Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Clark County Commissioner John Perkins' Political Posturing

HARBESON: The trite thing to do

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Up to now, I have not used this space to comment about the tornado that hit the area, mostly because I knew that much of what I could say would probably sound trite. Plus, the message I proclaim here often — that the real power in a society is through individual action and voluntary association — has been communicated so beautifully and clearly by the community itself, there was nothing more to say.

But then Clark County Commissioner John Perkins opened his mouth.

At the March 13 commissioners meeting, Perkins read a statement that, in part, was nothing but political trash, attacking the motives and actions of other individuals.

The statement doesn’t start out that way. The first paragraph isn’t so bad. Sure, it’s full of blatant political pandering, as Perkins pontificates on how proud he and the other two commissioners are of the efforts of “numerous organizations and individuals who have stepped forward to assist in the tornado relief effort.”

That sounds OK, although I’m not sure anyone who helped the victims really cares what John Perkins thinks of their efforts. Those who acted in various ways did so because they saw people (and animals) who needed help. I doubt anyone was looking for a pat on the head by a politician.

But still, if Perkins would have stopped there, it might have been a nice gesture to everyone who played any part in helping, whether in person or by donations. The first paragraph is no more or less trite than what a newspaper columnist might say.

The problem is he didn’t stop there. Perkins managed to use this disaster to create a rift between the commissioners and individuals inside another government entity, the county council.

Reading the statement, it seems important for Perkins to let everyone know how hard he’s been working because he talks about the number of meetings and briefings he’s attended. Then he complains that he has “not received one phone call from any Clark County councilperson asking what they may do to help during this emergency.”

I’m not quite clear why he thinks the individuals on the council were supposed to call him. I’m sure the councilpersons are just as able as any other caring individual living in the county, and had no problem finding appropriate ways to take action and help those in need. Why would they need to call and get permission from King, I mean, Commissioner Perkins?

Perkins is also upset that the council is attempting to move forward carefully, making sure they collect all the necessary information and official advice on any possible ramifications before they make any decision in funding the cleanup.

In other words, Commissioner Perkins disagrees with the council about how best to spend taxpayer funds. He thinks the council is not working on this issue the “right” way, which is the way he wants to do it. This of course is a constant problem when spending other people’s money that’s been collected by force rather than by donations.

Now, to be fair, we all know that petty jealousies and political one-ups-man-ship can also arise within voluntary organizations. But if this happens, and you determine that you want no further involvement, you are free to simply roll your eyes at the immaturity and take your money and your time elsewhere. You can end any relationship to that organization and they will respect your individual freedom to do so and leave you alone.

Possibly the most interesting aspect of Perkins’ behavior in starting this ruckus is that he has broken one of the main goals he claims he wanted to achieve as part of holding this political office — “encouraging a more open and cordial dialogue between county officials.”

One has to wonder — did he really mean it when he announced that goal? Or was it just the typical trite tripe that seems to be the first language of longtime politicians?

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson thinks government is trite and is looking for fresh and creative alternatives.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

More on Compulsory Attendance Laws



HARBESON: Here’s to open discussion

My column from last week, “Is this school or prison?” which discussed the problems associated with raising Indiana’s compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18, was very successful — so much so that it convinced a reader named Sandy to conclude that I am, indeed, a moron.

I’m glad to know that this person is no longer suffering a continual state of anxiety, as she struggled through her doubts, wondering if it was true. I feel good knowing Sandy can rest easy now.

I also heard from Kurt Fetz who wrote: “A hypothetical situation wherein an adult is forced to stay at a job for two years is not even remotely ‘similar’ to the education requirement age being raised to 18 — it’s not the same ballpark, it’s not even the same sport.”

I think Kurt is right because I neglected to consider one very important aspect for the employee — he’d still get paid. Which means the prison comparison is much more accurate. Thanks for helping me get clarity on that, Kurt.

Sandy and Kurt were not the only people who responded. Last week’s opinion caused a flurry of comments on the newspaper’s website that lasted several days. The most interesting part about the response is that this activity in itself provides several great examples of how education can work without government involvement.

First of all, people of all ages were participating and interacting with each other as they contributed to the discussion. There were no artificial separations or groupings of people according to their age. Teenagers, young adults and people in their 50s were pondering, sharing and discussing their views on a topic in which they shared a mutual interest.

Many people told personal stories about their educational experiences as teenagers. Others shared stories about people they know. These stories varied widely, clearly demonstrating why it’s so important to always look at education from the standpoint of the individual and not the collective.

Another way the responses show how education works in the real world is that information gathered in the context of daily life is much more effective than an artificially created lesson plan designed to be dumped into a student’s brain at a specific age. I saw this happen when several people displayed an ignorance of the journalism profession and the newspaper business because it led to the editor of the paper giving an impromptu lesson explaining the difference between a news article and an opinion column.

He sounded frustrated that people did not already understand the difference, which in itself also demonstrated that government compulsion does not necessarily match with everyone’s definition of an educated populace.

Another important aspect of education demonstrated by the comment activity is that people will do traditional academic activities with no compulsion at all. People voluntarily chose to read the column and some of those readers, including my friend Sandy, voluntarily chose to take time out of their lives to comment and participate in the discussion. No one compelled any of these people to read and write. They did so for their own individual reasons.

Everyone was free to read and respond and even though there are responses that seem to add little to the discussion, it was precisely because those questionable responses were there that encouraged other people to get involved. This process resulted in many thoughtful and respectful comments on the topic of government compulsion in education.

What if Sandy were compelled by the government to continue reading my columns, even after deciding that they add no value to her life? Would Sandy object to such compulsion? And if so, could she relate that experience to the experience of a teenager who has decided, for whatever reason, that a government school adds no value to the teen’s life?

Who knows how Sandy would react, the only thing we do know is that if she were compelled by the government to read my columns, the compulsion would not help Sandy at all.

Even a moron like me understands that.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson feels compelled to put her moronic opinions on display often.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Schools Are Prisons

COLUMN NOTES: This one caused a stir in the newspaper's comments (go to the link to read them)...almost as wild as a prison riot!

Check out the photo to the left. Is it a school or a prison? Answer at end of column.

HARBESON: Is this school or prison?

Imagine you want to leave your current job. You have decided, for whatever reason, that the position is not meeting your needs.

Even if leaving might make life hard, and it’s quite possible you will have to endure negative consequences, you are at the point where leaving and getting on with your life is the best choice.

Now imagine that your employer says you can’t leave for two years.

Next, take this scenario and imagine yourself scoffing at your employer. Imagine yourself saying you’re going to leave anyway, knowing they can’t actually kidnap you and hold you hostage. But they respond by informing you that they can “turn you in” to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles who will revoke your driver’s license for the two years they want you to stick around.

This imaginary scenario is just too unbelievable isn’t it? It’s laughable to think that an employer would try to force someone to continue showing up at a workplace for two years after he gave his notice that he was going to leave.

Nothing even close to that could ever happen in real life, right? Wrong.

Since 2006, when the compulsory school attendance age was raised from 16 to 18, creepy scenarios similar to the one described above have been happening throughout Indiana. It is not a joke to say that schools are like prisons.

Why does the government refuse to let these teenage students leave? Surely government officials don’t think a person can benefit by remaining trapped for up to two years in the very institution that has failed to serve their needs.

What’s even worse is that teenagers who do decide to leave school without graduating already face the possibility of many negative consequences and yet government officials add more punishment by making it nearly impossible for them to get a job — the one thing that could actually help turn their life around.

Trying to prevent these young people from getting driver’s licenses and jobs is treating them worse than a felon just released from a “real” prison. As a matter of fact, interfering with their ability to get a job could be the first step that helps turn one of these kids into a felon in the first place.

It’s just amazing to me that government officials would be so vindictive to these young people who simply want to break free from a system that is not working for them. It’s as if the government wants to ensure that these kids fail.

Even if a school official is genuinely concerned, he or she must know that forcing a student to stay will not help. This continued coercion could even be downright dangerous for other students, teachers and school personnel because who can predict how a given individual might respond to this government bullying.

If a teenager, for whatever reason, decides it’s in his best interest to leave school, government officials should get out of his way so he can take responsibility for his life. Instead of looking for ways to force young people to remain in a place that does not serve their needs, school officials could be focusing their energy on creating a place that teens would actually attend voluntarily — imagine the schools being so inviting and useful that the schools had to work to get kids to leave, rather than forcing them to stay.

Imprisoning young people inside a system that they want to leave is a shameful way to treat fellow human beings. But hey, I guess if you can increase the compulsory attendance age and then brag about a lowered dropout rate, then it’s all worth it because obviously education has improved, right?

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson observes lots of creepy scenarios as she digs through government actions.

ANSWER TO QUESTION: This photo was taken by the Louisville Courier-Journal during the grand opening celebration for Charlestown High School.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Resolution on Government Resolutions

HARBESON: Whereas, it’s time for a resolution

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — When Indiana Rep. Bob Morris, a Republican from Fort Wayne, said he would not support a government resolution celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts because it is a “radicalized organization,” there was a predictable feeding frenzy in response.

Once this story was in front of everyone’s nose, people smelled the rich sugary sweetness of controversy and chomped down. Hard. Most people fell right in line and dutifully framed the issue around the Girl Scouts, but the Scouts have about as much relevance to the main issue as chocolate flavor has to do with the main ingredient in the pie that maid Minnie Jackson gave to racist Hilly Holbrook in the movie, “The Help.”

Think about what gave this politician the opportunity to state his views about the Girl Scouts in the first place — a nonbinding government resolution. Shouldn’t we be discussing the very idea of these resolutions? They are basically puffed-up documents that congratulate organizations, businesses and individuals for various accomplishments and anniversaries.

In other words, these resolutions are simply another way for politicians to pander to the voters.

Knowing that, it’s easy to understand why Morris’ action annoyed all the politicians. After all, he was refusing to go along with their pandering. Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma was so desperate to pander that he handed out cookies on the House floor. That’s how important pandering is — so important that he threw his fellow party member under a busload of Thin Mints.

Why would any private voluntary association even want the approval of these people? I guess the document is something to put on the ol’ “I love me” wall, but personally I’d just keep that part of the wall empty before I would display something that showed I got a condescending pat on the head from government officials.

These resolutions also take advantage of the hard work and achievements of others. Politicians hop on the success wagons of people who have nothing to do with government — people who are simply living their lives and driving toward their own goals. I mean this literally too, because there is a government resolution this year congratulating Tony Stewart on winning the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.

I don’t know how resolutions start but I can’t imagine Mr. Stewart really cares all that much. I can’t imagine he spent last year making all those left turns, dreaming about how cool it would be to have a bunch of politicians formally congratulating him with a document full of almost as many “whereas this” and “whereas that’s” as there are laps in a Daytona race.

Adults are one thing but when I looked through the resolutions for this legislative session I noticed that most of them are written for kids who have excelled in some way. This actually does make sense.

Such resolutions can be an important part of the continuing indoctrination of the young. Lots of work goes into making sure kids blindly accept political authority and what better way to start than by giving them accolades for their accomplishments. Going back to that pie, such government accolades are the chocolate flavor that hides what the kids are really being fed.

But maybe this would all make more sense if I just wrote a resolution of my own stating my position:

I offer the following resolution on resolutions and move its adoption.

Whereas, nonbinding resolutions serve only as political pandering;

Whereas, politicians use nonbinding resolutions to create controversy;

Whereas, it makes absolutely no sense at all for private individuals and voluntary associations to accept resolutions of approval from an institution that only exists because of coercion,

Be it resolved by this columnist of the News and Tribune of Floyd and Clark counties in Indiana:

• Section 1: That all government nonbinding resolutions and any related controversy be ignored from this point forward.

• Section 2: That a copy of this resolution be transmitted to every pandering politician in the state of Indiana.

— Whereas Debbie Harbeson resides in Clark County, be it hereby resolved that any reader is invited to contact her at Debbie@debbieharbeson.com