Yeah, that was kind of what I was on about…

CIA photograph of Soviet medium-range ballistic missile in Red Square, Moscow, some time between 1959 and 1968. Imagine a giant pencil instead.

CIA photograph of Soviet medium-range ballistic missile in Red Square, Moscow, some time between 1959 and 1968: It really DOES look like a giant pencil, doesn’t it? A freshly sharpened one….

Just noticed that a piece in the Charleston paper over the weekend made reference to something I wrote last week.

The Post and Courier piece was headlined “Where does South Carolina’s teacher labor movement go after 10,000 person march?” (They left the hyphen out of “10,000-person,” not I. Y’all know I love hyphens. And commas.)

“May Day? Really? Are we thinking of the State House grounds as Red Square?” opined Brad Warthen, a former editor at The State who worked as a spokesman for Democrat James Smith’s failed gubernatorial campaign in 2018.

As for the choice of date for the first protest action, Walker said her group chose it to stand in solidarity with North Carolina teachers, who were marching on their Statehouse the same day. She said she hadn’t heard of May Day or its socialist connotations before critics brought it up online…

Yeah, exactly. They chose it “to stand in solidarity” with workers elsewhere. Kind of what I was on about.

Before someone gets worked up: No, I don’t think the teachers are commies. Apparently, this one doesn’t even know about commies.

I’m all for the teachers. I’m all for public education. Always have been, the record will show.

I’m just saying what I said: That this is not a way to win friends and influence people — at least, not the people who make policy in this GOP-dominated state. While few enough among them remember the Cold War, one assumes it lurks somewhere in their collective unconscious (as much as they might deny, upon questioning, possessing a collective anything).

And especially not when the Republican speaker of the House has stuck his neck out trying to accomplish some of the things you say you want.

That’s all I have to say… except that I wish they’d quoted the part about the giant pencils. That was the good bit. The part they quoted was just the setup for the good bit. Ask Norm. He appreciated it, even within the context of taking me to task

73 thoughts on “Yeah, that was kind of what I was on about…

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Actually, I’ll say one more thing, with regard to what I said about supporting teachers and my record confirming that — actually, said record may go back to before some of the younger teachers were born.

    There’s one thing I’d like to communicate more than any other: This is the problem with “10,000-person” demonstrations. They are about oversimplifying the world into misleading dichotomies.

    I’m guessing that most of those 10,000, as well as many more who weren’t there but applaud the sentiments expressed by that event, think that anyone who looks askance at their demonstration is against them and what they want. Nothing could be further from the truth. But from now on, with this event imprinted in people’s memories, there will be a tendency to think in those black-and-white terms, which means thousands of people will be misled…

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oh, and while I’m momentarily back on this topic, let me share this excerpt from Cindi’s column:

    Even if anti-education Republicans are replaced — and they need to be, along with any anti-education Democrats — the fact remains that anyone who wants to accomplish anything in the Legislature has to convince Republicans.

    Unfortunately, Wednesday’s rally did not feel like it was designed to do that. Just the opposite.

    Set aside the whole union feel that’s a particularly big turnoff to Republicans, and consider this: Among the speakers were three legislators and one former legislator. All four were Democrats.

    House Speaker Jay Lucas, House Education Chair Rita Allison and Senate Education Chairman Greg Hembree say they were not invited….

    All that “We teach, we vote!” stuff may feel good during a demonstration, but if you want change, you’ve got to talk to the people who are in charge and will remain in charge however you vote. Especially when they’re people who are already working on the issues you say you care about…

  3. bud

    Probably time for an actual strike. That approach worked in other states. Not sure what Brad and Cindi would have the teachers do. Perhaps write letters to the editor? It really isn’t important if the legislators get angry. They just need to be replaced. Rallies like this could make a difference at election time in the minds of the voters. A full blown walkout even more.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      See what I mean? “It really isn’t important if the legislators get angry. They just need to be replaced.”

      You see the kind of intolerant, absolutist attitude the whole “Let’s march and FORCE people to do what we want” approach engenders?

      Who are we talking about here? Jay Lucas, the House speaker who — in a gesture that rivals the risk he took in getting the gas tax passed a couple of years ago — sticks his neck out and LEADS on a bill that does many of the things teachers say they want, amends it halfway through the process IN RESPONSE TO TEACHERS, and rams it through, getting it passed with only FOUR “nay” votes — only to, of course, see it bog down in the Senate. For now. That guy? That’s a guy you’re going to get tossed out? And how do you propose to do this?

      And who do you think will replace him? I’ll tell you: Certainly a Republican, and most likely a Republican who does not give a DAMN what you want, who won’t lift a finger to address the things that teachers are concerned about. It will almost certainly be someone who could not care less what 10,000 teachers and supporters think. It will be someone who cares only what the 1,155,389 South Carolinians who voted for Donald Trump want.

      And THAT is where the “Hear us roar; we’re going to throw you out” approach gets you….

      1. bud

        And who do you think will replace him? I’ll tell you: Certainly a Republican, and most likely a Republican who does not give a DAMN what you want, who won’t lift a finger to address the things that teachers are concerned about.

        And that would be different from what we have now? Seems like all you’re really defending is the status quo. That isn’t really helping the teachers now is it? Democrats CAN win in SC. Just ask Katie Arrington.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          It would be radically different from what we have now. And I’m not defending the status quo. I’m defending the people who are trying to change the status quo. Therein lies the difference.

      2. Doug Ross

        Another checkbox for the “All roads lead to Trump” syndrome.

        Trump has nothing to with South Carolina’s schools. The problems that exist in largely Democratic districts are at least 50% caused by the local politicians and school boards who have been in office for ages.

        Allendale County voted 80-20 for James Smith. They are a county which is as blue as you can get. Allendale schools have been the bottom of the barrel for decades without any improvement despite having spending per pupil that is 50% (!!!) more than most districts. 2018 saw Allendale spend 15K per student compared to 11K in Richland 2. More than 2/3 of the kids in their schools don’t meet the standards for English and Math in the 8th grade. We’ve known this since PACT testing starting 20 years ago. We’ve known it since PASS testing replaced PACT testing when the results didn’t change so the educrats just changed the system to give them another decade of incompetence without accountability.

        Please give me the magic number of dollars that will fix problem districts like Allendale. Is it $20K per student? $100K? I want to hear one politician who will stake his/her tenure in office on the dollars it will take to guarantee measurable improvement that would move Allendale to just being AVERAGE.

        The problem isn’t money. Never has been. The problem is many parents who are not engaged or capable / willing to raise children and school boards and local politicians who are ineffective, corrupt, or both.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          From now on, I won’t respond to any “see no evil” comments that start with “diagnosing” people who recognize the horrific thing that’s happened to our country as having a “syndrome.” If you don’t understand my point about the sort of Republican who would replace Lucas, then there’s nothing I can say to make you see it.

          And the digression about James just seemed odd.

          By the way, that was held for moderation. Not sure why. No links. No red flag words….

          1. Doug Ross

            You appeared to be throwing the blame for poor schools on Republicans (especially Trump Republicans – i.e. the same people who typically vote for Lindsey Graham).

            They aren’t holding anyone back in Allendale. Allendale is a very solid Democrat county which has been a disaster in terms of education for decades. They need to take ownership of their own problems for once instead of blaming Republicans every time. Many things that COULD be done to help education in Allendale wouldn’t cost a dime. But it WOULD take community engagement instead of waiting on the dollars to flow from Columbia and Washington.

            But, no, we’ll throw more money at the problems and come back in five years to ask for more.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Fixing Allendale will take a lot more than community engagement, mainly because that’s such a distressed community.

              Allendale is a perfect example of why I changed my mind on local control of schools sometime back in the 90s. (Yes, Brad does change his mind sometimes.) I used to believe in local control as an unalloyed good, a good in all cases.

              But there are communities that have so little social and human infrastructure left that the competence to turn around inadequate schools simply does not exist within the community.

              It’s an illustration of the “yes, but” part of the principle of subsidiarity (to which I subscribe), which holds that power to run things should be handled by the smallest and most local level that is competent to handle them.

              I still oppose federal control of schools, but I now think that smallest, most local possible level that is competent — in the case of places such as Allendale — is probably the state.

              And since in South Carolina, the state has a constitutional duty to provide education (while local governments are subdivision of the state), there is even more reason to expect the state to take responsibility.

              Of course, this raises all kinds of sensitivities. First, there is the fairly widespread human desire to control schools on the local level.

              Then, there’s race. Doug says “Allendale is a very solid Democrat county,” by which he means “Democratic” county. Well, that’s another way of saying it’s got a lot of black people. In fact, it’s the blackest county in South Carolina, at 71 percent.

              I’m no expert on Allendale — I’ve only visited the place once — but I’ve gotten the impression that folks down there tend to resent the white folks in Columbia trying to come down there and run things for them.

              It’s a daunting problem, or should I say complex set of problems…

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              Oh, and to be clear: Bud is the one who throws the blame entirely upon Republicans, and thinks all Republicans are the same.

              I’m the guy pointing out that there are Republicans — such as Jay Lucas, who is trying to help schools — and there are the Republicans who would likely replace them, who are far worse.

              I’ve made this point several times by now. I don’t know why it’s not getting across…

              1. Doug Ross

                But why do we have to start with money and taxes as the solution when there is no evidence it has helped counties like Allendale despite spending more money there than any other district in the state?

                Where is the plan that says just giving them more money will change the results? Aren’t we as taxpayers OWED that level of accountability if the plan is to redistribute more money to those counties? Who is going to take ownership for the success or failure? It should start with the people who live there and the local school board. If they can’t do it, they should turn over control to someone (SOME ONE NOT AN UNACCOUNTABLE COMMISSION OR BOARD) who will.

                Like or not, the people of Allendale are going to depend on the white folk of SC to help them if they want more money. That’s the price they’ll have to pay for not doing it themselves.

                So instead of talking about funding, let’s talk about what the PLAN is to fix the schools, who will do it, and how they will be measured. Then we can talk about the cost.

                It’s going to take something radical (vouchers) to fix Allendale even (vouchers) in the smallest (vouchers) way. But new ideas are not allowed in the education system in SC. Protect the turf and more of the same and complain, blame, and shame is the modus operandi.

                1. Doug Ross

                  Didn’t the bill that Lucas was pushing for include significant spending requirements for salaries and headcount increases?

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    I wish I could answer that, but I’m not sure at this point which bill contained what. The teachers are getting their pay raise without the bill, so I’m not sure how that works. Right now, that’s the one big money item, I think…

                    Can anyone clarify?

    2. Norm Ivey

      It is not time for a strike, and if any group that claims to represent teachers called for one, I would not participate.

  4. Mr. Smith

    Oh, I know what you were on about. Most folks know what you were on about – and if they don’t, then mainly because May Day has never been a thing in the US. The point is: what you’re on about has nothing whatsoever to do with the event in Columbia last week.

    And now you’re trying to make teachers out to be historical ignoramuses.

    Knowledge of the past is a good thing. But practicing distortion by drawing false parallels is not.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      And who on Earth is doing that? The unfortunate choice to do this on May Day in red shirts isn’t some kind of reach on my part. It sort of jumps out at you. Norm had the same thought — he said the thing about the giant pencils occurred to him, too.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I don’t dislike us enough to embrace that idea.

              But if ever I completely give up on America, that will likely be a big reason for it…

          1. Mr. Smith

            You missed the point – again. It’s not that 95% don’t know what May Day is. It’s that 95% of people won’t see any relationship between the teacher event and May Day. Only a small minority will. THAT’s the only thing that matters here.

      1. Norm Ivey

        There are several people I spoke with that understood the significance of May 1. Granted, a good number of them were Social Studies teachers, but still. People knew. They may not have cared, but they knew.

  5. Sean S.

    As a former Columbia, SC resident and now Twin Cities resident, I am amused by Brad’s efforts to get people in the RedforEd movement to drop the color and the May Day protest because of the fear of red baiting. You could offer any milquetoast reform in SC and be called a commie by conservatives, so who cares what they think? I will tell you however that the “commies” who strike and threaten strikes up here, have significantly better funding, better pay, and have made dramatic political reform possible in Minnesota. So if the solution as Brad says is to go moderate and stop complaining so vociferously, why is every place where teacher organizations and unions have done the opposite doing so much better than SC?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      That’s easy to answer: Because the electorate as a whole, and the people they elect, are very, very different in those places.

      It’s not the unions. It’s the willingness of the leadership in those places to do the kinds of things that unions tend to support.

      Compare us to a place like Pennsylvania, for instance. There’s a historical marker on the grounds of their state house celebrating it as a place that played a role in the development of public-employee unions. You’ll never in your lifetime see plaque like that on the grounds of this Statehouse. Why? Because this place is very different.

      Given that difference, it’s a fact of life that Republicans will run the Statehouse for the foreseeable future. So when you get a Republican speaker who has just labored mightily, and at some political risk, to successfully pass a bill doing things teachers want, you don’t strut around threatening to toss him out of office.

      Nor do you cry that your pleas are falling on “deaf ears” when the legislation he pushed through the House was largely based on those pleas.

      Not unless you want things to get worse.

      Am I making myself clear to anyone here? I’ve explained this a number of times now, and I keep getting responses that seem completely disconnected from what I’ve said…

      1. Bob Amundson

        Brad, you seem to be saying the House is doing their job, and I agree Speaker Lucas is doing his best to make necessary reforms. However, since the Senate can’t pass the reform legislation, the system is broken. Teachers should be focusing on replacing Senators that are making it difficult.

        Bigger picture: “minimally adequate” is founded on racism. Implicit bias still has a strong foothold in South Carolina.

        1. Doug Ross

          Who are they? What are their names? Why aren’t those specific Senators being outed by teachers?

          Here’s a link to the Senate Education committee feedback page.

          Maybe express your concerns there.

          And here’s the Republican members of the committee.. 10 of the 17 members are Republicans. If nothing is getting accomplished, you should start with this list which contains a bunch of old white guys who basically run the state… all the usual suspects.

          Hembree, Greg, Chairman
          Rankin, Luke A.
          Peeler, Harvey S., Jr.
          Grooms, Lawrence K. “Larry”
          Young, Tom, Jr.
          Turner, Ross
          Rice, Rex F.
          Talley, Scott
          Massey, A. Shane
          Cash, Richard J.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Speaking of Hembree, you might want to read Cindi’s column from last month, which starts out illustrating how complicated and contradictory actual facts are, outside of the black-and-white world of the protest march:

            When Senate Education Chairman Greg Hembree announced Wednesday that he was abandoning some of the most important elements of this year’s education reform package, an upstart teachers group that has driven much of this year’s debate applauded the decision. And I tried to remember the last time educators had reacted with such hostility toward lawmakers who were raising their pay and making other modest improvements to their working conditions.

            We should all hope this doesn’t turn into one of those be-careful-what-you-wish-for moments for members of SC for Ed and their sympathizers. You know, where Republican legislators throw up their hands and ask why they should work to raise teacher pay and remove barriers to education improvements if they’re just going to get attacked by educators.

            Fortunately, Sen. Hembree isn’t one of those Republicans….

          2. Bob Amundson

            My Senator is Dick Harpootlian; I don’t need to call him, because I know his stance. If he did not support reform, I’d call him. If my input didn’t change his mind, I’d make it very clear he may lose my vote. I wish others would do the same; too few people actually understand how much power you may have as a politician’s constituent.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Actually, and I stand ready to be corrected on this because my memory could be faulty, but as much as the “minimally adequate” phrase is used today as evidence that the powers that be want to keep SC down, when Chief Justice Ernest Finney introduced the phrase in the 90s, it was with the intention of RAISING the bar.

          I remember thinking at the time that that sounded like a pretty pitiful standard, but it WAS a standard, or at least a statement of the aspiration of having a standard. Before that, the only requirement was that the state provide an education, without any reference to whether it was adequate or not.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author


            I believe that yes, public schools have been held back by racism, to a great extent — at least, that’s been the case since 1970, when real integration arrived and the seg academies got cranked up, and white folks, especially in the small towns, became less and less interested in the public schools.

            But ironically, the phrase “minimally adequate” was an attempt to overcome that historic neglect…

          2. Bob Amundson

            It is a “”pretty pitiful standard.” I’d call it an extremely pitiful standard. This reminds me of people telling me they aren’t racists because they have black friends. IMHO, anyone who makes that statement SHOWS their bias.

            1. Bob Amundson

              This is not an attack on you, Brad; you clearly agree racism is a problem with the system. However, “[b]ut ironically, the phrase ‘minimally adequate’ was an attempt to overcome that historic neglect…” was a halfhearted attempt, at best.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying. I think it’s extremely ironic that Justice Finney, our first black chief justice, thought he was doing something to undo the problem, and his words are used today to mean the very problem he was addressing.

                You don’t agree?

                1. Bob Amundson

                  I have no idea what Justice FInney was thinking. It’s easy to armchair quarterback this, but I hope, in retrospect, Justice FInney wished he would have used different language. Perhaps he did …

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Perhaps. I expect he probably did.

                    Of course, maybe he used the language specifically in order to stir people into wanting to improve the system…

              2. Doug Ross

                If the dollars spent per pupil in a district that is underperforming are 40% higher than those spent in districts that are average or better, how can that not be minimally adequate?

                2018 Data From SC Dept of Ed:

                Dollars spent per pupil (Federal, State, & Local)

                Allendale County Schools $15,579 Up from $14,170
                Richland School District Two $11,278 Up from $10,985
                Williamsburg County District $11,678 Up from $10,236

                Percent of expenditures for teacher salaries

                Allendale County Schools 41.4
                Richland School District Two 52.4
                Williamsburg County District 45.7

                And the results?

                SC Ready English Language Arts and Mathematics

                English Language Arts (Reading and Writing) – Percent met and exceeding

                Allendale County Schools ………. 15.30%
                Richland School District Two ……. 43.30%
                Williamsburg County District ……. 23.60%

                Mathematics – Percent met and exceeding

                Allendale County Schools ……….. 18.10%
                Richland School District Two ……. 45.30%
                Williamsburg County District ……. 18.20%

                Raising salaries even 100% in those districts won’t have any measurable effect. The kids have to be prepared to learn and supported in homes where education is valued and there is parental guidance to help them succeed.

      2. Mr. Smith

        Yes, you’ve made yourself abundantly clear. Everybody understands what you’re saying. They just don’t accept it. You need to stop making it sound as if people who don’t agree with you are ill-informed or just plain dense.

          1. Doug Ross

            It’s the difference between saying “You are wrong” and “I disagree” when it comes to things that are purely opinion. The protest wasn’t wrong, it was something you disagreed with.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              OK, I’m going to get myself in further trouble here, but you just hit one of my buttons.

              Let’s set aside who is right and who is wrong about the protest and its efficacy, or advisability, or whatever.

              Pretend we haven’t had that discussion. Pretend this isn’t about anything I have said or you have said, except this one abstract point:

              You say “purely opinion,” as though it were something with less validity than something that is not “purely opinion.”

              As someone who spent a HUGE chunk of his life dispensing opinion — mine, and other people’s — I have to rise to opinion’s defense.

              I value opinion more than mere statements of fact. That’s because I want to know what the facts mean, and that involves subjective interpretation.

              If I disagree with something, and I believe it was wrong, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t wrong just because that’s my opinion.

              It was either wrong or not. If I say it was wrong and it wasn’t, then I have shared an invalid opinion. I am wrong, and those who refute me are right. If I say it was wrong and it was, my opinion is the valid one — and the invalid opinions are the ones of those who disagree.

              Disagree with my opinions all you like. Scoff at them. Dissect them, take them apart, deconstruct them. Make an effective argument that yours is the right one, and rip mine to shreds.

              But don’t suggest it’s not wrong or right because it’s “purely opinion.”

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                A lot of people — too many people — think an opinion is simply a personal preference. Like preferring the color blue to red.

                And for many people, maybe it is. Maybe it’s just a prejudice, an ingrained tendency, a whim.

                But proper, informed opinion — the kind I seek out and read, and feel enlightened by — is none of those things. It is a destination that someone has traveled to by way of careful discernment.

                It’s what I strive to produce myself. I don’t always succeed. But I try my best to reach for that ideal. And it takes a lot more work than simply reciting facts, or spouting some half-baked nonsense that comes from the gut….

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  I don’t think my opinion is the best.

                  Really well-constructed, well-written opinion can be intimidating. I read it and applaud, and feel like hanging it up and never writing another word because I’m sure I’ll never write anything that good.

                  And it’s not always something I agree with…

                2. Norm Ivey

                  One of the reasons I read this blog regularly is precisely because of what you are describing here–the well-thought-out and defended opinions that challenge me to consider my own.

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest…

              If you’re saying something about the way I express my views disrespects Mr. Smith, or anyone, then I apologize.

              My goal is to have a civil forum here, and it is my duty to agree or disagree respectfully.

              And I can see how Mr. Smith might think I’m implying other people are dummies for not seeming to connect with what I’m saying, especially when I’m lamenting the fact that my points don’t seem to be getting across clearly.

              But that’s not a reflection on anyone’s intelligence. It’s where public demonstrations take us.

              A public demonstration, no matter how intelligent the participants, tends to dumb things down. It turns everything into an “us vs. them” thing. In the case of last week’s demonstration, discussions about it, even among very intelligent people, tend to break down into “Are you for the teachers or against them?”

              If you are for what the teachers are for but don’t think this is the way to go about it, then you find yourself in an uncomfortable place in a discussion that no longer recognizes such positions. You’re either FOR them and what they’re doing, or you’re “for the status quo” and sticking up for the bad guys.”

              I keep seeing that happen, and it’s enormously frustrating to me, and I complain about it. Perhaps I get too petulant about it.

              Anyway, as I say, I don’t mean to offend anyone….

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                One of the bad things about a blog, as opposed to producing opinion as a member of an editorial board, is this:

                There’s nobody to tell you your tone is wrong, or you’re not getting your point across, or you’re just full of it, BEFORE you publish it. Preferably, before you waste time writing it, which is what our morning meetings were about

                That is something I miss. And I suppose that sometimes my readers miss it too, perhaps without even knowing that that is the thing that’s missing…

                1. Doug Ross

                  But can you at least admit that your informed opinion is only informed to the extent of the sources you read/interact with to develop it? Your background is more closely tied to the state house than the rest of us but I’m fairly certain you haven’t spent a lot of time as a teacher in a classroom – at least in this decade.

                  Perhaps if you had a broader perspective, you might have a different informed opinion. For me, I have no visibility into the workings of the state house — it seems close to an insane asylum from the outside — but I have had three kids go thru 13 years of public school in SC, a wife who has worked in both local schools and federal education grants, and a daughter who is a teacher right now. I also ran for school board and served as a PTO President for two years. That gives me a perspective that informs my opinion (which I shockingly also think is right).

                  So I guess it comes down to the word “wrong”. You can tell me as many times as you’d like that I’m wrong, but that doesn’t make me wrong in reality.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    I didn’t say you’re wrong. I tried to remove it from the question of whether you or I happen to be wrong or right. I was just saying that opinions CAN be right or wrong, and shouldn’t be dismissed as “purely opinion” as though all opinions were equally invalid.

                    Let’s not compare educational experiences. Oh, let’s do…

                    I attended 14 different schools in six states and one foreign country. I attended both private and public schools, and actually had a tutor for the 4th grade (I had to zip through that with a tutor because moving to Ecuador and switching from a Sept-June schedule to an April-Jan schedule would have put me a year behind otherwise). For two years, half of my courses (including history, geography and science) were in Spanish. At different times in my life, I was a good student, a bad student and an indifferent student, depending on a number of different factors. I experienced a couple of years of straight As, and I knew what it was to get Fs. I had both advanced and regular courses — every time I moved to a new school, they would refuse to put me in the advanced classes until I’d proved myself in THEIR system.

                    My children attended both public and private school in four states. Some of them were at the top of their classes, others had learning problems and struggled to graduate. Two of them attended a Governor’s School — one at the Science and Math one, the other at the one for the arts. My youngest, like me, attended three high schools — Brookland-Cayce, the Governor’s School, and a Pennsylvania high school while she was up there doing intensive ballet training.

                    My grandchildren have attended both public and private schools, and the two youngest are in a Chinese-immersion charter school. One of my daughters is on a charter school board.

                    My Dad, like you, ran for his local school board a few years back, unsuccessfully. This was after he ran a junior ROTC program in one of the local schools for a number of years after getting out of the Navy.

                    My wife used to serve on an elementary school improvement council.

                    I once served on the school board of a Catholic school in Tennessee. I’ve been a guest lecturer in enough classrooms that I know I would NOT be a good teacher in K-12, and have the greatest admiration for people who can do it.

                    I just recited all that for the challenge of making myself remember it all, because NONE OF THAT HAS ANYTHING TO DO with the subject of whether the march was a good idea or not. Nor does the vast classroom experience of the 10,000 who were there.

                    You know why? Because I’m not disagreeing with any of the marchers about any of their goals for the classroom. What I have challenged is whether the march was the right way to get what they wanted out of the people in the State House….

                2. Doug Ross

                  The other thing I try to do is back my opinion up with facts. Like looking at school report cards on the SC Dept of Ed site. I look at data and say, “Hmmm… we’re spending a whole lot more per pupil in the worst districts and not seeing any results… maybe we should try something else.”

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Yeah, I almost responded to what you said about that earlier.

                    Those measurements don’t measure what you think they measure. They don’t measure whether money is being spent well. The raw material isn’t the same from school to school and district to district. It’s a well-known fact that you have to spend more money to bring kids even up to a mediocre level in schools full of poor kids who don’t have families that help them succeed, while you can get excellent results with less money in affluent suburbs.

                    In other words, there’s a huge array of variables in every number you cite, and you can’t just look at them and decide whether you’re getting a good ROI. It’s not like spending X amount to get Y number of widgets…

                3. Doug Ross

                  If the data that is collected and disseminated at a cost that likely runs into the millions of dollars is not useful for assessing the academic and financial performance of schools and school districts then lots stop doing it altogether. Put that wasted money back into classrooms.

                  The same applies to the useless PASS testing. End it unless there is an ACTION plan to respond to the results. For districts like Allendale to have 80% of their 3rd-8th grade students not meeting the standards for reading and math and yet still give diplomas to 70-80% of their students is a joke. They are passing kids along just to get them in and out — not addressing the real problem of illiteracy when they have the chance.

                  Don’t measure something if you aren’t going to use the data for a purpose.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Oh, I think there are a LOT of uses to which such measurements can be put.

                    I’m just telling you that concluding that X amount of money is being wasted on poor kids because they get low scores on the test is not a sound conclusion. The test isn’t to see how well each dollar is doing. It’s just to see how the kids are doing.

                    They are most useful when comparing apples to apples. For instance, if you see kids on free and reduced lunch doing better in district A than in district B, you should look at what district A is doing and see if it can be duplicated in district B…

                4. Doug Ross

                  Except that isn’t being done… and hasn’t been done in the past. Data is collected and presented and nothing is done.

                  But when you try to make a case for providing a “minimally adequate” or better educational environment, surely we can look at current spending and academic performance to develop an opinion.

                  Poor academic performance plus 40% more spending per pupil over the course of more than a decade suggests there’s something wrong there. Something systemic, cultural, or corrupt.

                5. Norm Ivey

                  I’m reading this thread and warning myself against following y’all down the rabbit hole, but here I go anyway.

                  If you’re going to measure the efficacy of the additional monies spent in Allendale using a standardized test, you need a benchmark. How would those kids be doing without that money? Test scores are a lousy way to measure success. No employer ever asked anyone how they did on the SC Pass test.

                  If you want to lift Allendale up, you need to reach those kids and families early. They need to be immersed in a literature-rich environment. They need to be exposed to the world beyond their community. I wonder how many have ever been to Columbia to visit the State House and the museum? But even a once-a-year field trip to places like those isn’t enough. Their experiences need to be frequent and sustained.

                  If you want to lift Allendale up, you need to get some economic development in the area. $130M to bring the Panthers to Rock Hill? Are we willing to do something similar for Allendale? And if not, why not?

                  We find money for what we believe is important. Pro football. Yep. Allendale? Not so much.

              2. Mr. Smith

                “It’s where public demonstrations take us.”

                The Framers evidently thought otherwise, else they would not have included “the right of the people to peaceably assemble” in the very First Amendment – the one about various forms of expression. The Framers clearly saw assembly/protest as a form of public expression/argument that called for special protection — and therefore promotion — at the highest level. They considered it a positive good.

                And just generally, it’s altogether possible to support an assembly like the one the teachers engaged in without necessarily agreeing with 100% of their demands. I daresay the teachers at the event were not in 100% agreement about everything. So, arguing that the event is polarizing because it turns everything black or white, for or against, seems quite absurd.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  “it’s altogether possible to support an assembly like the one the teachers engaged in without necessarily agreeing with 100% of their demands”

                  Absolutely. And it’s altogether possible to agree with most of the things the teachers want while believing the demonstration is an unsound idea.

                  Again, I haven’t been clear, which must be my fault.

                  The polarization is not issue-based. It’s a gut thing. For teachers or against teachers. The 10,000 gathered, and got a contact high from doing so — a morale boost, as Phillip suggested. But I’m here to tell you that if you question the wisdom of the gathering, you’ll feel the negative side of that dynamic: Since you’re not for what we’re doing, you must be against us.

                  Of COURSE peaceable assembly is constitutionally protected. It’s a form of expression, and the First Amendment is about protecting forms of expression.

                  That doesn’t mean it’s a wise form, in this instance. Of course, as y’all know, I seldom think it’s a wise course, so that’s my bias. Beyond that, I have specific reasons to think it unwise in this instance.

                  I can be wrong, of course. It could turn out that this demonstration somehow makes an impression on senators that makes them want to act, and lasts through January. It just doesn’t look that way at this point.

                  Mind you, as I’ve said before, I’m the guy who scoffed at the absurd idea that Nikki Haley — who had abased herself before neo-Confederates — would call lawmakers back into session to deal with the Confederate flag. I was wrong, to my great surprise and her everlasting credit…

      3. Phillip

        You (and Cindi Ross Scoppe) are missing one key purpose and point of the rally, and it seemed to me (being in the middle of it, and talking to many teachers before, during, and after the rally) to be the “takeaway” of the day: the morale-booster it was for the teachers who were present. Those who individuals who desperately need a morale boost. So maybe it doesn’t accomplish all that much specifically, but on that day, in that place, teachers knew they were not alone, and that they had some strength in numbers and felt the support too from parents. If nothing else, it maybe lifts spirits a bit to continue the struggle to achieve some of their goals in terms of policy. If that’s ALL it accomplished, that’s still an important achievement.

        Yes, of course, the real work has to continue to be done in the fine print, in the legislative process, and some of the focus also has to go towards inept and incompetent and sometimes corrupt school boards. But there’s nothing wrong with big rallies and keeping the pressure on, in a non-violent and enthusiastic way. This idea that “oooh, big rallies bad, too ‘union-like,’ you might make some lawmakers turn against you…” my gosh…if a legislator is going to look at that rally and turn against pro-education legislation out of pique, well, they were never really IN the pro-education camp to begin with. Their values are placed somewhere else.

  6. Phillip

    sorry, second sentence should read “Those are individuals who desperately need a morale boost.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I think you’re totally right, Phillip, on the whole morale-boost thing. It was a way people could feel like they’re doing something, and give each other some affirmation.

      And I’m not saying lawmakers would turn anti-education because of it. I DO think there is a significant danger of lawmakers who have been trying like crazy to do what teachers want deciding to throw their hands up and use their energies and political capital doing something else, after 10,000 people make like no one’s listening to them or trying to help.

      What happened this year, with what the House did, was extraordinary. Lucas even got Henry McMaster, who couldn’t care less about the schools, to go along. It’s important to try to keep that momentum going into next year, when the Senate will act (or not). This was a delicate thing, and delicate things don’t always respond well to big, emotional demonstrations. Hence my anxiety…

  7. Bob Amundson

    I hope every single teacher at the march took the time to call their House Representative and their Senator.

  8. Doug Ross

    Meanwhile, today the SC Senate is debating tax breaks to bring the Carolina Panthers practice facility over the border.

    You can’t make up how stupid these politicians are. Cowardly, corrupt, grandstanding idiots. Not the institution, Brad, the people sitting in the chairs.

    No time to solve real problems.

      1. Doug Ross

        No. I’m talking specifically about the people who got this topic onto the floor of the Senate today. Someone drove that bill to a vote. It didn’t appear out of thin air. And whoever did that should be ashamed of himself during the same week they couldn’t be bothered to address real concerns.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Well, I gave you the list, so you can see who was for it. Your least favorite senator, Leatherman, was one of them, and I saw that he spoke for it today.

          But I think most of the pressure may have come from McMaster. It has seemed like a big deal for him. I ran into Bobby Hitt on an elevator a couple of weeks back and asked him if he had any big deals going, and all he said was something like, “Well, there’s the Panthers.” That, plus coverage I saw, helped give me the impression that it was a big priority for Team McMaster. That, and getting his buddy Steve Morris the Aging job, in defiance of the Senate.

          It probably would have passed a couple of weeks back if not for Dick’s efforts…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Harpootlian voted no, of course, along with 14 others, including my senator, Nikki Setzler.

      And… actually, rather than trying to type it all, here’s Avery Wilks’ handwritten breakdown of the vote on the football thing:

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      … which has never made a bit of sense. Red is the color of revolution. Until someone at a television network chose it one election night to represent GOP states in a graphic, it was associated with the left.

      The current red-blue thing is random, and makes no sense…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And it’s not just a matter of red being the color of the left, historically (and logically).

        Blue is the more natural color for conservatism. For the ruling class, if you will, in terms of “blue bloods.” In any case, it is the color of coolness and calmness and still waters.

        Which are conservative things. It’s not what many, many people mean these days when they say “conservative,” but most people today seem not to have a clue WHAT they’re talking about when they use the word…

Comments are closed.