Monday, May 30, 2011

Rapture Prediction Leads to Letters Column

HARBESON: The emailman delivers> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I’m a little embarrassed because I don’t have a regular column prepared this week. I thought that whole Rapture thing was going to happen over the weekend.

Oh sure, I knew I’d still be here but I also figured chaos would reign long enough that a newspaper column would not be necessary for a while. Oops!

So, I’m relying on my readers to be my personal saviors. Let’s hear what a few of them have to say.

In a column on the subject of vouchers, I pointed out that government officials were celebrating choice while the system itself was still completely controlled through compulsory funding and compulsory attendance.

Several people had a few thoughts to add.

From Tom — “‘School choice’ is one of those subjects that just bugs the (nicely descriptive term deleted) out of me. I’m always running into people who claim that vouchers or tax credits are ‘a move in the direction of freedom,’ and who can’t understand that simply giving people a putative range of choices within a bad system is a way of strengthening that bad system, not weakening it.”

From Jill — “I hope the majority of responses that you receive are about how people hadn’t thought of those aspects (compulsion and coercion — not to mention ‘reform,’ which makes me cringe) of our education system before. Hopefully, you have turned on some ‘light bulbs’ in the minds of your readers. Education is definitely a hot-button issue, and the politicians know it (as they’re always hiding behind children).”

And one more from Fred — “Although many are going ga-ga over the voucher system, I wonder how many have looked far enough ahead to see the potentially negative effects that it will have on the private/parochial sector when they have to adhere to ‘government regulations’ in order to earn government dollars?”

I wrote a column pointing out how the new coffee shop in the New Albany Public Library proves that people are willing to pay for what they use, which generated this response from Dan: “You make it sound like people have to pay to get coffee at the library. Is that true? Are they discriminating against the coffee-poor? Or are they catering to the coffee-rich? (I always get this mixed up.) Clearly ... tax dollars ... should be spent to provide coffee-equality!!!”

In the same column, I discussed the idea of moving from the current coercive funding model to one where library funds are raised through voluntary means. This led to some brainstorming from Christa: “Lots and lots of churches have libraries with no coerced funding. I imagine other community organizations would also create libraries if there were no public libraries. One of my favorite ‘libraries’ is the genealogy collection at our local historical museum which is provided by a private, not-for-profit society.

“And someone could just put books in the Redbox for 99 cents per night (or maybe per week) ... Amazon should just start something like Netflix with real paper books (not just e-books).

“... There are lots of solutions in the free market ... Actually those of us who have to buy the PLAC card are used to paying a sort of subscription to use the library. It’s really not a stretch at all to think that others would pay as well.”

Finally I received several responses from people who think they solved the puzzle of where Clarksville’s lost car engine and Charlestown’s lost receipts for the JayC gift cards ended up. This theory from Tom may be the most likely: “My guess is whomever took the engine is using it as a paperweight to hold down the receipts for 950 gift cards.”

Now that’s what I call a government solution.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson is thankful for readers who are willing to be her personal savior by providing column content.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Not a Leg Lamp, But Still Cool

HARBESON: Hey, I got an award!

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Sunday started out like most Sundays for me. Upon waking, my husband and I had our usual skirmish, maneuvering for prime kitchen table space in order to spread out our respective sections of the newspaper while eating breakfast.

After the battle was over and table boundaries agreed upon, I settled into my relaxed Sunday morning reading mode ... until I read something so shocking that I spit active yogurt cultures all over page four.

Apparently, I won second place in the General Interest Column category in Division 4 of the 2011 Associated Press Managing Editor’s Awards. I didn’t even know I was eligible for such an award until Editor Shea Van Hoy invited me to submit three columns from 2010 if I wanted to participate. Thanks Shea.

Yeah, yeah, I understand I received second place, but still it’s an award. I don’t know a lot about it but I wonder if there is some sort of tangible acknowledgment other than a mention in the paper.

I hope so, because I’ve been feeling really jealous when seeing the awards my family has received lately. For example, my mom earned several shiny medals at last year’s local Senior Games.

(By the way, watch out seniors because she is determined to win more medals again this year. The woman is absolutely possessed. She even excused herself from our Mother’s Day party because she needed to “go shoot some hoops.” So if anyone reading this planned to enter in the 79-86 age category, consider this a fair warning to practice.)

Then a couple weeks ago, my daughter and son-in-law received huge sparkly medals for finishing the Derby Festival Mini-Marathon. Are cool medals only reserved for people who actually get off their butts and do something physical?

If so, I still deserve such a medal because writing this column is very physical for me. Just ask my husband. He’ll tell you I often run through the rooms of our house, sometimes yelling and screaming at the same time. I also stomp on the stairs and pound my fingers on the keyboard. I’ve even been known to throw things occasionally.

It’s quite a workout.

So, I’m sure you agree that such activity deserves a medal or maybe even the newspaper equivalent of a leg lamp — that fantastic award the Dad wins in the movie, “A Christmas Story.” Well maybe I shouldn’t expect that much. After all, leg lamps are for major awards and I came in second.

On the other hand, I already know second place will be plenty good enough for my friend, Jim, who will use it to confirm his view that I am part of a horrible group known as the media elite. But if there is such a thing, I still don’t think I’m a member because no one at the paper even told me I won an award before I read the article.

I spent some time wondering why neither Shea nor anyone else at the paper personally informed me I had placed in these awards and I think I know why, at least as far as Shea is concerned.

It’s because he knew I’d just have to write a column about it and this was his way of making sure he would get his name mentioned in an award-winning newspaper column.

Some of you are probably thinking he didn’t tell me because of a concern that I might turn into a prima donna and make crazy demands. However, that can’t possibly happen because I already act like a prima donna and make crazy demands.

It can’t get any worse. Or can it?

— Sellersburg resident and award-winning columnist Debbie Harbeson wonders if the newspaper version of a leg lamp award is a bird cage.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Free Your Family From Government Schooling

HARBESON: You can choose your child’s education

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Now that Indiana’s government has passed the school voucher law, proponents are excited about increased choice in education.

But let’s be clear, the increased choice they’re talking about still falls inside a coercive system of funding, which means we will see all the associated problems and flaws that always come with force.

All we’ve really seemed to accomplish here is to add one more special interest group — private schools — into the mix of those who will continue to fight to gain access to the pot of government-controlled funds designated for education.

Vouchers just make those fights more complicated because now more fists will fly as they all wrestle in the mud for some of the money.

Meanwhile, individual student needs and interests are still pretty much ignored. For example, vouchers continue to promote the idea that we must choose a single institution, whether government-run or privately-run, for education. Vouchers continue to promote the idea that a curriculum controlled and manipulated by standardized testing can meet individual learning needs.

Is this kind of choice good enough for your child? If so, fine. If not, you can get your family out completely.

If you are tired of all of the constant government manipulation and control you can leave. If your child’s needs are not being met inside government-approved educational institutions of any sort you do have another choice. It is possible to free your family, to become independent and take control if you want.

How? By going independent and choosing home education.

When home educating your family, you have the freedom to focus completely and totally on your child’s individual needs, interests and learning style. There are many ways to help a child learn and by being independent you can choose from a wide array of ideas and find what works for your child.

You can benefit from having immediate flexibility to change any aspect of your child’s education if you decide a specific choice is not working.

You don’t have to worry as much about the effect politicians, school boards, administrators, teacher unions and other special interest groups will have on your child’s education from one school year to the next or from one legislative session to the next. You can let your child’s needs and interests take the lead when you go independent.

Now, you may have concerns and that’s understandable. But if you are interested in this idea, please don’t let anyone try to tell you that you can’t do it. If you want to be independent and take control, you can.

Lots and lots of families have done it already, including mine. And we are glad to help you find the way that works for your family in your individual situation.

For every obstacle you think may be standing in your way, there are others who have overcome the same obstacles. Some have wondered if they had the funds, or the education, or the time and found ways around these obstacles. So if you want to do it, you can do it.

If you are interested, now is the perfect time to investigate the idea further because your family will be taking a summer break from your current schooling option anyway.

So are you interested? Do you want to learn more about home education? Contact me and I’ll be happy to discuss how you can take charge, how you can be independent and still have access to many resources as well as plenty of support and assistance.

You can do it if you want to do it and I’m here to help you. All you need to do is ask.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson is willing to wrestle in mud if it could help even one family gain educational independence. But she’d prefer chocolate pudding.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Clarksville and Charlestown Are Really Losing It

HARBESON: This column is a lost cause

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Have you been keeping up with the State Board of Accounts reports? If so, I’m sure you agree that some of our local governments are really losing it.

For example, after a windstorm hit in 2008, the city of Charlestown purchased 1,000 gift cards from JayC grocery, each worth $20, and doled them out to city residents. However, they only have records for 50 of those cards. They lost track of the other 950.

Officials sound quite puzzled and befuddled about the situation and just can’t understand what could have happened to the rest of the receipts proving they actually did what they said they did.

Yeah, they admit, we lost the papers, but there’s no need to make a big deal about it. They want taxpaying citizens to trust, to believe, to have faith that their government carried out this task correctly.

Besides, some offices were moved after this event so that’s probably why they can’t find the papers. Well, at least they didn’t say the police department’s K-9 dog ate it.

This is really hard to accept because as far as I’ve been able to tell, pushing papers seems to be the main function of all government entities. So you’d think having so much experience moving paper from one tray to another would mean that they’re pretty good at knowing where they put their stuff.

So I just don’t get it.

However, the town of Clarksville is a different story entirely because they lost a Crown Victoria car engine. Now that’s something I completely understand.

Car engines are tricky little buggers. They can easily slip through your hands and if the wind is blowing, who knows where one could end up. These things are constantly disappearing. Everyone’s lost a car engine or two. Come on admit it, you’ve lost one before. I’m sure I’ll hear from many local mechanics writing in to verify what I’m saying.

Even so, I don’t really think this engine was lost. I have a few other theories. Although there is some disagreement on the exact details, it appears that a radiator is also missing. So my first theory is that the engine and radiator simply ran off together, the product of a steamy relationship.

Hey, don’t look at me like that, if the dish can run away with the spoon, why not this?

Another theory I have is that this car engine simply knew too much. About what exactly, I have no idea and I would not even venture to guess. But I’m sure it must have overheard something while in overdrive.

I do think the prosecution got to it first, though. However, my sources tell me that once the engine found out that the witness protection program meant it would have to spend the rest of its life inside a Chevy Impala, where no one would ever look, the engine fired up and fled.

So, for the engine’s safety I hope no one ever finds it.

Yes, once again, all of this is pure speculation on my part. I really have no idea what happened to that car engine. All I know is that if we measure these government losses in pounds, Clarksville is definitely The Biggest Loser in Southern Indiana.

OK, truth be told I can sympathize with Clarksville and Charlestown. I’ve lost stuff before. As a matter of fact, I had a much better column draft this week. It was probably one of the best columns I have ever written — Pulitzer material for sure.

I can’t find it anywhere now though. I think I lost it when I moved some files around on my computer.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson says the only thing she’s really ever lost is her mind.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bullying: An Essential Component of Government

COLUMN NOTES: Looks like I fired up a few people in the comments section on the newspaper's website again.
HARBESON: A bolt of inspiration

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I don’t understand why Indiana Democrats are so upset at the possibility of the Republicans introducing an “anti-bolting” amendment this year in order to prevent the minority party from staging future walkouts.

After all, it’s not much different than what they demand of the state’s minors because anti-bolting legislation is really just a compulsory attendance law for legislators.

This should make sense to anyone interested in fairness and equal treatment. If state government is going to make it so difficult for a 16 year old who is not being well-served by the government schools to bolt, then legislators should have to abide by similar laws. Why treat people who support the compulsory government education system any differently than they treat the kids who suffer in that system?

To continue the school comparison, it’s not just me that sees similarities between the legislative walkout issue and school problems. When I typed “Indiana anti-bolting law” into Google, the search engine not only did its job and gave me results for the terms I requested, but also checked to make sure I didn’t mean to search “Indiana anti-bullying law” instead.

I thought about that for a moment and realized Google has a point — bullying is relevant to this discussion.

As far as this year is concerned, I’m sure the Republicans would agree their amendment could just as easily be called “anti-bullying” legislation. We know the Republicans certainly felt bullied when the minority Democrats ran out and spent a month or so away from the legislative session.

So Google is on the right track, but I’d go further and say we should be talking about bullying in regard to the entire government system itself. Bullying is an essential component of all government operations. Legislative bullying is rampant because the main goal of those in the General Assembly is to try to use government to force people to do what they want.

It really gets twisted, too. For example, in this session here’s how the bullying is playing out: Republicans think its fine to bully individuals to pay for another family’s education in a private religious institution, even if those being forced to fund it have deeply held convictions which cause them to object to funding religious institutions.

Similarly, Democrats think it is fine to bully individuals to pay for another person’s abortion, even if those being forced to fund it have deeply held convictions which cause them to object to funding abortion.

Why don’t we consider and think about these inconsistencies, irregularities and downright hypocrisies more than we do?

It’s just like being back in school and being caught between two big hairy bullies who are constantly vying for power. All you, the average citizen, can do is put ice on your black eye while listening to the bullies argue over how they are going to spend your lunch money.

Part of the problem is that we allow legislators, sometimes assisted by the media, to set the tone of the discussion. Legislators work hard to get us to focus on the issue as they want to frame it, which in this case is the “problem” of quorum rules in the legislative session and what, if anything, should be done so the minority party cannot stop everything by staging a walkout.

Maybe it’s time to realize that the issues we should be discussing are never the surface topics that government officials want us to focus on. It’s not about bolting, it’s not about walkouts and it’s not about quorum rules.

Google’s search engine seems to understand there are deeper issues at play. I do too. What about you?

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson is always prepared to bolt.