressive – until one wades into the devilish details armed with an inquisitive mind.
    The five themes are nicely constructed, at least as seen from a distance. But like that North Korean “Peace Village” in the DMZ, when examined more closely, the nice-looking buildings are revealed to be nothing more than empty shells.
    Based on loaded questions, the poll purportedly shows: Parents believe public schools are helping their children achieve their full potential; they want access to a good neighborhood public school much more than increased choice of schools; their top priorities include ensuring a safe and secure environment and equal opportunity for all; they believe public schools are inadequately funded and oppose shifting resources from regular schools to charters and vouchers; they disapprove of Betsy DeVos’ performance as Secretary of Education; and they want more investment in traditional public schools, with particular emphasis on supporting art and music curriculums and providing health and nutrition services. Continue reading  Post ID 3056


  • Roses And Thorns

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    When I wrote my last essay I was preparing for a week-long camping trip with a Boy Scout troop. That trip has joined a long list of camping adventures I’ve enjoyed with this group of Scouts and adult leaders. Each event has been unique despite the similarities: Tenting, building camp fires, hiking and other outdoor activities, learning and developing leadership skills, and, of course, enjoying the camaraderie.
    At the end of each trip we gather around for “roses and thorns,” a time when each person presents his high and low point of the event. No names, just experiences. Usual “roses” are the big events, which in this case included an overnight Mt. Washington hike and playing in the natural water slide off the Kancamagus Highway. Usual “thorns” are what you’d expect: meal clean up, lack of sleep, and rain.
    I always focus more on the thorns, which provide greater insight into how these kids think. A recurring thorn from last week was rooted in the kids’ sense of “fairness.” Some complained that they had been asked to do more chores than other Scouts. I’m sure it’s a common refrain heard by parents and teachers, but we usually avoid it at camp, where the fun-to-drudgery ratio is high and the older Scouts nip it in the bud.
    This time we had a younger group, and it seemed as if some them had spent the week thinking like accountants and referees. One Scout railed at the perceived injustice of being tasked to do more than others. At his age, justice and fairness are inextricably intertwined, and he couldn’t see how debilitating that mindset can be. Somewhere further along the path to adulthood he’ll learn that fairness ranks low on the justice continuum.
    How do you explain to 12- or 14-year-olds that one of the secrets of life is “Life ain’t fair” – and that that’s not a bad thing? How do you help them see that life, in all its wondrous complexity, is too big to be constrained by such a small-minded, petty concept as “fairness”? Maybe there’s a celestial balance sheet or scoreboard maintained by beings more capable than us, but with our limited view, we can’t possible see and keep track of all the things done for us by others. By making good deeds transactional, you’re missing the point. Doing the right thing has a value all its own. That was my thorn for the week, but I’m not sure I got my point across.
    I told the Scouts that I sometimes feel embarrassed thinking about all the things people have done for me – people I’ve known, others I’ve not known, doing things I’ve recognized (and, I hope, acknowledged), but also doing things on my behalf that I didn’t even know were done. I told them that I can only pray that in the end I’ve managed to do for others as they’ve done for me, but that there’s no way of keeping track. Treating life like a balance sheet means missing out on the joys and serendipity of life.
    Nietzsche was wrong. Perhaps his Übermensch is strengthened by surviving near-fatal adversity, but for most of us humans, that which does not kill us usually just makes us surly and resentful. What makes us stronger and brings true happiness is making personal connections through the deeds we do, and weaving them tightly into the tapestry of our lives. A focus on fairness interferes with making those connections. Who wants to be in a relationship with someone who keeps score?
    Moral character is developed by making a habit of doing the right thing, without regard to the immediate benefits it might bring or what others have done for us. Fairness has no place in that calculation. Setting the example lifts spirits and makes all but the most defiant better and happier. It’s not a contradiction to believe that by giving more than we get, we will get more than we give. That’s a lot for a young teen to learn. It’s part of Scouting’s mission to help them figure it out.
    Part of our challenge was generational. It’s easy for kids to think that we old guys just don’t understand, especially when we clearly didn’t recognize the signs of withdrawal for kids losing access to their smart phones. Luckily, we had two Eagle Scouts with us, former Troop members and now college students, who were well-positioned to bridge the generational divide. Their counsel and example helped these young Scouts understand that keeping score is for sports. In life, it deadens the spirit and distracts from the mission. It’s also impossible.


  • Repeal and Replace Republicans

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    By the time this edition hits the stands, it’s possible that Republicans in Congress will have passed a health care bill that saves us from the sinking ship that is ObamaCare. Given their performance over the past six months, though, the smart money isn’t on GOP success.
    Like the proverbial dog that caught the car, Republican leadership was completely unprepared when voters gave them the opportunity to live up to a campaign promise. And not just any promise: They used the “Repeal and Replace” mantra in multiple campaigns, with all the earnestness and bravado of a ball player begging, “Put me in, coach!”
    The problem is that the GOP isn’t a team made up of team players. In sports, fans expect that each player works hard to win. In Republican party politics, players can’t even define what “win” means, much less work together as a team to achieve it. In sports, they say “There is no ‘I’ in team.” The political corollary is that there is no principle in law-making. That’s the harsh realm of politics that some politicians don’t understand. Yes, we are a nation founded on principles, and we should be guided by those principles, but laws are grubby little things that have to be passed in order to matter.
    Cue Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine. They sit at opposite ends of the Republican spectrum, but are kindred spirits. Through word and deed, they seem intent on proving themselves more righteous than their peers, not team-players. Paul portrays himself as a knight-errant able to slay the ObamaCare beast with a single stroke of his sword if given the chance. Collins hides behind concerns about those who might be hurt by a GOP bill, seemingly oblivious to the millions hurt now by ObamaCare and the many millions more who will be hurt as the system continues to spiral out of control.
    The sausage-making analogy for the process of turning a bill into a law never worked for me, because at the end of a messy process, sausage is a harmony of wonderful flavors. It tastes good by design. Laws, on the other hand, are usually a disharmony of unappealing bits, held together by a tough casing of political expediency. Republicans like Paul and Collins say they want something better, but by their actions they will leave us with the indigestible status quo.
    Democrats have no problem understanding this. Unfortunately, the reality of their ideals is a nightmare of Big Government intrusion into our lives. And, of course, the Dems love the Big Lie. Even the most transparently ridiculous lies work on gullible voters, conditioned with the “But wait, there’s more!” advertising for products we all know can’t possibly live up to the hype.
    Who truly believed that after Dems built a wall of additional regulations thousands of pages high between patients, doctors, employers, and insurance companies that cost-curves would bend downward? When has more bureaucracy ever improved efficiency or service? Who believed that we’d be able to keep the health plans and providers we liked, given that millions of Americans get their health insurance through their employers and therefore don’t even own their policies? How can you keep what you don’t really have?
    We sent liberal sycophants instead of leaders to represent us in Washington, so Granite Staters have little voice in congressional debates. But back home, GOP control of the corner office, executive council, and legislature gives us the opportunity to take advantage of President Trump’s pen. Through executive orders, he can give states greater flexibility in how they work within existing law and provide more choice for consumers. It’s only a temporary patch, but our president can make our lives better without congress. Governor Sununu should encourage President Trump to return power to the states. With that power, Concord can take action while congressional Republicans dither.
    Beltway Republicans haven’t matched campaign rhetoric to reality. The irony is that as purists from their ranks claim to stand on principle while others do the dirty work of law-making, we drift further away from those principles. The Founders got their hands dirty, making the difficult compromises necessary to create our shining city upon a hill. It’s not too much to expect a couple of senators to get down in the dirt to help repair the damage done to our insurance and health care markets by their true ideological opponents. But until they do, states should be given the lead. It’s time for President Trump to use his pen and his phone.


  • Left-Hand, Left Behind

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    Has somebody ever said something to you that hit you full in the face like the wind coming off a freshly manured field? I experienced that sensation last week while attending a local “Town Hall on Education,” hosted by Reaching Higher NH.
    The meeting started off as expected. Though it claims to be nonpartisan, from their “About Us” webpage, it’s clear that Reaching Higher is left-of-center. But the host presented an even-handed summary of recent state and federal education legislation. When the two panelists were introduced, however, the meeting lurched noticeably to the Left.

    I didn’t mind the recently-passed bill funding all-day-kindergarten being referred to derisively as “Keno-garten” (as if a funding mechanism based on voluntary contributions is worse than one based on forced taxation), or even the state being criticized for “downshifting” education costs to taxpayers, as if Concord gets its revenue from magic elves. But when a Democrat state representative insisted on calling our education scholarship program a “voucher” system that (cue the ominous music) gives tax dollars to religious schools, I knew I was behind enemy lines.
    After an hour of being told how wonderful but underfunded – or at least, inequitably funded – our public school system is, I asked the two panelists what the drop-out and non-proficiency rates were for the Laconia system. They didn’t know. I asked because those students are being poorly served by a system that pours nearly $15,000 a year into preparing them for the adult world. The latest data for Laconia: 10.9% drop out; non-proficiency rates for 11th graders in reading, writing, and math are 24%, 37%, and 75%, respectively.
    The focus on and testing for college- and career-readiness ignores the needs of a sizable number of students. When I asked a panelist about those students whose academic abilities place them well to the left on the bell curve, I received the odoriferous answer: He didn’t believe in the bell curve. This educator didn’t believe in applying the “normal” distribution, a well-established concept in statistics, to students. His “all students can succeed” claptrap may make him feel better, but ignoring inherent limitations is cruel.
    I haven’t been in the dream-crushing business since my days as a Navy officer. When a sailor’s sense of self interfered with the ship’s mission, a personal recalibration was in order. While teachers should be inspirational, encouraging students to reach higher, that encouragement should not ignore the real world, where failure to “make the grade” is not only an option, for some it is a probability. Expectations matter, but so does ability.
    Academically, most of us occupy the middle of the bell curve, but some are further to the left, closer to the break-point between success and failure in life. By focusing so much on standards a sizable percentage of students can’t meet, our public education system is failing to provide them with the skills needed to live independently, make a living at an attainable job, pay the bills, and participate in their communities.
    Public schools produce many young adults who earn only debt, not a degree, from their college experience. Some must pay for remedial courses to learn high school-level material. Some newly-minted college grads first encounter real-world standards during the interview for the job they didn’t get. But the kids our system truly leaves behind are the ones represented by the dropout and non-proficiency rates.
    For a variety of reasons – IQ, socio-economic, family stresses – some students will never meet college- or career-ready standards. That’s not a moral judgement; it’s simply a fact. It’s time to take those kids out of the current curricula and testing regimen. Some of the 115 out of 152 students who started 11th grade in Laconia in 2013 unable to demonstrate proficiency in mathematics could be better served with a program aimed at providing them with the basic body of knowledge for independent living. Relevant proficiency is more valuable than irrelevant non-proficiency.
    The academics of this program would be built around key life skills, such as a basic understanding of civics, current events, and history; the mathematics required for personal finance and trade-skill jobs; fundamental scientific concepts; home economics; law and order; and society’s expectations for adults.
    Teaching and testing at levels some kids can’t reach, covering material they will never use, is a waste of time and resources. Worse, the kids know it. They vote with their feet by dropping out or tuning out. Encouraging students to reach higher is the right thing to do, but only if what they are reaching for is meaningful to their lives and realistically within their grasp.

    Ken can be reached at kengorrell@gmail.com


  • Graduate Advice

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    My wife and I live in “the projects.” That’s how I refer to our 18th century farmhouse; a lovely property but one that requires near-constant maintenance and remodeling. This home has sheltered nine generations of my family, and I joke that the smart ones moved away. I got stuck with this labor of love.
    Our contractor is finishing up the last of our roofing projects. Over the past ten years he’s re-roofed the other sections of the house, as well as our barn and garage. We saved the kitchen section for last. It was the most challenging due to the unusual way my relatives built the structure. The post-and-beam construction has held up for 200 years, but the back wall is out of plumb more than a foot and the sag in the middle made the roof look a bit like a hammock. Few local contractors were willing to touch it, but ours came up with a solid and affordable plan. I wish we could keep this young man on retainer.


    Unfortunately for us, his services are in-demand. And why not? He’s able, reliable, and affordable. The main limiting factor to growing his business is the difficulty he’s had hiring and retaining good employees. He told me that he started last summer with six new hires, but none of them lasted. Some were unable to do the work; some unwilling to work. Some showed up drunk or high; after a while some failed to show up at all.
    I thought about his employee experience while reading an article in the June issue of Business NH Magazine. Written by Ray Carbone, “Construction Trades Struggle to Draw Next Gen Workers” lays out the case that as a state we are failing to provide young people with the skills they need to start a career that could quickly put themselves on a path toward self-sufficiency. (Another article in the same edition showed, from 2005-2015, a 10 percent decrease in the number of Millennials living independently, balanced by a 9 percent increase in those living with their parents and 1 percent living with roommates.)
    The movie The Graduate turns 50 this year, and with it one of the most well-known pieces of advice to a graduate: “Plastics.” Back then, that advice to Dustin Hoffman’s Ben Braddock was seen as representing everything artificial and soul-crushing about the modern working world. This year, Bill Gates provided his career advice to new graduates: artificial intelligence. For some, getting into a field that will ultimately displace millions of workers will be lucrative and fulfilling. It will also be limiting, not just because it will be open only to those with high academic abilities, but also because most of those jobs will be concentrated in larger urban areas.
    What about those with average academics who want to live in our state’s more suburban/rural mix? My advice for high school graduates is: the trades. I say this as a former white-collar worker who now owns a trade-skill franchise. I’m my own boss and my only employee, which was one of the requirements I gave to the franchise broker who helped me find this business. I didn’t want the headaches that come with employees, headaches that my contractor friend knows all too well.
    In his article, Mr. Carbone describes the struggles those in the trades are having to attract workers, despite solid pay and on-the-job training. The trades suffer from a lack of status in a labor market more attuned to “sexy” high tech. Few young people are exposed to the joys of building things, either at home or in school. Millennials prefer virtual reality to reality in their leisure activities. But even with all those news stories about mounting college loan debt, high drop-out rates, and the number of new graduates not finding jobs in their degree field, our high schools are not offering the vocational education and training programs they used to.
    The focus on STEM in our high schools should not come at the expense of the trades. A good tradesman can earn enough to raise a family in New Hampshire, and won’t start off under the burden of college loans. If we truly want to attract and retain young workers, we should teach the virtues of blue-collar career fields, targeting potential candidates in middle and high school with curricula aligned to certification programs in fields like construction, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC.
    Since many people in the trades are self-employed or work for small businesses, we must also make it easier to start and operate a small business in this state. With our Republican governor and majorities in the legislature, there is no reason why New Hampshire couldn’t be the most small-business-friendly state in the nation.

    Ken can be reached at kengorrell@gmail.com


  • Laconia Gets Schooled

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    “But I’d only need one hundred of you.”
    That line silenced the crowd of teachers listening to a high-tech titan talk about the future of public education. I wish I could find the article, but I remember reading a few years ago about an education conference where somebody – perhaps Bill Gates or some Silicon Valley sultan – elicited cheers from a group of teachers by telling them how important education was to the future of America, how valuable good teachers were to education, how teachers should be paid six-figures…Then he hit them right between the eyes with the reality of technology: “But I’d only need one hundred of you.”
    I thought of that line when reading about the shameful tactic employed by the Laconia school board and teachers’ union to push through a budget-busting labor contract. The board negotiated the contract knowing it would require breaking the faith voters had placed in the fiscally-responsible tax cap a decade ago. School Board member Mike Persson threatened city councilors with election opposition if they failed to pay the ransom required to ensure a “fairly smooth election cycle.”
    The monetary demands were couched in terms of “investing in the future” of Laconia, but as with all such taxpayer “investment” promises, no one was willing to make definitive guarantees for returns on that investment. Persson asserted to the Daily Sun that “The main driver behind middle class families locating to a city is the perception of the public schools’ quality and the availability of strong co-curricular programming.” A bold statement. Has anyone been so rude as to ask him for his data, his proof? What about other possible drivers of community appeal: crime rates; housing availability and affordability; job availability within a reasonable commute; cost of living; tax rates?

    Instead, citizens were promised the magic beans of making the city more attractive to middle-class families by dumping more tax money into their schools. They were told that increased taxes (not particularly attractive to taxpaying families) would right past wrongs by giving teachers competitive pay, sure to attract and retain the best of them. Except, of course, no one would promise that outcome, either. That contract is simply part of the bid-up cycle used by all districts to justify pay, benefit, and retirement packages that are outstripping the ability of many communities to afford.
    Has anybody in authority in the Laconia school district explored options beyond “more money”? Sure, board member Persson employed the usual emotive tactic of threatening to close an elementary school and losing programs, but isn’t there somebody on that board with vision and fiscal sense? Breaking the tax cap is like opening a vein to a vampire. The sucking won’t stop.
    There are alternatives. I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating: Twenty-three states educate their students for less than $10,000 per pupil per year. In NH, the average is more than $14,000. Somebody on the Laconia school board with the least bit of intellectual curiosity should ask how Florida, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado can achieve better education results than we can at less than three-quarters our cost. Each of those states ranks higher than NH in the 2017 US News & World Report Best High School Rankings, so their lower costs are not coming at the expense of a good education.
    What about technology? We’ve been told for years that technology in the classroom would work wonders. It hasn’t. That’s because, unlike in the private sector, public schools have added tech without fundamentally changing how they do business.
    Which brings us back to that education conference. The speaker explained to the quieted teachers that technology could now do for teaching what it has done for almost every other profession: Improve productivity and product or service quality while reducing personnel requirements. The Internet can give every student access to a world-class, tailored education at a price even struggling cities like Laconia could afford…if we are willing to change how we do business.
    The best teachers and award-winning curricula, tailored to each student, could be brought to every classroom in the state via the Internet. Instead of a hundred school districts competing to attract middle-of-the-road graduates from teacher colleges or to retain tenured teachers whose salaries are based not on evaluated quality but degrees attained and time served, each district could select from world-class instructional materials taught by the technologist’s “one hundred of you.”
    Certainly by 5th grade, most students are comfortable using the technologies necessary to bring about this change in classroom instruction. The stumbling block isn’t the kids, it’s the adults. It’s the entrenched interests and the small-thinkers. The time for tolerating this status quo has passed. Laconia taxpayers would do well to hold tight to their tax cap and tell school board members to put on their thinking caps.

    Ken can be reached at kengorrell@gmail.com


  • dom·i·cile (noun)

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    Black’s Law Dictionary, the most widely used law dictionary in the US, defines domicile as “That place in which a man has voluntarily fixed the habitation of himself and family, not for a mere special or temporary purpose, but with the present intention of making a permanent home.”
    Key to the legal concept of domicile is intent, which makes it, like so many legal issues, not as cut-and-dried as the layman could wish. Just as an idle mind is said to be the devil’s playground, a mind’s intent is a lawyer’s playground. Many billable hours have been spent debating a client’s intent.
    According to Black’s, domicile is the “established, fixed, permanent, or ordinary dwelling-place or place of residence of a person, as distinguished from his temporary and transient, though actual, place of residence.” Domicile is not a “place to which business or pleasure may temporarily call him.” In law, a person may have many residences, but only one domicile.
    Why the primer on the legal concept of domicile? Last week our NH senate passed a bill to more clearly define “domicile” as it pertains to voting. Though SB3 was approved by Republicans on a party-line vote, our Democrat Secretary of State supported it. Democrat senators, however, invoked their usual rhetorical hyperbole, declaring in a Caucus press release that “Instead of threatening would-be voters with the prospect of someone banging down there (sic) door to interrogate them on their voting eligibility…” Blah, blah, blah.
    In reality, the bill merely defines domicile for voting purposes as “the principal or primary home or place of abode of a person…in which his or her habitation is fixed and to which a person, whenever he or she is temporarily absent, has the intention of returning after a departure or absence therefrom…” It then provides factors to be considered when determining one’s intent. It’s all very reasonable, especially if you value the idea that only those with meaningful ties to a community and state should be able to have a say at the voting booth.
    The problem with SB3 isn’t that it’s unreasonable, or will lead to “voting police” banging down doors as hyperventilating Dems would want you to believe (even if they can’t possibly believe it themselves). No, the problem with SB3’s definition of domicile is that college residency counts.
    The domicile bill has been framed by both sides as a voter fraud issue, but I think that’s too limited. For me, domicile is a matter of self-determination and the right of citizens to decide how their communities and state will be run. With few exceptions, students choose colleges based on educational factors, not with the intent of settling in the town or state where the college is located. Education is a “mere temporary or special purpose” per Black’s. Students who come to New Hampshire from out-of-state for education should not be allowed to influence with their vote how Granite State governments function.
    This is especially true for students who maintain close connections with their out-of-state parents for financial support. Missing from the senate bill’s factors for determining domicile, but included in other states’ laws, is “sources of financial support.” Most students – undergraduates, especially – depend upon their parents for financial support. If a student at UNH were to drop out, is he more likely to stay in Durham to go it alone, or go home to his parents?
    I support raising the bar for proving intent when it comes to domicile, to a point where most out-of-state students would not qualify. People who come to New Hampshire merely for an education should participate in the electoral process in the communities where they came from, where their parents live, where their true connections lie. Allowing them to vote here distorts our political process. It disenfranchises citizens who truly have made NH their permanent place of residence, their home, their domicile.
    If we are going to allow out-of-state students to vote here, it’s time to revive the text of a bill that was deemed “inexpedient to legislate” back in 2014. HB1255 would have allowed “students whose name appears on the voter checklist eligible for in-state tuition rates at schools in the university system of New Hampshire.”
    Fair is fair. If students have the right to vote here because it is their “intent” to make New Hampshire their principle or primary home, we should consider them Granite Staters for tuition purposes. Of course, acting in the best interests of NH citizens, our legislators should ensure that those students paying out-of-state tuition vote out-of-state as well.


  • Middlebury March Madness

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    March roared in like a lion at Vermont’s Middlebury college, where students chose to riot rather than debate the estimable political scientist Dr. Charles Murray. If only we could blame it on the month. Sadly, Middlebury followed the example set earlier by schools like UC Berkeley and NYU: failing to prevent a riot or punish rioters. It isn’t the month; it’s the movement.
    “Mad as a March hare” is a common Brit expression dating back hundreds of years, long before college basketball fans took to the coinage “March Madness” to describe their annual tournament. At least hares and hoop fans have an excuse for their behavior. What could possibly explain away the insanity on display March 2nd at Middlebury?
    Much has been written about the violence that greeted scholar and author Dr. Charles Murray by students who have probably not read his works. The story boils down to this: Dr. Murray was invited to debate a liberal professor on topics from his recent book Coming Apart: The State of White America. Campus officials knew the event would draw protesters. They reminded the students about Middlebury’s code of conduct, which, not surprisingly, was about as effective as reading the Marquess of Queensberry rules to marauding Vikings. Administration should have known better and prepared accordingly.
    Students who have been allowed to grow up thinking they have a right to not hear opinions they find disagreeable and to prevent others from hearing them, too, prevented Dr. Murray from speaking. They shouted him down using the moronic couplets much beloved of the political Left. (Any chant that starts with “Hey, hey, ho, ho” is going to be inane.)
    But the acolytes of the arrogant ignorant Left didn’t stop there. They never do. When their limited vocabulary failed them, they rioted. The liberal professor was hurt and Dr. Murray threatened. Private security did its best to get these academics to safety, but their car was blocked and rocked before they could make their escape. I have yet to read an account in which the police were called and the appropriate response – legal use of force and arrests – was brought to bear.
    The “terrible twos” are a tough time for parents and anyone unfortunate enough to be stuck in an airplane seat near a screaming toddler. But being in the presence of intellectual babies going through their terrible teens or twenties can be downright dangerous. College administrators must start applying the same level of ruthless enthusiasm to curbing anti-free speech rioters as they have been in promoting PC speech codes and punishing microaggressors. You know there’s something wrong on campus when failing to use a preferred pronoun gets you in more trouble than using violence to intimidate and disrupt a debate.
    That tactic – violence and intimidation – has deep roots in authoritarian movements like the one we’re seeing on campus today. That it is employed by people claiming to advance “liberal” or “progressive” ideals is irony defined. A March 1936 editorial in the Toledo Bee titled “March Madness” described a “fantastic riot of tomfoolery” in Europe as Mussolini “abolishes his chamber of deputies and the deputies applaud the news,” and Germany “prepares for an ‘election’ with a one-way ballot, proving, says Der Fuehrer, that he’s for democracy.” We know where that “tomfoolery” led. Though they were dressed in the typical student uniform of t-shirts and hoodies, the Middlebury rioters were acting the part of Blackshirts and Brownshirts in service to authoritarianism.
    Students have shown their willingness to engage in violence. Administrators now must demonstrate their willingness to expel students and assist in the prosecution of violent agitators. Until they do, the anti-democratic violence on campus will escalate. Since university leaders have yet to do the right and necessary things, they need to be encouraged. We know that they are money-motivated; we’ve seen universities twist themselves in knots to avoid losing funding tied to Title IX and Department of Education “Dear Colleague” letters. It’s time for federal and state governments to stop the flow of public funds to campuses that fail to promote intellectual diversity and maintain order in the process.
    Our NH legislators should demand to see proof that our public universities and colleges promote diverse debate and have plans in place to effectively deal with campus anti-free speech violence. Public funding should be on the line in these discussions. Berkeley and NYU seem a world away from UNH or Plymouth, but Middlebury is right next door. It could happen here. We need to know that our campuses are fully prepared to deal with the Brownshirts in their midst.


  • Dysphoria Euphoria

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    When Sir Walter Scott wrote of tangled webs woven to deceive, he could not have imagined the tangle of Gordian knots modern man would create trying to fool Mother Nature.

    I’m a man of simple tastes: strong, black coffee; Highland single malt; bacon. I appreciate Alexander the Great’s solution to untangling the intricate knot of King Gordius of Phrygia: Slice it in two. I’d apply a similarly simple solution to the increasingly complex and entirely man-made problem of living in a world where social media giant Facebook provides a list of more than 50 “genders” from which to choose: For purposes of public policy and accommodation, go with the plumbing God – or god-like surgeons – have provided.
    The latest kerfuffle arousing passions in the “gender fluid” movement is the case of Mack Beggs, female high school wrestling champ. Ms. Beggs’ rise to the top was made possible by forfeits and performance-enhancing testosterone. Some parents didn’t want their girls competing against a wrestler with a physique like a 1980’s East German female Olympian in three-fifths miniature. That oddly-proportioned and physically-dominating body was the result of testosterone, part of treatment helping this girl transition into manhood.
    While she “identifies” as male, Ms. Beggs is biologically and chromosomally the same female she was at birth. While any other girl on testosterone would have been disqualified, the rules of the governing body for school sports in Texas declared that the state’s education code permits using banned drugs such as steroids if it “is prescribed by a medical practitioner for a valid medical purpose.”
    The simple and elegant solution to this problem is to end the discriminatory separation of the sexes in all school sports. No more “separate but equal.” No more Title IX shenanigans. This approach would not only solve the Texas dilemma, it would accommodate those girls who want to play as girls on boy’s teams, and vice versa. Whether you’re a boy, a girl, an XX+testosterone, an XY+estrogen, or some other combination not yet medically possible, you would compete for a position on a single team. May the best athletes win. Continue reading  Post ID 3056


  • Right To Wrong

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    It’s time to name names. It’s time to take off the gloves and fight back against those who hurt our state. It’s time for the NH GOP to draw a line in cement and demand that those who run for office as Republicans either toe it or run under a different banner.
    A few weeks after we elected a Republican governor while maintaining Republican majorities in the House and Senate – something nearly as rare as a blue moon – I penned an essay for these pages supporting Right to Work legislation. Last week, thanks to nearly three dozen Representatives whose actions define “RINO,” the Right to Work Senate Bill 11 died in the House.
    Passing RTW would have made NH a shining beacon in New England, helping us compete regionally for jobs. As I wrote a few months ago, attracting and retaining job-creating businesses and young people looking to get ahead in life requires being business-friendly. Compared to forced-unionism states, the unemployment rate in RTW states is lower; median incomes (after adjusting for the cost of living) are higher; and governments spend and tax less per capita. Right to Work must be considered a foundational issue to the GOP.
    After the disappointing vote, National Right to Work President Mark Mix reminded supporters of choice in the workplace that “from 2005 to 2015, real private sector employee pay and benefits in Right to Work states grew by nearly 17% — almost a third more growth than forced-unionism states saw as a whole, and more than double what New Hampshire saw individually.” That is what some who call themselves Republicans voted against.
    But it’s worse than that. After failing to pass the Senate RTW bill, the “GOP majority” House voted to ensure its own RTW bill could not be brought up for discussion or a vote this session. So, in the Live Free or Die state, employees will continue to be compelled to pay into union coffers…coffers which provide generously and one-sidedly to Progressive causes and Democrat candidates.
    The Democrats voted in lock-step against Right to Work. That’s no surprise for a party that consistently puts organized union interests ahead of workers and taxpayers. But what more evidence of being on the wrong side of a vote do some Republicans need? When your ideological opponents are “all-in” on an issue, you better get out, and fast.
    It’s time for the new leadership of the state’s GOP to not just come out strong about voting against issues that are foundational for conservatives. It’s time to actively and forcefully work against those who damage the party by failing to uphold its principles.
    The state GOP should work now to identify viable candidates to challenge wayward Republicans in the 2018 primary. Those candidates should be assured they will receive state party financial and ground campaign support – money and people to pound the pavement and knock on doors to help them get elected. There aren’t many issues that require ideological purity, but Right to Work is such an issue.
    To say this anti-worker and anti-business vote demonstrates a lack of leadership in the House would be an understatement. We are poorly served yet again this term. Governor Sununu made it clear that this was a key vote on an issue of great importance to the state. Speaker Jasper and his House leadership failed to deliver; whether by incompetence or intent is anyone’s guess. We deserve what we tolerate, and the time for tolerance is over.
    Here are the names of so-called Republicans who voted against Right to Work, who voted to hurt our state’s economic competitiveness:
    Crawford, Karel (R, Ctr Harbor), Merner, Troy (R, Lancaster), Pierce, David (R, Goffstown), Proulx, Mark (R, Manchester), McCarthy, Michael (R, Nashua), Hopper, Gary (R, Weare), Klose, John (R, Epsom), Woitkun, Steven (R, Danville), Chirichiello, Brian (R, Derry), Dowling, Patricia (R, Derry), Katsakiores, Phyllis (R, Derry), Milz, David (R, Derry), Tripp, Richard (R, Derry), Webb, James (R, Derry), Willis, Brenda (R, Derry), Morrison, Sean (R, Epping), Guthrie, Joseph (R, Hampstead), Pearson, Mark (R, Hampstead), Bean, Philip (R, Hampton), Welch, David (R, Kingston), Bove, Martin (R, Londonderry), McKinney, Betsy (R, Londonderry), Doucette, Fred (R, Salem), Chase, Francis (R, Seabrook), Janvrin, Jason (R, Seabrook), Khan, Aboul (R, Seabrook), Tilton, Rio (R, Seabrook), Scruton, Matthew (R, Rochester), Laware, Thomas (R, Charlestown), Gauthier, Francis (R, Claremont), O’Connor, John (R, Claremont), Grenier, James (R, Lempster)
    Along with Speaker of the House Shawn Jasper, these names should be engraved on a GOP wall of shame.


  • Curiouser and Curiouser

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    While not a proper English word, when used together as Lewis Carroll coined them in Alice in Wonderland, “curiouser and curiouser” is an acceptable way of saying something is increasingly strange. Alice used it as she was being stretched out of proportion to more than nine feet tall. I’m using it to describe the sensation I had while sitting through a meeting of school district officials and legislative candidates. It’s increasingly strange to me that people refuse to recognize that traditional public schools have been stretched out of proportion trying to be all things to all students while stretching taxpayer wallets to the breaking point.
    This public meeting was a forum for the superintendent’s office, the school board, and budget committee to meet current legislators and candidates to discuss education issues. Given the state of public education and the ongoing battle over funding (especially acute in my district), I was expecting the Superintendent and board to take advantage of the opportunity by presenting a few ideas that might help our high-cost/low performing district.
    Unfortunately, our public school officials – elected or hired – failed to demonstrate the least bit of intellectual curiosity about how these legislators might help students, parents, and taxpayers grapple with providing the right educational opportunities at an affordable cost. They seemed content to continue down the path of ever-higher budgets and poor educational results.
    New Hampshire spent $14,335 per public school student in 2014, making us the 10th biggest spender in the nation. New York was No. 1, spending just over $20,000, but 23 states managed to educate their students for less than $10,000. My district spent slightly more than the state average for a high school ranked 61st out of 77 by the analysts at Niche. They used factors including test scores, graduation rates, college readiness, and teacher quality. For comparison, the state’s Virtual Learning Academy, with no points for extracurricular activities and sports, ranked 41st.
    Some taxpayers in my district, Winnisquam, are just now beginning to understand that the status quo is about to slap us in the face. The state is reducing the Education Stabilization Grant. It will eventually get to zero, and possibly at an annual rate faster than the 4% currently advertised. Without that Stabilization money, Northfield, one of three towns in our district, will see an increase of $8 per thousand to the property tax rate. Northfield isn’t the only town where this is happening.
    How can we prevent people from being taxed out of their homes? How can we avoid being marked as a real estate dead zone with unacceptably-high property taxes and a low-end school? Not much, judging by the lack of ideas presented to our legislators by our Superintendent’s office and school board. There are solutions, but they require more curious minds than were sitting at the table that morning.
    We could start by consolidating SAUs. We have 100 school administrative units, many with six-figure-salary superintendents and big budgets that don’t contribute directly to the classroom. With fewer than 200,000 students and declining enrollment, we should be able to consolidate SAU functions into 10 county-based organizations without reducing student performance.
    We’re spending more than $1,300 per student on school and general administration; Florida, Texas, and North Carolina spend less than half of that. What could we learn from them? What best practices and laws from other states could we adopt?
    Nationally, only 60 cents of every education dollar is spent for instructional purposes. Taxpayers should demand that school boards prove the education value of each dollar they ask for. Overhead expenses must be cut. One way to do that is to increase the sharing of services and purchasing across districts.
    The biggest savings and benefits to students will come only if we are willing to challenge the traditional public school model. Expanding virtual academies, blending traditional school with home-schooling and online learning, supporting our tax-credit scholarship program, and increasing chartered public schools will reduce per pupil costs while providing better, student-centered learning.
    Charter schools cost about $6,000 per student, less than half of what we’re spending on traditional public schools. The tax credit scholarship program is revenue positive to the state. Both options are providing educational opportunities that meet or exceed student and parent expectations. Every superintendent, every principal, every school board member in this state should be pushing for legislation expanding charter schools and encouraging participation in the scholarship program. That they are not doing so demonstrates both a lack of imagination and a disturbing fealty to the status quo at the expense of children and taxpayers. Curiouser, indeed.


  • The Back To School Edition

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    You could almost hear the sighs of relief across the state these last couple of weeks as parents sent their children back to school. It’s been an annual late-summer ritual for longer than any of us can remember. And like most rituals, it’s an activity few think much about. It’s just what we do; this year same as last year. And that’s a problem.
    Two problems, in fact: educational and fiscal. Educationally, it’s a problem because our public schools have become fortresses of mediocrity. They may not be particularly good at meeting the needs of those locked inside, but they’re great at keeping at bay the forces of change. Eighth-graders may test at 30%- 40% proficiency in math year in, year out, but we keep sending them back for more of the same. Many defend the status quo against those who dare question the dismal results.
    Fiscally it’s a problem because, even as they fail to make the grade, they suck up more wealth from the nation’s economy. The education establishment’s answer to the question “How much money do you need to do the job?” comes straight from the mouth of Edward G. Robinson’s Key Largo character, the gangster Johnny Rocco: “More!” When asked if he’ll ever get enough, Johnny said, “Well, I never have.” And that’s Big Education’s answer, too.
    Continue reading  Post ID 3056


  • Saudi Quebec

    Ken Gorrell

    by Ken Gorrell,
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    It was in the upper 80s yesterday and the leaves are beginning to show fall colors, so it’s perhaps a strange time to be writing about maple syrup production. But economic lessons are eternal, not seasonal. Our neighbors to the north are learning one of those lessons now: Market forces and human nature will eventually crack a cartel.
    OPEC is perhaps the most famous cartel of the modern era. Those of us who lived through the oil embargo of 1973 and the price shock of 1979 could be forgiven for thinking that the cartel of oil-producing nations is an exception to the economic rule. Controlling most of the production of a commodity essential to modern economies kept the now-14 nation cartel in a powerful position for decades, but even mighty OPEC has been laid low. Thanks to hydraulic fracturing (fracking), greater efficiencies, and energy substitutes, OPEC founding member Saudi Arabia is facing an “existential crisis” according to a report in the UK Telegraph. The shale rebellion caught the Saudis flat-footed and has OPEC playing defense. Cry me a river of oil, as I fill my tank with under-$2 a gallon gasoline.
    The world can’t get by without oil at any price. The same can’t be said of maple syrup. While I won’t eat pancakes without the real thing, the Quebec maple cartel – the Federation of Quebec Syrup Producers – doesn’t have the global economic import of OPEC. But it does control 70% of the maple syrup market, though that share has fallen from 80% over the past few years. Recently Bloomberg News reported (“Maple Syrup Cartel Battles a Black Market Rebellion”) that the Federation has decided to raise production 12% next year in a bid not only to regain that lost market share, but also to deal with dissent within its ranks. Continue reading  Post ID 3056