Saturday, February 25, 2012

Indiana Government Schools Doing Exactly What The Federal Government Wants

HARBESON: Leaving behind No Child Left Behind

CLARK COUNTY — It’s not necessary to be as clever as Sherlock Holmes, or for that matter to even use a magnifying glass, to clearly see that the No Child Left Behind Act was a misguided idea.

The passage of NCLB is one of the most uneducated decisions ever made by a group of politicians. And that’s saying a lot.

The clues that something was very, very wrong were there from the start and you didn’t even have to know the law’s details to figure this out. The very name provided the first clue.

Topping that off was the fact that Republican President George W. Bush pushed this increased federal involvement in education and worked with Democrat Ted Kennedy to make this political deal happen. This clue that something was amiss was more obvious than personally witnessing Colonel Mustard in the parlor whacking his victim on the head with the candlestick.

But of course the NCLB mess is exactly what “bipartisanship,” “compromise” and “working together” through the force of government will get you.

It was easy to figure out if you bothered to do the math. After all, when you take two political parties and add them together it does not equal smart, or even proficient. It only adds up to coercion.

These politicians actually behaved as if all they had to do is write stuff down on paper, throw in government force and the individual differences between human beings in ability, interests and motivation would disappear — if not immediately then certainly by 2014.

In reality though, the main thing the government mandates are accomplishing is to create a further perversion of education which is interfering tremendously with the natural learning ability and potential that exists within each individual child. Government mandates stifle creativity, innovation and do nothing to stimulate and encourage natural curiosity.

Since the passage of the legislation, there have been a few grumblings about NCLB. But now that the year of reckoning, 2014, is within the mathematical abilities of your average politician, the grumblings are getting even louder because they can see the trap they set for themselves.

Everyone is starting to run as fast as they can to get away from the federal government mandates. Or at least that’s what the various levels of government want us to think. But is that true?

Yes, the federal government, under the direction of the Obama administration, is now granting waivers to release states from NCLB mandates. And yes, Indiana has been granted one of these waivers. But what does this really mean?

Is Indiana being released because the state is already doing exactly what the federal government wants them to do in regards to controlling the education of the individual? The following may provide a clue — when Gov. Mitch Daniels heard that Indiana was granted a waiver, he said, “We have been closely aligned with the Obama administration on many elements of education reform.”

Does Daniels say this with any regret, apology or hesitation? No, he says this with pleasure and pride. So has Indiana been excused from the dinner table simply because it has already willingly swallowed everything the federal government and the Obama administration wanted Indiana to eat in the first place?

If Indiana is doing exactly what the federal government wants it to do, what are the implications? Will there be unintended consequences? Clearly standards and practices that meet federal government approval provides a strong clue that this situation is troubling and worth further investigation under the magnifying glass.

Unlike Daniels, I feel no pleasure at all in hearing that Indiana meets with the approval of the federal government. But then again, I do not accept any level of government control in education because that is the very antithesis of individual freedom.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson has been searching for a politician who has a clue but has not been able to find one.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Latest Mail

HARBESON: It’s time to open up the mailbox

SELLERSBURG — Last month, I received an oversized envelope from this newspaper’s office. I just stared at it for a bit, wondering what was inside. Could it be a computer chip and dossier explaining my part in an important escapade?

I tore open the paper and inside was another envelope. It definitely had something interesting inside — I could feel a variation in the thickness as I slid my fingers across the paper and, written above my name and address was the phrase, “Hang in There.” Could that be a secret code? Should I have been practicing my rappelling skills?

When I ripped open this envelope, however, I stopped fantasizing that I might have an adventure with Tom Cruise because what I found inside was a clipping of one of my columns, sent by a reader named John.

The column he clipped, “Labor Intensive,” was about Indiana’s right-to-work law and John filled every available open space in the margins and around the neighboring cartoons with his handwritten comments and opinions.

John was fired up about many issues, but in general his ire seemed to be directed at the special treatment politicians give themselves. He also said, “Great article, give them xxx.” Now, xxx could mean a variety of things in this situation, but I’m pretty sure he does not want me to give them any hugs or kisses.

Let me share a few more samples of interactions I’ve had with readers lately.

Robert wrote, “I have decided to contact you because of your writings in News and Tribune. I like the fact that you put a face with a story. While I do not have an elongated or in-depth opinion of your history, I have been somewhat inspired by your to-the-point, what-the-hell-are-they-thinking, media contributions that I have read.”

He thought that perhaps I could help him with an issue he was having in communicating with the mayor of Jeffersonville, which at the time was still Tom Galligan.

Although I was tempted to respond to Robert by asking what-the-hell-he-is-thinking-by-contacting-me-for-help-with-the-Jeffersonville-mayor, in the end I suggested he wait until the election was over and perhaps try again.

Since I last shared feedback I also had the opportunity to meet with U.S. Southern District Attorney Joseph Hogsett, in response to “Who are the real offenders here?” He wanted to “further explore some of your thoughts and ideas, particularly as they relate to the efforts that law enforcement [and the United States Attorney’s Office] make in the area of drug interdiction and prosecution.”

So, one rainy day last fall, as I ingested sugar and he ingested caffeine, we discussed the problems of government’s prohibition on drugs. We had quite an enjoyable, invigorating discussion and may do it again. Thank you, Mr. Hogsett.

Another reader, F., wrote this about New Albany-Floyd County Parks Superintendent Roger Jeffers’ confusion that his job involved politics: “Ms. Harbeson: I thank you for your recent article about the politics of government run recreational programs. I might have gone a bit further than you did, by pointing out the gun in the room that goes along with any program that has the force of statutory law.”

Finally, I thought I’d share comments from two readers who have chosen to stick around and continue to read even though they sometimes disagree.

“The Honor in War” led to this response: “I know you infuriated a lot of people with last week’s column, including me. But maybe that’s because, like so many others, I need someone to poke me from time to time, and expose me to other viewpoints.”

And finally, “Debbie, it’s been awhile but I just wanted to tell you I think your approach in your opinions has a way of, in my case anyway, of seeing the issue in a different view. All in all pretty cool.”

Yeah, pretty cool indeed.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson would like to have an exciting adventure cavorting around the world but she’ll settle for an invigorating discussion.
(Image courtesy of wikimedia)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Zany Super Bowl Party in Indiana

COLUMN NOTES: Sometimes I write columns that might sound cryptic to those who don't live in my state or keep up with the news in my state. So here's a bit of background to the people mentioned below. "Vaneta" refers to Senator Vaneta Becker, the politician who wrote a bill to set performance standards for the National Anthem. I wrote about that here.

"Luke" refers to Senator Luke Kenley who is pushing hard for laws, even federal laws mandating that online companies collect sales taxes for state governments.

"Pat" is Representative Patrick Bauer, who has led Democrat walkouts the past couple of years because his party did not have enough people to stop what the Republicans want to do.

"Dennis" is Senator Dennis Kruse, who is pushing a bill to teach creationism in Indiana government schools.

"Charlie" is Charlie White, the Secretary of State who recently was convicted of voter fraud.

Finally the beer reference at the end is due to Indiana being one of the few states where you can't buy a cold beer on Sunday.

Wow, when I look this all over, I'm kind of embarrassed to say I'm a Hoosier.

HARBESON: It’s super living in Indiana

By DEBBIE HARBESON Local Columnist

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — My husband and I attend an annual Super Bowl party, which is normally a small gathering of friends, but this year our host’s home was bursting with guests.

At first, I thought this was due to increased interest since the game was being played in Indianapolis, but then I found out that none of these people had been invited.

I’m not sure why they crashed the party because none of them appeared to care about the actual football competition. As a matter of fact, one lady left before the game even started.

When the National Anthem began, “Vaneta” pushed past everyone, put her ear firmly against the speaker, closed her eyes and listened intently. She frowned twice, but when it was over she nodded with satisfaction and went home.

As the game was getting ready to start, I noticed a fellow roaming around, keenly interested in everyone wearing a team jersey. At first I thought he was just trying to figure out who everyone was rooting for, but he was more interested in where party-goers purchased their jerseys. When one guy told him he had found a great deal online, “Luke” pestered him the rest of the evening about paying Indiana sales tax.

Another odd fellow, “Pat,” stormed into the house, stood in front of the TV and announced that even though he and his buddies came to the party, they were not going to watch the game. He then stomped out onto the deck. When his friends didn’t immediately follow, he snarled and they slowly meandered out. After a few minutes several of them came back inside and eventually, when he realized no one was really paying any attention, Pat came back in too.

It was about this time that a battle broke out about the commercials. From what I could tell, one group of people wanted to watch the commercials and another group wanted to mute them. The “muters” mumbled something incoherent about the evils of corporations and, although they managed to occupy 99 percent of the couch, the other one percent retained in control of what mattered, the remote, and played the commercials at full volume.

Another commotion broke out during halftime. Hopes were unusually high this year for another wardrobe malfunction since Madonna was performing. However, by the time that guy came out wearing the sparkly shower curtain, everyone had given up and began discussing the famous wardrobe malfunction of the past.

This led to a huge disagreement. Many people thought the mishap could be explained scientifically as simply a function of the natural evolution that results when performing intense dance moves over time. However, this did not satisfy “Dennis,” who said that was just a theory and the malfunction could just have easily been a creation of the ratings gods. This really started a big bang that only ended when some crazy pastafarian mentioned the flying spaghetti monster.

And speaking of spaghetti, I found another group of people who didn’t really care about football. They spent all of their time in the kitchen, eating the free food and discussing ethics and voting with some secretary named “Charlie,” which they decided made the party an educational outing, which meant they could take home all the chicken wings, pizza slices and brownies they could bag without reporting it to anyone.

By this time it was the third quarter and I couldn’t take any more. I looked at my husband and nodded toward the door. He looked relieved and we thanked our host and slipped out. As we drove home, he said, “Oh no, I brought all of our cold beer to the party. Now we have none for the rest of the game!”

We both silently pondered the reality of the situation. We knew that even if we were lucky enough to come upon $300 million of misplaced funds on the way home, we’d still be unable to purchase a six-pack of cold beer to take home for the fourth quarter.

Because that’s what life is like in Indiana.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson once experienced a wardrobe malfunction but no one even noticed.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Clark County Recycling, One Last Time?

HARBESON: Recycling: Will it ever stop coming around?

SELLERSBURG — Counting today, I’ve written about the topic of recycling seven times now. That’s a lot. Even Sylvester Stallone only played Rocky six times. But I had to jump in the ring again because it looks like we might have only one more chance to deliver a knockout punch to Clark County’s mandatory recycling program.

This all began after passage of a state law intended to lessen the amount of waste going into landfills. In response, Clark County officials decided to implement a program that included curbside pickup and charged a fee to all households, whether they used the pickup service or not. Throughout the early years, the Solid Waste District consistently pounded the idea that this program was required by state law. But it wasn’t.

The state law did not require counties to create a mandatory program. But Clark County chose to create one anyway. They decided to use force rather than voluntary action and this led to a large stinking mess.

The mandatory fee created constant friction. When some individuals refused to pay, the district sued, pitting neighbor against neighbor, creating more ill will. In 2001, the state reported that “often a mandatory ordinance will reduce public support rather than increase participation” and encouraged voluntary persuasion to boost participation. Still, the county continued to force.

About 5 years after that report, Clark County Commissioners finally set free those living in unincorporated areas. However, if you read their statement, you can clearly see it was not based on any real insight about the benefits of voluntary means. On the contrary, they seem proud and certain that the coercion sufficiently trained people, like dogs, to robotically continue. (Read it for yourself:

Even though their reasoning wasn’t so respectful, they did remove the coercion — for some people. But due to the government system, those living in incorporated areas needed their town or city councils to act if they wanted freedom from the coercion.

This year, it looks like Borden will soon be free, in part because a large percentage of residents are simply not paying anyway. (Effective civil disobedience?)

Clarksville tried to opt out once. But after receiving complaints, they caved and continued to mandate fees for all. They should not have done so. Clearly, the only way a council can respect all residents is to vote for a voluntary program so everyone is free to choose.

Clarksville has a new council now, so could this finally be accomplished? Do they really want to institute change? If so, this is certainly one area where they can take action and show residents they respect each individual’s freedom to make his or her own decisions.

Jeffersonville’s political makeup has also changed significantly. While commissioner, Mike Moore never seemed to be bothered by the coercion — his focus was on efficiency through privatization. But now that he’s a mayor who campaigned to lower the tax burden on city residents, will he verify that commitment by promoting a voluntary program for Jeffersonville residents?

Even though I think recycling should be an individual, not collective, decision because there are many ways to be environmentally friendly, I don’t even care whether or not town and city officials make a change for principled reasons based on individual freedom. It would be good enough if they behaved like the county officials and made the program voluntary simply because they feel like people are “sufficiently trained” to recycle.

Taking action this year is important because the Solid Waste District is making plans to put the fee on the county tax bills and if that happens, I doubt if it will ever be possible for a countywide voluntary program to be instituted.

So what will the future hold? Will the new mayor and councils really bring change to Clark County? Is the Clark County mandatory recycling program finally against the ropes?

I hope so because I really don’t want to write yet another sequel to this sordid tale that would surely smell worse than Rocky’s armpits.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson thinks it’s time to throw in the towel on the idea of using coercive means to accomplish goals.