Election night must be reclaimed

It feels like the voters’ ownership of elections is slipping away.

There aren’t too many events or competitions where we get to be active participants.

For most of us, we don’t have the skill set required to be a professional football or basketball player. No college was ever interested in signing us for our athletic ability. We can’t sing or dance well enough to draw adoring crowds on Broadway. No concert venue will sell out with our name headlining it. Hollywood doesn’t know who we are.

We appreciate those who ascend to the highest level of providing the masses with entertainment. Those ball players, singers, dancers and actors provide us with a little relief from the work week. Sometimes, diversion is good. And necessary.

But we fully understand that we’re only spectators during those events.

Elections are different. The Super Bowl of politics gives equal playing time to 150 million voters. We’re active participants. We vote on or before Election Day and are glued to a media source to watch or listen to results come in that night. Forget about whether it’s a red wave or trickle. A blue win or loss. The excitement of Election Day is a hallmark of a vibrant, participatory democracy. Voters are the ones bringing the game to an exciting finale.   

That’s our past glory. Things have changed.

Nobody ever used the word “patience” on Election Day until recently. Now, it’s becoming the awful, new norm. Voters are told to have patience for election results, and that it could take an additional day, week or month before we see the final score.

It doesn’t need to be this way.

First, properly prepare. The pandemic supercharged the mail-in ballot option in 2020. The Pew Research Center states that about 75 percent voted in person before Election Day or voted by mail. Sheer volume overwhelmed many unprepared election officials in 2020. But if that option is here to stay and will be widely used, it can’t keep being a surprise to administrators during subsequent elections. We all know the definition of insanity.

Next, impose a hard deadline of Election Day as the day that mail-in ballots must be received by election officials—not postmarked by Election Day and certainly not any days after that. One of the driving forces behind mail-in ballots is the convenience factor. If voting by mail is truly more convenient, nobody needs to wait until the last second to get a ballot in the mail. Citizens can either conveniently vote at their local precinct or conveniently postmark their mail-in ballot in plenty of time for it to arrive by Election Day.    

We will always need the mail-in ballot option for our military stationed overseas, for the elderly, for those traveling, and for other good reasons. All those ballots can be received by Election Day.    

Lastly, follow the Bipartisan Policy Center recommendation that election administrators should be permitted to process early in-person votes and vote-by-mail ballots beginning at least seven days prior to Election Day. Processing means preparing ballots and then running them through tabulators. Tabulating machines can be set to restrict availability of the results of these ballots to anyone, including election administrators, until the close of polls on Election Day.

The work gets done ahead of time. Hard copies of ballots are securely stored using strict chain of custody protocols. The secrecy of the ballot remains intact.

Timely results are important to participants. If the score card is habitually withheld from the ones playing the game—the voters exerting the effort—they may lose interest. Maybe that’s the real and sinister goal of some, to turn citizens into passive spectators instead of active participants.    

Our elections must not devolve into a spectacle. Now is the time to ask your state legislators and election officials what they are doing to ensure that winners and losers will be confidently announced on Nov. 5, 2024.

It’s voters’ game day. We want it back.   

Be like Clete and the boys

There’s a photo collage that draws me in every time I see it.

It’s of my Uncle Clete and his three boys. All are in military uniform. Each in a different one.

Clete, now passed, served in the Air Force. Jim served in the Navy and now lives in Michigan. Darrell was a Marine and resides in Virginia. Bob served in the Army Reserves and now calls Indiana his home.   

Many branches, but one mission—to love and defend our nation.

Some families have a proud tradition of generations joining the same branch of the military and serving. That is so good.

But I love the “same, but different” message that emanates from this photo. All loved their country and served, but each was independent-minded enough to go his own way.

It provides the first teachable moment—think for yourself.

The election season is upon us. No one political party has all the answers. Or, maybe a better way to say it is that political parties try to have too many answers. Very few would be willing to sign their name to all that their party professes on its state platform. The 2022 Iowa Democratic Party Platform has 560 statements of support or opposition to particular issues. That’s a lot of red lines. Republicans are capable of churning out quite a few planks too.

If the average Iowa voter isn’t going to be in full agreement on these hundreds of items, it makes extreme party loyalty unnecessary. Instead, consider what’s most important this election cycle and then determine which candidate is best suited to deliver.

Think. And then vote for individuals who can also think for themselves.    

The collage of Clete and the boys are typical basic training photos. They show confidence and determination. They didn’t have their whole life planned out at the moment. They didn’t need to. All they had to do was the next, right thing. And the next. And the next.

It’s not always easy to do the next, right thing. That’s called courage.

Most have moderate political voices. It can be a little overwhelming to simply hang on to that voice when louder voices attempt to silence it.  But take on cancel culture anyway, and don’t give up on finding reasonable, common-sense solutions to needs. Do it today and the next. And the next.

Have courage. Vote for others who have courage.

Lastly, remember that we’re on the same team.

I put three kids through school who were all active in high school sports. We didn’t always win. On nights when we were getting clobbered, though, I would look at the opposing team and think about how at least some of these kids would likely go on to join the military. Then, they would be on my team. Team USA.

The world seems to spin out of control when the United States doesn’t show leadership or display economic and military strength. Our team needs to win.

Always.

Vote for the candidate who will put our country first.  

This election, Clete and the boys don’t expect us to don uniforms in order to love and defend our nation. But let us think for ourselves, be courageous with our beliefs, and put our country first.

And vote for people like that too.

Early retirees, with advanced degrees, can assist in education

Three sets of statistics are converging to form either a perfect storm or a perfect solution. The outcome is up to us.

And the stakes could not be higher. It’s about the education of our youth and offering them the same opportunity that every generation before them had—a chance to improve their standard of living through a quality education.   

The issues in play are: student learning loss from the pandemic, underpaid teachers, and rising early retirements in the general population from individuals with advanced degrees.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), about half of teachers had more students start the 2020-21 school year behind compared to a typical school year. Nearly two-thirds of teachers had more students make less academic progress. And 45% of teachers reported that at least half of their students ended the year behind grade level.

COVID was deadly for many, especially the elderly. But our youth suffered, too, through a disruption in learning.

It hasn’t been easy on teachers, either.

The GAO reports there were fewer public school teachers in 2021 than in 2019, and many teachers are considering leaving their job earlier than anticipated. It draws upon a National Education Association survey that puts that number as high as 55%.

Throughout the country, states and schools have struggled to provide salaries to teachers that are adequate. Iowa Code 284.15 sets a minimum public school teacher salary at $33,500. Minimum and what the market bears are two, different things. Still, Indeed.com posts that Iowa teachers with one year of experience can expect to make just $38,000 on average.

The spin on these numbers is that the cost of living in Iowa is less than in other parts of the country. That may be true, but the argument isn’t good enough. Teachers are finding other jobs paying more, without moving, and continuing to enjoy a lower cost of living.  

Teachers need a pay raise.

And then we step into the completely different world of individuals, with advanced degrees, choosing early retirement.

The Pew Research Center found that retirement among those 55 and older, who have completed at least a bachelor’s degree, rose three percentage points during the pandemic.

The uncertainty that COVID brought prompted many to end their professional careers earlier than anticipated. They didn’t know, though, that their 401k would soon suffer losses and that inflation would make it tougher to stretch their retirement dollars. Some will likely come out of retirement and rejoin the workforce.

And they could become the perfect solution to the challenges in education.

There’s something we know about people with graduate degrees in business, communications, computer science, engineering, environmental science, physics, psychology, and many other advanced degrees who enjoyed successful, professional careers—they’re not idiots. 

It’s possible that some of these individuals, in their post-retirement world, can re-imagine life in a way that can help our youth.

The problem of learning loss from the pandemic deserves our attention. It cannot be a headline one day and then forgotten the next. This is an “all hands on deck” moment.

Early retirees, with advanced degrees, may be able to help in the classroom. It would mean another look at what is required to be certified to teach in the state. Also, guidance from a mentor teacher would be crucial.

But the bigger problem is that they won’t do it for $38,000.  

Iowa is using $75 million in federal funds for a program that will encourage high school students to pursue a career in teaching by funding college credits. It’s something that might help dwindling teacher numbers, but it still doesn’t address new teacher compensation.

Nobody goes into teaching to get rich, but even a modest bump in salaries could be meaningful in solving education problems. It might be enough to prompt some early retirees to consider using their talents in the classroom.

Acknowledge learning loss, give teachers a raise, and start thinking outside the box on who can be admitted to the education club. Focus on results, not rules.

Not everyone has what it takes to teach. But some do.

It’s time to do something.

Taxes, consequences and choices

My grandkids like to play a game called, “Would You Rather.” Through barely stifled giggles, they present one preposterous choice to another. And now Grandma must choose. It’s a clever, little game. Ultimately, you learn more about the other person—what is valued.

Voters must make choices, too. Recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act makes that clear.

It’s another monstrous spending package that may have little or no effect on inflation. Many economists and studies like the Penn Wharton Budget Model from the University of Pennsylvania sounded the alarm. Still, the controlling Democratic Party pushed it through. Not a single Republican voted for it.

About $370 billion goes toward climate change initiatives. The Internal Revenue Service gets $80 billion over 10 years, with about half of that money going toward increased enforcement. And the 2010 Affordable Care Act, still not able to operate without massive subsidies, gets another $64 billion. That will buy us three more years of Obamacare.   

But there’s one piece of this legislation that deserves greater consideration by its critics—an alternative minimum tax of 15% for corporations earning a billion or more annually in income.

An initial concern was the issue of accelerated or bonus depreciation. Corporations (and all businesses) incur expenses and make purchases in order to stay competitive. These write-offs lower taxable income. There are two sides to running a business—generating income and managing costs. The final version of this bill, though, left in the ability to accelerate depreciation of certain purchases.

What’s different is C corporations will now face either a 15% minimum tax on its adjusted financial statements—the ones where they could announce banner years to their shareholders—or taxation through its regular tax forms—the ones where they could announce a loss or little income to the Internal Revenue Service. Corporations will pay the larger of either the minimum tax or the regular tax.  

We got to this place when it was learned, all too often, that enormous corporations with dominant market share were paying little or no federal income tax. 

In 2016, The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) identified 100 C corporations with the largest incomes. From that group, it selected 50 and studied tax liabilities for each. It was an impressive lot. These 50 companies held more than one-quarter of all assets reported from 1.6 million C corporations. Of those 50 companies studied, about one-in-five reported no federal income tax after credits.

Billion-dollar businesses argue that they have shareholders to satisfy. The Tax Foundation has been equally critical of JCT’s findings and states, “The corporate tax is also borne by owners of shares, including retirees and others…”

Everyone with a 401K or other retirement account, with even small stakes in large, publicly-held corporations, wants high-performing returns.

The Tax Foundation continues, “Corporate taxes do not come freely but rather at the expense of more investment, more job opportunities, and higher wages.”

That’s a legitimate argument. But the same is true for small businesses. Taxes paid by small businesses come at the expense of more investment, more job opportunities, and higher wages.

Keep in mind, small businesses account for about half of all private sector employment. They’re a big deal, too. But they’re also expected to pay their taxes.

This is one of those times when you can’t have both things, and it’s an uncomfortable choice.

Would you rather see the wealthiest corporations in this country pay their fair share of taxes, even if it meant your 401K would stumble—especially if the stock market is already struggling? Or would you rather look the other way when billion-dollar companies don’t pay their fair share of taxes, as long as it improves your chance to enjoy a high-performing retirement account?

There’s no one right answer, but have one. Then, own it.

Even children know that our choices define us.  

Healing after Roe v. Wade

This blog was previously published in the Des Moines Register.

Former President Bill Clinton stated that abortion should be safe and legal, but rare.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973. It made abortion safe and legal, but not rare. More than 63 million babies have been aborted in the United States in the past 49 years. That’s not a rare number by anyone’s standards. It’s what drove many to the ballot box, hoping that one day abortion truly would be rare.

The heavy lifting of the abortion debate—voting in candidates who nominate and confirm constitutional originalists to the bench—is completed. The Supreme Court recently sent the issue back to the states where it belongs.

Now we begin the next phase—lawmaking at the state level, which could look quite differently throughout the country. But common to all during this time should be a sense of healing and a desire to respect all life, including the mother’s. 

Three-quarters of the population believe abortion should be legal if the woman’s life or health is endangered by the pregnancy. About the same percentage believe abortion should be legal if the pregnancy occurs from rape. A woman’s life or health could be endangered if she shares a child with a rapist, especially in a nation that is soft on crime.

Most abortions, though, are happening for other reasons.

If there are 63 million babies being aborted, there are tens of millions of women who have had at least one abortion.    

In states that place strong restrictions on abortions, the concern is that abortions will continue at the same rate—they just won’t be legal or as safe.

It’s questionable if the abortion rate would remain the same under that circumstance.

When abortion was legal nationwide, it was used and used widely. Many have had not one, but multiple abortions. Legalization of something tends to lull us into believing it’s an acceptable activity.

Sometimes, it’s not.

Marijuana is now legal in several states. For many, the good old days have returned. But have they? In several states, the speed limit is 80 mph on interstates. Inexperienced 16-year-olds can legally drive that speed and will. But should they? Social media giants can be the messaging police and legally kick off anyone from their platforms, and they do. But is it fair?

Abortion was legal nationwide, and 63 million were aborted. But was it right?

Women who have had abortions are our friends, neighbors and family members. Most tend not to brag about it. That silence says so much. But because it was legal, it may have been enough to suppress doubts and move forward with the abortion anyway. The legality of it may have been the tipping point.

That’s the greatest tragedy of all.

Most of these women made the best decision they knew how to make, at the time they were making it. The fact that abortion was legal at the time likely factored into that decision.

It’s noticeable that the majority of these tens of millions of women are now painfully silent during this upheaval of abortion law.  

We all have to take some responsibility for creating a society where abortion has been the acceptable and permanent go-to solution to a beautiful surprise—a new life.

Through our indifference or our zealotry.

Through our vote or our failure to vote.

Through our courage or our fear.  

There will always be unplanned pregnancies. But there is hope that there will be fewer abortions, because the conversation has turned to the legality of it.

Then maybe we can get to a place where abortion really does become a rarity.

It will be a life-changer.

Protect the filibuster

First, do no harm.

Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath, or a similar pledge, to guide them in caring for the sick. Sometimes, it may be better to do nothing rather than intervene with a treatment that causes more harm than good.

The same idea can work for politicians, especially in the U. S. Senate. First, do no harm by upholding the filibuster.

The filibuster (a lengthy debate or stalling tactic) and its subsequent cloture rule (requiring a super majority of 60 votes) are the only things ensuring that consensus is at least attempted on decisions that greatly affect the country—no matter which party is in power.

Without these two tools, the whims of any slim majority could push through legislation that meets only the ideology of its own political party.

But that’s not why they’re there. The good of the entire country must be considered.

That didn’t stop the current Democratic majority, earlier this year, from trying to eliminate the filibuster. Fortunately, Sens. Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema had the courage to oppose their party’s power grab and derailed it.

But they tried. They forgot the mistakes of the past.

In 2013, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid led his Democratic party in eliminating the 60-vote rule for federal judicial nominations. It was a victory for the Obama Administration, then, and a defeat for the Republicans.

The problem is no one party stays in power forever. Short-sightedness is not wisdom. It’s folly. When the Republicans regained power in 2016, they seized on the precedent and included nominees to the Supreme Court. They seated three.  

And now with the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade, sending abortion rights or restrictions back to the states, some Democrats want to pack the court—increase the number of justices on the Supreme Court—and eliminate the filibuster in order to help them do that.  

Politicians preoccupied with ending the filibuster should read, “Filibusters and Cloture in the Senate,” by the Congressional Research Service. It states, “…the possibility of filibusters creates a powerful incentive for Senators to strive for legislative consensus. The votes of only a majority of Senators present and voting are needed to pass a bill on the floor. It can, however, require the votes of 60 Senators to invoke cloture on the bill in order to overcome a filibuster and enable the Senate to reach that vote on final passage…Although true consensus on major legislation issues may be impossible, the dynamics of the Senate’s legislative process do promote efforts to come as close to consensus as the strongly held beliefs of Senators permit.”

Elected officials must be forced to work together this way.

Term limits would be the best way to maximize selfless productivity in Congress. It would create a sense of urgency to reach across the aisle and get some good things done with the limited amount of time they have. But it requires politicians to vote against their own self interests.

Term limits legislation will never pass.

The filibuster and cloture are the next, best thing to keep trying to find common ground.

It’s so important that it should require a pledge of some sort. Here’s a “Filibuster Protection Oath” possibility: “I promise to uphold the filibuster. I understand it will sometimes make it more difficult to pass legislation that my party favors. But I believe it would be better if politicians did nothing at all before harming the country by ending the filibuster.”

A filibuster protection oath will never happen.

But at a minimum, candidates running for election this fall should declare whether or not they support the filibuster and cloture rule.

Those who don’t may do more harm than good.

Why middle-agers should make their bed every morning

Make your bed. It all sounds so simple.

My young adult years were spent collapsing into bed after working all day and caring for my family’s needs. When dawn broke, my deep sleep was pierced by the exuberant and sweet sounds of my little ones who were ready to get moving.

Another busy day would begin. Without any thought of making my bed.

In the book, “Make Your Bed,” retired Admiral William H. McRaven writes about the importance of doing little things right. “Every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that we were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.”

But I wouldn’t have needed a former navy SEAL to preach to me about making my bed. My mother (who had eight children) tried to teach by example. She made her bed every morning. And dear Aunt Thelma did her best to encourage me, as well.

Still, my bed remained a tangled pile of sheets and blankets during those years.

Often, timing must intersect with wisdom before we get it. We have to be ready to receive the message.

Now that I’m an empty-nester, I see things differently.

Before, when working and raising a young family, there was no shortage of tasks that needed to be completed. Making my bed was last on the list. It rarely got done.

I’m in my late 50’s, now, and still work. But the kids are grown and enjoying the hustle and bustle of their own expanding families. My husband and I have settled into a home life that lacks the busyness of the earlier years. Recently, I’ve been discovering that it’s not that hard to spend a few minutes making the bed in the morning.

And somehow passing by my bedroom, with its well-made bed, reminds me that it’s not time to give up the day just yet. It’s good to keep moving and keep accomplishing something.

An unmade bed sends the opposite message, that it’s quitting time.

All can learn from the discipline that comes with making your bed every morning. It becomes the first successful task for many who have a full day of activities—like young parents or those throwing their energies into building their careers.

But it seems especially important for middle-agers. Our tasks may be fewer, but seeing smoothed out and tucked in sheets and bedding reminds us that the day’s bounty isn’t over. We’re not done yet. We have more to offer and experience.

My prayer every morning is, “Thank you, God, for letting me wake up. Thank you for gifting me with another day. I will try not to waste it.”

Surprisingly, a well-made bed is a simple start to keeping that promise.

More personal responsibility, less COVID-blaming, needed in education

This blog was previously published in the Des Moines Register.

More personal accountability, less COVID-blaming, needed in education

Solving an education problem is never easy, but it’s helpful to at least identify what is not at fault.

A recent Des Moines Register article, “How DMPS is trying to get kids back into class after COVID” suggests that the pandemic is the cause of a high percentage of chronic absences in the district. It then likens Des Moines schools to schools nationwide, facing the same problem.  

Misery loves company because it reduces personal accountability.

It’s likely there are several schools suffering with attendance problems, for a number of reasons, throughout the country. But the knee-jerk response is to blame COVID.

The Iowa Department of Education tells a different story. Average daily attendance for Iowa schools was 94.7% for the 2018-2019 school year, which was pre-pandemic. Attendance fell to 92.8% for the 2020-2021 academic year. A total difference of 1.90%. Only slightly downward. And with a starting point of about 95%, there wasn’t much ceiling room.  

Certainly, COVID may have factored into the slight state-wide decline. But it doesn’t explain the huge drop experienced by Des Moines schools.

About one-third of the 327 schools listed had numbers that remained the same or actually increased in attendance percentage. Only two schools had a double-digit percentage drop in attendance—Des Moines at 10.60% and Davenport at 12.50%. Four schools saw a 5-7% decline: Ames, Burlington, Red Oak and Waterloo. Most of the remaining 200 schools saw attendance decline near the state average of about 2%.

What jumps out is that no other schools experienced the catastrophe that Des Moines and Davenport faced after that two-year period.

If the pandemic was the real culprit, double-digit decreases in attendance would be plaguing every school district in Iowa. COVID came for all of us, not just Des Moines and Davenport.

Stakeholders in this dilemma are teachers, families and school administrations.

Teachers are the difference makers in education. Placing a really great teacher in every classroom is one of the biggest determining factors in a student’s academic success. But it’s hard to see how the responsibility for student attendance should rest on their shoulders. We have to get them there, before they can take it from there.

Why aren’t families getting them there? There could be several reasons why some students are missing too much school. Perhaps the student has a chronic illness. Maybe, due to poverty, he or she also works to supplement a family income. It’s also possible that the student simply chooses not to go to school and that the parents are either indifferent to that decision or incapable of requiring school attendance.   

All of those situations can and do happen in the other 325 school districts that did not experience a 10-12% drop in attendance. Family problems are not unique to Des Moines and Davenport.

That leaves the administration.

Schools are hierarchies. It’s a top-down system of power and authority that must accomplish a lot. But its main role is to constantly and consistently set clear expectations of the student body. Expectations from ruling administrators and school boards can look quite differently from district to district. And lack of problem-solving ability, poor judgement, and weak leadership during these last couple of years may have done harm that is only now being quantified.

That’s not a COVID problem. It’s a people problem.

There are so many moving parts with education issues that it’s difficult to nail down a true diagnosis. But we can stop using the pandemic as a scapegoat.

We’ve had a toxic love affair with COVID-Blame, but it’s time to end it and start assuming personal responsibility again.  

Ukrainians hear the call of the wild

Sometimes life is so unfair. So unfair. And what are you going to do about it?

There are really only two choices—give up or go on.

Just a month ago, the people of Ukraine were busy building a government of the people. Democratic processes are messy, but the vision of a better life for the next generation was compelling the nation forward in a peaceful manner.

Then Russia invaded, for no greater reason than that it wanted to and it could. The assumption by many was that Ukraine would quickly give up. But they didn’t.

In Jack London’s, “The Call of the Wild,” Buck—a St. Bernard/Scotch Shepherd mix—was enjoying the good life in California with a wealthy landowner. He had the run of the estate and a cozy spot by the fireplace when he wanted it. The book is fictional, but it narrates through the very real time period of the 1890s Gold Rush in Canada and Alaska. Big dogs were needed to pull sleds over an unforgiving and frozen landscape. Demand was high, and supply was scarce.

Buck was stolen and then sold.

Unexpected cruelty is disorienting. Chained and captive, Buck was introduced to his new life by a dog-breaker and a club. “A dozen times he charged, and as often the club broke the charge and smashed him down.”

Some dogs never got back up. They weren’t able to transition into a life of violence and hardship, but Buck learned how to first survive.

Russia is carrying a big stick and bringing death and destruction to Ukraine. But the Ukrainians keep getting back up. They didn’t start a war with a super power, but they’re learning how to survive one.

Buck adapted to the life of pulling a sled over a frozen tundra and the kill-or-be-killed challenges from the other dogs. He adapted, and then he thrived. He became the lead dog and was able to trust the kindness of a human again and feel loyalty toward him.

After being stunned into survival mode, the Ukrainians are adapting to their new reality. They, too, face kill-or-be-killed situations. And every day, their fighting spirit grows stronger despite the formidable opponent before them. They’re showing what courage and leadership look like when faced with such an unfair attack.

Eventually, Buck finds freedom. He answers the call of the wild—the call of a wolf pack—and fights for and takes his rightful place with them. He’s free and finally, fully alive.

Hardship produces resiliency, but does resiliency require hardship?

A Quinnipiac University poll asked American adults what they would do if they were in the same position as the Ukrainians. Would they stay and fight or leave the country? Almost four in ten said they would leave the country.

There are 250 million adults living in the United States. Imagine 100 million fleeing if our nation was attacked.

This doesn’t square with the history of our people. We declared independence from a powerful monarchy and went on to finish two world wars that we did not start.

It’s just one poll, and polls can be wrong. But many of us do see a shift in our country. In the past, forced self-reliance produced an independent and fighting spirit. Now, big government breeds dependency and helplessness.

Over the years, our country has had a bit of a Wild West image. And it’s served us well. But now instead of willingly riding shotgun, too many have fallen asleep in the stagecoach and would not know how to survive, adapt and thrive from the surge that comes when meeting a threat.

The last chapter hasn’t been written on the Ukraine – Russia war. But no matter how it ends, the people of Ukraine have answered the call of the wild. They’ve become fully alive and know—will always know—what they’re meant to be.

Free.

Don’t over-correct the education system

This blog was previously published in the Des Moines Register.

A speed bump was placed on the outskirts of a small, Iowa community. It was put there to slow down a teenager who “lit ‘em up” on his way out of town as he was traveling to school. As I watched the lone town motor-head, it occurred to me that he would also be the type who would fight for our country. He joined the Marines after graduation.

But before that, the speed bump was installed.

Public safety is important. Speed limits are good. Enforcing speed limits is better. But installing the speed bump was an overreaction.

It happens all too often. We get a good idea and then take it too far.

All around the country, parents have been a positive force in the education system. Throughout the pandemic, they demanded that teachers return to in-classroom teaching, questioned the efficacy of masking students, and challenged the teaching of critical race theory or any type of racism or discrimination. 

Parents have been successful, and it’s prompted our legislators to introduce meaningful education bills.

But, now, we’re starting to see a few examples of education bills going too far.  

A bill was introduced in the Iowa House that called for cameras in the classroom, allowing parents to view live footage. The bill failed—thankfully.

Most school administrators and teachers would welcome a parent who wanted to sit in and personally observe a classroom. But sitting at home, day after day, and remotely viewing through a supposedly secure Internet connection is too much. It’s unnecessary surveillance of the teacher and improper videotaping of children.

Parents can still do what parents have always done. Ask their children about what’s happening at school at the kitchen dinner table. There will undoubtedly be “fork-drop” moments. At that time, parents can set up meetings with school officials and discuss any concerns.

Cameras in the classroom are not needed.

In Indiana, House bill 1134 is on the move and will require teachers to post annually by August 1, every textbook, all printed material, audiovisual materials, electronic and digital sources, Internet sources, library materials, presentations, lectures and any other educational activity that will be used for instruction in the upcoming year.

The writers of the bill did smartly exclude copies of tests and scoring keys.  

It’s a lengthy bill that covers many areas, but at least this section of it seems to reach a certain level of ridiculousness.

Communication is helpful. A provided syllabus is good. Stating class goals is better. But requiring the posting of a year’s worth of every scrap of resource a teacher may use is too much.

The whole point of in-person instruction is so the teacher can, in real time, gauge whether the students are comprehending an idea, answer questions, determine where further reinforcement is needed or a new approach is warranted, and know through a continuous process of a type of “call and response” when the lesson plan can move forward.

Children aren’t computers. It’s not a simple matter of inputting data. Even the very best teachers will not be able to rigidly adhere to previously posted lesson plans, and it’s because they’re good teachers that it won’t happen. 

A 2021 survey found that nearly one in four teachers were likely to leave their profession. Job-related stress was a big factor.

Attempting to put cameras in classrooms or regimenting the academic year before it even begins only adds to that stress.

Nobody loves these children more than their parents, and it is right and good for them to be involved in their kids’ education. But let us be reasonable in the pursuit of improving the education system.

If too many speed bumps are placed on the career path of teaching, there will be no teachers left who are willing to join parents in the fight for a quality education for all.