Public Funding for Private Schools

The urge to fragment and undercut public education is not new

There will always be those who, for one reason or another, denigrate the public schools. The schools don’t adhere to this or that parent’s view of how certain things should (or shouldn’t) be taught, often sex education, evolution, or race relations; the public schools cost too much; the public schools are administratively top heavy, teachers are paid too well, they get too much vacation. The direction of these complaints are two fold: either, as we’re seeing now at school board meetings across the country, an activist minority decides they will bend the curriculum to suit their particular ideology—or such a minority wants to establish private schools of a particular bent—and wants public money to fund them. 

Public funding for private schools takes two forms. The most obvious is “school choice”. With school choice public funds follow the student to whatever private or public institution parents choose. Schools either succeed or wither based on parent choice, a choice inevitably based on factors that include the slickness of the school’s advertising, the religious bent of the parents, and profits to be made. More subtle, but equally damaging, is legislative underfunding of public education. As outmigration from public schools cuts into enrollment, funding diminishes, and the children of the least engaged parents are left to be educated in under-supported schools—producing a self-fulfilling prophecy of academic underachievement that supports further outmigration. 

Private education with a subtle economic twist has a checkered history in this country. After the desegregation ruling of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 public education in the American South was undermined by “segregation academies”, schools that overtly excluded students based on race. Although not directly funded by public money, in many Southern communities tax levies for public education were starved—after all, one wouldn’t want one’s tax revenue to fund “them”. Overt segregation in such academies and private schools was found unconstitutional in 1976 in Runyon v. McCrary, but, for those originally segregationist academias that survived, the pattern of segregation was culturally perpetuated—and the established pattern of underfunding for public schools still echoes today.

The push for public funding of private schools lives locally. Chris Cargill is a writer funded by the right wing Washington Policy Center (WPC) and a recently elected City Council Member in Liberty Lake. Lately, thanks to his position with the WPC he has been offered a platform on the opinion page of the Spokesman Review every two weeks. His March 4 opinion column titled “The opportunity to re-think public education is now” is little more than an advertisement for public funding of a private school, the “Liberty Launch Academy” in Liberty Lake, a school that isn’t even open yet. The school motto, “Disrupting Education for Good”, is, perhaps, both apt and honest. In a familiar argument, Cargill first trash talks the costs and educational results of Washington State schools in general and the Central Valley School District schools in particular. Then he moves on to compare the average statewide per student expenditure in public schools ($17,000) to the $12,000 “cost” (actually the proposed charge, not cost) of a year at the Liberty Launch Academy, a school whose economic viability and educational success is, at this time, pure speculation. 

Any doubt as to the sectarian tendencies and political bent of Liberty Launch Academy is dispelled by a visit to their website. There you can listen to the founder, Luke Kjar, start his video ad with a question, “How cool would it be to disrupt education, to change it forever?” That is a statement that assumes that public education is hopelessly valueless. You can read the school’s “Statement of Faith”:

Just as faith and freedom are deeply woven into the ethos of the United States of America, Liberty Launch Academy believes in medical, religious, and educational freedom.

The “View Full FAQ List” section of the Liberty Launch Academy notes that “As a private school we are not required to adopt or follow state curriculum,” regarding “state mandated CRT curriculum” or WA State Sex Education. (Please note there is no “state mandated CRT curriculum.”) In case one wonders whether vaccines would be required the prospective parent is reassured: “We will accept waivers.” Clearly, Liberty Launch is cleverly advertising a political and religious agenda even as they claim, “Our curriculum is planned to align with multiple faiths.”

On the platform the Spokesman offers for his opinion piece Mr. Cargill presses his case for funding such schools as Liberty Launch Academy with your tax dollars. He highlights four different bills in the Washington State legislature, each of which would provide public funds for private education. He whines that “every single one” of them is blocked by “legislative leadership”, by which Mr. Cargill means, of course, the Washington State Democratic legislative majority. 

Beware of those who would trash and defund public education to further a political and sectarian agenda. Such trashing is the educational equivalent of Trump’s shouting “Fake News!”

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. One entry in the  “View Full FAQ List” section of Liberty Launch Academy’s website adds this:

Are you connected with the Liberty Boys Academy? Yes. The Liberty Boys Academy was Luke Kjar’s first iteration of his vision to improve education. The pandemic revealed a wider need for a more engaging curriculum encompassing both genders, so he expanded and refined his vision, culminating in the Liberty Launch Academy (LLA).

This is an interesting spin, considering that the “Liberty Boys Academy” website comes up “This site can’t be reached”, the site of the Academy in Liberty Lake is seen on google maps as bare ground, and a google search turns up information that the Academy will be “a privately-funded rugby academy focusing on innovative tactile and engaging learning strategies for young men” founded by Luke Kjar, “Utah Warriors co-founder and partner Lucas Kjar, founder of the Autosource Dealerships.” Mr. Kjar is clearly a man with a lot of money and a singular mission he wishes to accomplish, which he is having trouble realizing, and, which, at the present time, seems to consist mostly of aspiration visible on a slick website.

CMR’s Heckling Glee

Peas in a pod?

Last Tuesday I watched CNN’s streaming coverage of President Biden’s first State of the Union address. As CNN’s camera panned the crowd I searched in vain for “our” representative to Congress, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (CD-5, eastern Washington). 

As Biden spoke of cancer-producing toxic exposures of our troops it was clear to anyone paying attention that he was leading to a reference to his son Beau. Beau died in 2015 at age 46 of brain cancer years after just such toxic exposure as he served in our military in Iraq. Just after the words “a cancer that would put them in a flag-draped coffin. I know [pause]” a woman’s voice from the crowd was heard shouting, “You put them there! Thirteen of them.” The crowd responded with booing. To those not present in the chamber it unclear at whom the booing was directed. (The incident can be reviewed just past the middle of this video.) During the booing the camera showed Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) looking pained. 

The next day the origin of the heckling voice and, apparently, the target of the disapproving booing were made clear: Marjorie Taylor Greene and former gym rat Lauren Boebert had been heckling the President a little less audibly from the Republican side of the floor during the entire speech, their idea of a fund-raising spectacle for themselves and the Republican Party. Shameful.

McMorris Rodgers’ official reaction to the State of the Union speech was, as one might expect, the Republican talking points: blame President Biden for weakening the U.S., essentially accusing him of inviting Putin to invade Ukraine (recent coziness of CMR’s “positive disruptor” with Putin notwithstanding) and call for casting off all caution and regulation of the domestic fossil fuel industry. 

Where was McMorris Rodgers that evening? How was she reacting in real time to the speech and to the heckling? The answer appeared the next morning in the Getty image posted below. There we see our Mrs. Milquetoast smiling her toothy grin as Boebert and Greene engage in their heckling. To be fair, KXLY reported, in CMR’s defense, that at the moment depicted Boebert and Greene were shouting “Build the Wall”. Perhaps at the moment that Boebert screamed her interjection about coffins, CMR disapproved, but, given the glee on her face in this photo, we ought not bet on it. A photographic impression is hard to erase—and this one should go down in history. 

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. If you glance at the right wing “news” outlets you will find them equating Boebert’s and Greene’s heckling and interruptions of the Biden’s speech to Nancy Pelosi act in 2020. Then, after listening to the most divisive State of the Union speech in living memory, she silently tore up the paper copy of Trump’s speech while standing on the dais behind Trump’s left ear. Pelosi later said it was “the courteous thing to do, considering the alternative.” I agree. Making a silent action of disapproval is very different from trying to rattle a speaker by heckling. Republican spokespeople have latched on to a false equivalence.

Clergy Speak on Public Schools

We Should Listen and Act

We are in the midst of a a nationwide assault on public school boards and public schools. The trouble is that a solid public education system is woven into our daily lives and expectations so tightly that most of us take its presence and high quality as a given. Can you name even a single member of your local school board? Serving on a school board in Washington State is an unpaid position traditionally held by people with a genuine interest in education, people who, for the most part, did not seek election to a school with the expectation of be harassed and vilified for their public service.

Many school district board meetings have gone from quiet public gatherings of the board members and a few interested observers and commenters to standing-room-only gatherings characterized by belligerence and disruption. The attendees currently seem centered on opposing mask mandates, challenging school boards to rebel against state law while basing their opposition on viral disinformation spread on social media. Mask mandates may be the spark, and, currently, the uniform (in that many of these people are identified by their refusal to wear masks in school board meetings), but the undercurrents are many (See P.S. below). They include demands to teach creationism as science, opposition to comprehensive sex education, advocates for “school choice” (public funding for parochial schools) and movements against advocating for equity and inclusion—a not-so-subtle nod to our history of segregation and racism served up under the guise of opposing “CRT”. 

The movement has managed to elect one of its own. A closer look at a recently elected school board member in the Central Valley School District (southern Spokane valley), Pam Orebaugh, reveals a woman who has said, “Full transparency…. our daughter is not in the district and I don’t know how many times a day I say…. I don’t know if she will ever step foot in the CV school district again!” That’s enlightening. CVSD now has a board member who is so disaffected with public education that her daughter attends school elsewhere. 

There is a prominent strain of far right wing Fundamentalist “Christianity” that runs through this movement as well—so far off the edge of the spectrum of what I recognize from my United Methodist upbringing that pastors are standing up this belligerence. 

The following is a Letter to the Editor that appeared in the Spokesman on February 22. Rev. Genavieve Haywood is the pastor at Veradale United Church of Christ:

Not about masks at CVSD Board meeting

At the Feb. 14 Central Valley School District Board meeting, an anti-mask group with whom board member Pam Orebaugh met on Jan. 31 came forward to serve papers to the board. This is about politics, not masks.

This group, through Pam, pushed the board for a letter to the governor demanding the lifting of the mask mandate. It would create a precedent for school boards to refuse state directions. What mandate will be next? Imagine these parents requiring the overturning of the mandated reporting rules concerning suspected abuse or endangerment of children. This is not about masks.

Three parents raised concerns about racism in our schools specifically about white students using racial slurs toward Black students and white students wrapping themselves in alt-right flags. At past board meetings, the anti-mask group frequently spoke about their concerns for the fragility of white students. They believe that if the facts of history are taught, the white students could not handle the truth. However, the stress and trauma done to our Black, LGBTQ and female students are, by default, sanctioned. There are things that are simply true: the earth is a sphere, the Holocaust did happen, Native lands were stolen, slavery was brutally practiced in our country, and white students can learn to handle the truth.

Public schools belong to all children of differing faiths, gender identities, places of birth, colors of skin, and differing incomes. “Serving the board” was about political power to overturn state direction, whitewashing history and defying science.

The Rev. Genavieve Heywood

It is not only the United Church of Christ. Mark Wingfield, executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global and former associate pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, penned an article in Baptist News Global entitled, “It’s time to stop the insanity that is killing public education”, in which he calls out “A very loud minority of parents [who] want to conform entire school systems to their narrow ways of seeing the world.” I recommend reading Wingfield’s article, which is the more remarkable for its publication in a religiously conservative magazine.

Finally, I recommend reading Doug Muder’s “What if public schools were the target all along?” for a well-crafted argument on the linkage of the current belligerence to “school choice”. Doug Muder is the author of The Weekly Sift, for which I highly recommend you sign up. Mr. Muder is often a guest pastor in the Unitarian Church. 

It is time for us to rouse ourselves from our complacency about public schools and start paying attention. One hopes that with Covid beginning to fade and mask mandates (hopefully) in the rearview mirror (based on science, not nonsense) school board meetings held in person will see more attendance by people interested in understanding and supporting the work of school boards rather than assailing them. Get involved!

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. Pam Orebaugh’s total agreement (10 on a scale of 10) on her “School Board Candidate Survey” demonstrate the ideological linkages well. On school choice: 

A voucher system for education should be available to all families. These taxpayer-funded vouchers should “travel with the student,” and be used at parents’ discretion for the educational model they choose, including charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling.

On the origin of life and the environment:

Public schools should “teach the controversy” regarding the origins of life. Additionally, students should be exposed to different theories of climate change while focusing on universally agreed upon stewardship measures, such as not littering, conserving resources, etc.

“Theories of climate change”??? Shall we boil down climate change to Lady Bird Johnson’s crusade against litter? I like a visually clean environment, but litter is hardly an existential threat…

CMR’s Response to Ukraine Crisis?

Drill, Baby, Drill!

How did “our” Rep. McMorris Rodgers respond to the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine?

“‘Tantamount to an invasion’: Northwest lawmakers denounce Russian incursion into Ukraine as tensions rise” by Orion Donovan-Smith appeared at Spokesman.com on Tuesday, February 22. In Mr. Donovan-Smith’s article, Senator James Risch (R-ID) and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) are cited for working on a bi-partisan bill to impose additional sanctions on Russia. Amid quotes from other lawmakers condemning Russia’s move toward war, “our” congressperson’s, McMorris Rodgers’, response stood out as inane, tone-deaf, and, well, predictable:

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement Tuesday she would introduce a bill that would require the president to develop an “energy security plan” to ramp up U.S. oil production to counter Russia, whose economy depends heavily on oil and gas exports.

“Especially given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, America must flip the switch and aggressively promote our energy jobs, production and exports,” she said, accusing Biden of a “radical agenda to shut down American energy and embolden our enemies like Russia.”

“Especially”?? In other words, the GOP minority on this committee has thought all along that, although we are a net exporter of fossil fuels, the federal government should do all it can to subsidize the fossil fuel industry and encourage more extraction. Climate change and renewable energy be damned. A Russian invasion of the Ukraine? Just the opportunity they were looking for to further the agenda of the GOP’s corporate sponsors. And while they’re at it, they cannot resist taking a swipe at President Biden, even as they studiously ignore CMR’s “positive disruptor”’s, i.e. D. Trump’s, words of praise for Putin’s impending invasion.

McMorris Rodgers apparently thought that pandering to the GOP’s corporate sponsors and climate denialists was so urgent she needed to advertise her useless bill before it even had a number:

H.R. ____, The American Energy Independence from Russia Act — Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)

Requires the President to provide Congress with an energy security plan that evaluates U.S. oil imports and exports, assesses our energy security risks based upon oil imports, and encourages domestic oil production in order to offset Russian imports.

This is not the work of a serious legislator. In her committee statement (from which the above quote was taken), McMorris Rodgers adds her proposal to a list of bills already in the hopper. None of them has a chance of passage in the current U.S. House; they exist only to declare the GOP’s sell out to the fossil fuel industry. The bills signal to the Dominionist wing of the Republican Party the committee’s complete denial of the threat of climate change and environmental degradation. (CMR’s anemic response to any question about climate change has always been, “Save the Snake River dams!” Her committee statement rips off this thin veil that covered her climate denial.)

Finally, McMorris Rodgers, with her statement, falsely accuses the Biden administration of ignoring the real world energy consequences of an impending war. That is pure out-of-touch nonsense. Unlike the Trump administration, the Biden administration is actively involved internationally in trying to stabilize the energy markets, especially in the short term. And what benefit does McMorris Rodgers’ new, unnumbered bill demanding an “energy security plan” of the Biden administration add to that effort? Precisely nothing. 

I am ashamed of the woman who pretends to represent me in Congress.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. The evening of the day after this post was written the Russian assault on Ukraine began. The next morning, Thursday, February 24, McMorris Rodgers once again harped on ramping up the U.S. fossil fuel industry. Since then the directive must have come out to Republican pundits and legislators: the invasion of Ukraine is an opportunity to pretend that President Biden is personally to blame for any rise in the price of gasoline (while ignoring both the effects of demand as the economy heats up after Covid and the rise in price due to uncertainty).

P.P.S. No one seems to notice the irony in this Republican call for the government to ramp up the domestic fossil fuel industry as an example of government interference in the “free market”—something that is supposed to be anathema for Republicans

Bannon and Goebbels

Harnessing Anger and Discontent in the Pursuit of Power

History may not repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Sometimes that rhyming is loud and clear. We would do well to listen.

Never forget that Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Party was elected. His and his party’s popularity was cultivated on the fertile ground of the decades-old German völkisch movement, a movement sometimes loosely translated as “ethno-nationalist”. Like most movements that thrive without one clear leader, “the Völkisch movement was not a homogeneous set of beliefs, but rather a ‘variegated sub-culture’ that rose in opposition to the socio-cultural changes of modernity.” It is impossible to read the wikipedia article on the völkisch movement in early 20th century Germany without drawing parallels to the “MAGA” movement. (and various other ethno- or religio- nationalist movements in the world today). 

The genius of Joseph Goebbels, chief propagandist[1] of the Nazi party in the 1920s, was to harness, mold, and focus the anger and energy of the völkisch movement as a broad base for the Nazi party. He understood the use of all the tools of his day—print media, radio, film, and dramatic ceremony—to unite these aggrieved, culturally purist, conservative “volk” under the Nazi flag and focus their anger and blame on “Jews, the Romani peopleJehovah’s Witnesseshomosexuals, and other ‘foreign elements’ living in Germany.” 

In 1923 Adolph Hitler, then the leader of the growing Nazi Party, was imprisoned on a five year sentence for leading two thousand Nazi followers in a coup attempt against the government in Munich (the “Beer Hall Putsch”). He only served nine months due in part to the press coverage of the trial. In those nine months Hitler dictated Mein Kampf. Goebbels joined the Nazi Party in 1924, attracted by the notoriety Hitler had achieved through his trial and early release from prison. Goebbels rose rapidly through the ranks. By 1927 he was a speaker at one of the Nazi Party rallies at Nuremberg. His speech, which you read in its entirety here, is chilling. It is a roadmap for channeling diffuse anger into the service of authoritarian power. Here is the eye-opening segment of Goebbels’ speech:

The essential characteristic of propaganda is effectiveness. The best propaganda is that which is most effective. It is good if I persuade three million people to believe in a political theory, but it is even better if those three million are ready to give their lives for the idea. But revolutions have never been made by millions, but rather only by small minorities. Propaganda does not need to be intellectual; it must be effective. It should express our worldview in a way that can be understood by the masses. The völkisch idea has existed for 50 years. I will grant that it was stronger 50 years ago than it is today. But one must remember that on 9 November 1918 it was not this idea, but another, that triumphed. If the völkisch movement then had understood power and how to bring thousands out on the streets, it would have gained political power on 9 November 1918. 

The Nazi Party’s Reichstag seats grew through the 1920s. Buoyed by a large jump at the onset of the Great Depression, by 1933 Nazis garnered 43.9% of the national vote and 288 of the 647 seats in the Reichstag. In 1934 Hitler became Chancellor in a complicated maneuver urged by several prominent politicians, industrialists, and businessmen seeking a unifying leader they thought they could control (sound familiar?). Instead, Hitler and his henchman, following the Reichstag fire, engaged in series of political maneuvers backed by violence, murder, and imprisonment of that opposition that made Adolph Hitler dictator of Germany. 

That same year, 1934, the Nazi Party held another Party Congress in Nuremberg. Leni Riefenstahl’s now classic propaganda film of that event, “Triumph des Willens” (Triumph of the Will), served dramatic notice to Germans (and to the world) of the rise of German nationalism under the Nazis. The 1934 display of military discipline at Nuremberg that Riefenstahl captured in “Triumph of the Will” was only one of a series of nearly annual Nuremberg rallies by the Nazi Party that ran from 1923 to 1938. They were masterpieces of propaganda meant to shore up and mold the völkisch movement into the instrument of power that Goebbel’s described in his Nuremberg speech in 1927. 

My interest in Goebbels, Riefenstahl, and the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s was piqued by a recent article in The Guardian

Steve Bannon compared Donald Trump’s infamous escalator ride [on 16 June 2015] to announce his candidacy for the White House to Triumph of the Will, the Nazi propaganda film made by Leni Riefenstahl, according to a book published on Tuesday. 

In Insurgency: How Republicans Lost Their Party and Got Everything They Ever Wanted, the New York Times reporter Jeremy W Peters shows the former campaign chair, White House strategist and close Trump ally repeatedly invoking Hitler when discussing the 45th president.

That escalator ride was an intentionally staged—and hyped—media eventworthy of the comparison to Riefenstahl’s propaganda film. Trump’s rallies, short on substance and long on exhortation and dramatic rhetoric, serve the same purpose as a propaganda film: riling and uniting the aggrieved faithful against supposed threats, immigrants, the media, and Democrats. Never forget that Trump’s political rallies, unlike those of other presidents and presidential candidates, continued through his presidency—and continue to this day, Nuremberg-like propaganda events on a smaller scale. 

In 2016, a year after Trump’s stage escalator ride and just 88 days before the general election, Steve Bannon became the chief executive of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Without Bannon’s efforts, Donald Trump might well have failed to cobble together the popular vote minority that gave him victory in the Electoral Collage. Like Goebbels’ ability to channel the anger of the völkisch movement, Bannon was attuned to and able to channel the undercurrent of anger coursing on the internet, anger he was familiar with through his “gold mining” of the internet video game, the World of Warcraft, as well as his experience as executive chairman of the far right Breitbart “News”. One might attribute Trump’s surprise win in 2016 to Bannon’s use of social media propaganda to entice white nationalists and angry gamers to show up at the polls and vote. 

Bannon left his employment at the White House on August 17, 2017, less than a week after the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally. Trump, perhaps at Bannon’s urging, tipped his hat to the white nationalists and neo-Nazis who had helped elect him, declaring that there were “good people on both sides”. Since leaving the White House, Bannon, as a look at his wikipedia articleshows, has been very busy promoting national and international white nationalist movements. He retains ties with Trump. With the aid of a preemptive Trump pardon, he thumbed his nose at the legal establishment in 2020. He is currently facing trial for two criminal contempt charges, none of which adversity seems to have slowed him down.

Bannon’s theory of election success is parallel to Goebbel’s but Bannon expresses it in far coarser terms—channel the anger of existing movements to your own political ends using a flood of manipulative propaganda:

In an interview, Bannon told journalist Michael Lewis in February 2018, “We got elected on Drain the Swamp, Lock Her Up, Build a Wall. This was pure anger. Anger and fear is what gets people to the polls.” He added, “The Democrats don’t matter. The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.”

Bannon contributes to this flood through his popular podcast now carried on Rumble, “Bannons War Room”, his way of keeping the extreme right angry and engaged. 

Bannon and Trump remain connected. Some consider Bannon to be Trump’s muse. We underestimate the power of this relationship and the propaganda value of Bannon’s work at our peril. Hitler’s rise to power, buoyed by Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda genius in harnessing the völkisch movement, was similarly marked by underestimation of the power of rallies, films, violence, domestic terrorism, and attention-grabbing legal scrapes that stretched over more than a decade. 

We must never forget that Bannon and Trump are students of the methods by which the Nazis rose to power.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry 

[1] Note that the word “propaganda” carried (and may still carry) a different connotation in German (and other languages) than it does in English. Broadly: 

Propaganda is communication that is primarily used to influence an audience and further an agenda, which may not be objective and may be selectively presenting facts to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is being presented.

But:

In the 20th century, the English term propaganda was often associated with a manipulative approach, but historically, propaganda has been a neutral descriptive term of any material that promotes certain opinions or ideologies.[1][3] Equivalent non-English terms have also largely retained the original neutral connotation.

Keep this distinction in mind when reading Goebbel’s usage of the term. For him and for his listeners propaganda was a neutral concept.

P.S. From the wikipedia article on Bannon:

Bannon was influenced by Fourth Turning theory, outlined in Neil Howe‘s and William Strauss‘s The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy, one of Bannon’s favorite books.[341] The theory proposes that “populism, nationalism and state-run authoritarianism would soon be on the rise, not just in America but around the world. [… Once one strips] away the extraneous accidents and technology, you are left with only a limited number of social moods, which tend to recur in a fixed order” and cyclically. 

With that book as background it is inevitable that Bannon would become a devoted student of Hitler’s rise to power. See Neil Howe’s article in the Washington Post.

Cathy the Dissident

She’s “Proud” of Kettle Falls

Thanks to the wonders of targeted email, Rep. McMorris Rodgers (CD-5, Eastern Washington) can be selective in choosing her audience. The Wednesday, February 14th email pasted at the bottom of this post was not delivered to an address associated with this writer.

With the limited audience she feels safe railing against vaccine mandates, mask mandates, and then going one step further with, “I’m proud of my Kettle Falls community for standing up for what they think is right, making masks optional for students and staff.”

Two days before CMR sent her email to her approving audience, the Kettle Falls School Board broke state law and, as reported in the Spokesman:

…voted Monday night to make masks optional for students and staff, prompting the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to issue a notice Tuesday to the school district to comply with the governor’s requirement.

With this grandstanding vote of dissidence the Kettle Falls School Board risked losing funding from the State. McMorris Rodgers is announcing she is “proud” of an illegal act. Did the Board know their defiance was an illegal act? Yes, explicitly. In a letter posted by the District Superintendent to the District website apologizing for NOT getting Kettle Falls signed on an August 18 letterprotesting to the mask mandate:

And, again, we checked with our legal counsel to find out what authority Governor Inslee has to mandate these things. Unfortunately, we learned that the gubernatorial mandates carry the weight of law,not following them could bankrupt our district and the school board could be held personally liable.

Of course, this is all a kabuki dance on the part of the Kettle Falls School Board, placating vocal District parents. The Board had to have known (or sensed) that mask mandates were soon to be rescinded statewide and the likelihood of a funding withdrawal getting underway in the remaining time was remote.

Like many of the most vocal anti-mask, anti-vaccine mandate parents (and even some now serving on local school boards (see Pam Orebaugh, CVSD) McMorris Rodgers never attended, nor does she have children who have attended Kettle Falls Public Schools. When she lived in Kettle Falls, Cathy attended the Columbia River Christian Academy and went directly from there to the then unaccredited Pensacola Christian College, totally eschewing public education.

McMorris Rodgers’ email is a bit of targeted political posturing delivered to her receptive faithful at a convenient moment. Read the rest of her missive in which she claims [with no evidence] that the rise in fentanyl deaths is “a direct result of President Biden and the Democrats’ reckless open border policies”. She should be ashamed of herself.

Notice at the bottom of Cathy’s missive that she is advertising town halls again, in carefully selected locations targeted at her faithful as she conspicuously avoids holding a town hall in the City of Spokane.

If you can spare the time, click the links and sign up. Her town halls almost never full. She doesn’t relish taking difficult questions. Note that she is holding one in person tomorrow, Thursday, Feb 24, 2022, 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM PT at Centerplace Event Center, 2426 North Discovery Place, Spokane Valley, Washington 99216.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

Received Wednesday, February 14th.

It’s Time to Get Back to Normal

For the last two years, the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on each one of us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Like so many of you, I’m tired of the lockdowns, the fear, the isolation, and the despair

Too many Americans have lost their jobs or businesses. Our kids are falling behind after being kept out of the classroom. Mental health issues, drug overdoses, and violent crime are on the rise all across the country. All because of heavy-handed government policies that are doing more harm than good.

It’s time to get back to normal. That’s exactly what I told President Biden in a letter with more than 70 of my colleagues last week calling on him to abandon his overbearing and authoritarian approach to combating COVID-19.

We are not in the same place we were on day 1 of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have safe and effective vaccines, treatments, and many now have natural immunity. Federal and state COVID-19 policies should start reflecting that, which means no more mask mandates.No more vaccine mandates. No more school closures or lockdowns.

READ MORE

  • Cleaning Up Our Environment – Yesterday, Whitman County Commissioner Michael Largent and I highlighted the success of the EPA’s Brownfield program in Eastern Washington before the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change. This program has helped transform abandoned and contaminated land in Spokane and Palouse, and I hope we can remain vigilant and preserve it for years to come.
  • Supporting Our Schools – Today, I met with Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Adam Swinyard to talk about the challenges students and teachers are facing due to school closures, mask mandates, and labor shortages. We need to work together to put our kids first, so I appreciate Mr. Swinyard taking the time to share his perspective with me! 
  • Advocating for Important Programs – This week, I will meet with YMCA members from across Eastern Washington – including Karen Hedine from Walla Walla and Josh Paparazzo from the Palouse – to discuss how their organization is investing in our communities’ youth through early learning, afterschool, and summer learning programs. Thanks for all you do for our kids!

Last week, I asked if you think Governor Inslee should end the mask mandate on children in Washington like so many states across the country have already done. The results are in, and an overwhelming 80% of you believe the mask mandate on kids should end. I could not agree with you more! 

Unfortunately, we know Governor Inslee is not going to lift the mask mandates for our kids until the CDC updates their guidance. That’s why I told CDC Director Walensky this week that it’s time for America to catch up and abandon policiesthat harm children and aren’t based on science or data.

We know that children are at low-risk for COVID-19. They’ve suffered enoughdue to misguided policies. I’m proud of my Kettle Falls community for standing up for what they think is right, making masks optional for students and staff. I’m urging Governor Inslee to abandon his command and control mandates and unmask our kids!

Q: Do you connect the drug overdoses and deaths to the Democrats’ open border policy? – Joanne from Colville

A: Thanks for your question. There is no doubt the unprecedented amount of illegal fentanyl crossing our southern border is a direct result of President Biden and the Democrats’ reckless open border policies.

Last year, Customs and Border Protection seized more than 11,000 pounds of fentanyl, which is enough to kill every American nearly 7 times over. Additionally, since President Biden took office, nearly 2 million illegal immigrants have been apprehended at the southern border. We have not seen numbers of this magnitude in more than two decades.

These increases are not a coincidence, and it’s time for the Biden administration to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, get serious about strengthening our border security, and protect our communities in Eastern Washington.

What question would you like to see answered next week?

Submit a Question

Right now, Russia is increasing its troop presence at the Ukrainian border, signaling the potential for invasion. Do you support the United States getting involved if Russia invades Ukraine?

Select One:

Yes, I support the U.S. getting involved.

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No, I do not support the U.S. getting involved.

Select

Unsure or undecided.

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I will be hosting six town halls over the next two weeks to hear from constituents across Eastern Washington about the issues importantto them and their families. I will be making stops in Fairfield, Nine Mile, Elk, Newport, Spokane Valley, and Liberty Lake – so I hope you’ll join me! Space is limited, so these events are first come, first served.

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Are Book Burnings Next?

History Rhymes

As a youth and a bibliophile, I found newsreel clips of book burnings from 1930s Germany deeply disturbing. It is only now that I understand that, as dramatic as these images were, their purpose was not to destroy the books themselves but to send a chill through all those harboring any ideas that might be contrary to those staging the conflagrations. The pinnacle of methods for suppressing opposing views were recently on display in bills passed by the Trump Republican dominated Texas legislature and signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott. 

In an excellent, highly recommended (and free) article entitled “Reading While Texan” Doug Muder discusses the latest chilling reaction to the Republican extremism of state laws recently passed in Texas:

NBC News received an audio recording of an administrator in the Dallas suburb of Southlake [1], telling teachers that a new law (HB 3979) requires them to offer an “opposing” perspective if they have books about the Holocaust in their classroom libraries. When a teacher asked “How do you oppose the Holocaust?” the administrator didn’t offer a suggestion, but replied “It’s come up. Believe me.”

How long will it take before a science teacher in Texas is hauled before a board for broaching the subject of biological evolution without giving equal time to Biblical creationism? 

Dr. Heather Cox Richardson, a much published professor of american history and author of Letters from an American, wrote a detailed dissection of what’s in and what’s out in teaching history in Texas established by the new law S.B. 3, the text of which you can read here. One among the many atrocious additions and deletions Professor Richardson details in the law that stuck out for me was the line through (deletion of) “the history of Native Americans” from “the essential knowledge and skills” for the K-12 social studies curriculum. 

If your response to all this is “Oh, well, that’s just in Texas” I have news. Most of this push in Texas is riding on the wave of idiotic outrage Republicans have whipped up over “critical race theory”, a subject not touched on as such in K-12. The words “Critical Race Theory” is the new fairy dust of Republican outrage. Critical race theory outrage is nearly always interwoven with the anti-vaccine, anti-mask, anti-evolution hysteria among the folks making school board meetings intolerable in Spokane valley’s Central Valley School District (CVSD). Similar groups, similarly inspired have forced Spokane Public Schools School Board meetings to go virtual in order to comply with public safety rules. If one scratches the surface of the groups instigating these assaults on school board meetings, one often finds a reactionary, fundamentalist religious fervor, a desire to impose the group’s idea of doctrinal purity on the broader society. 

It is this type of quasi-religious reactionary fervor in Germany in the early 20th century, the Völkisch movement, that, in the 1920s, took control of the German Student Union. In 1933, just months after Adoph Hitler became Chancellor, it was the German Student Union that announced a nationwide “Action against the Un-German Spirit” that would climax in a massive burning of books on May 10, 1933. On that occasion, Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda meister, gave a speech heard by tens of thousands. Goebbels exhorted his listeners against “decadence and moral corruption” and in favor of “decency and morality in family and state.” Those words (not unlike rhetoric you hear today) were code for a hugely broad range of literature, including the works of H.G. Wells, Thomas Mann, and “all historical writings whose purpose is to denigrate the origin, the spirit and the culture of the German Volk, or to dissolve the racial and structural order of the Volk, or that denies the force and importance of leading historical figures.” This last should sound chillingly familiar in the context of current anti-CRT hysteria. (Read more of the wide range of literature condemned to the flames here.)

The German Student Union/ Nazi book burnings of the 1930s, while broader in scope, served the same two fold purpose as recent state laws passed here: rouse the faithful—and instill fear in anyone holding a view or wishing to pedagogically consider any view that might run counter to the orthodoxy. 

When I started writing this post, book burnings, as far as I knew, had not been carried out recently in the United States. That changed on February 2 at the “Global Vision Bible Church” about fifteen miles east of Nashville, Tennessee. Pro-Trump, anti-mask Pastor Greg Locke said he was “called by God” to stage a book burning of offensive materials—like the Harry Potter books. It made national news. For a full account of the event visit this “Nashville Scene” article.

The primary intent of Pastor Greg Locke’s book burning was to rouse and unite his fundamentalist flock, though we should have no doubt that if Pastor Locke were able to sufficiently spread his views he would be happy to instill fear among those he considers the unbelieving heathen. 

Surely we are not yet at a stage of actual national book burnings like those of 1930s Germany, but the same fundamentalist, reactionary sentiments of the German Völkisch movement are alive and well in the anti-CRT, anti-mask, anti-vaccine, anti-evolution, anti-sex education salvos we now see directed at local school boards.

Recognize where these movements are coming from. History rhymes, but it doesn’t have to repeat.

Keep to the high ground,
Jerry