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Carlson: Idiocy

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

I saw the other day where Idaho’s illustrious Superintendent for Public Instruction, the Honorable Tom Luna, said it did not bother him in the least that Idaho ranked 48th or 49th in state support for public education.

That statement alone makes him a certifiable idiot. That his PR flacks try to portray his rationalizations for Idaho’s pecuniary as cutting edge innovation is laughable. That he is supposedly a key advisor on educational policy to the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney is appalling.

Luna, along with every state legislator and every member of Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter’s administration ought to read an article in the latest Atlantic Monthly by Chrystia Freeland entitled “The Triumph of the Family Farm.”

The article describes the transformation of farming due to technological innovation and global integration which, along with the growth of a middle class that has become an increasingly demanding market for better food, has led to impressive financial success for family farms.

Yup, despite what you might read about their demise and the rise of corporate farms the fact is in 2010, of all the farms with at least $1 million in revenues, 88 percent were family farms.

Buried within the article though is an absolute diamond.

Calling it one of the great forgotten triumphs of American society and government she points out how smoothly farmers negotiated the creative destruction (the loss of farm jobs due to modernization) of the early 20th century. She quotes esteemed labor economist and Harvard professor Lawrence Katz regarding how the farming community adapted.

Luna will be stunned by this, but the key according to Katz, was heavy investment in education. “Iowa, Nebraska, the Dakotas, California – those were the leaders in the high school movement,” Katz stated. It was a deliberate response to rapid technological change in both farming and manufacturing.

They built more schools and invested more money as a deliberate strategic response so that their children would be better equipped to deal with and adapt to rapid change. The strategy worked. It made for better farmers for those who stayed on the farm and more adaptive workers for those that migrated to urban areas.

Today’s challenge is the same, only a high school education is no longer sufficient. Students today know they need a college education with an emphasis on analytic skills. Katz, though, points out the obvious: the Luna’s of the world are not making an equivalent investment in the future by even adequately funding basic and higher education today.

Instead they hide behind a mantra about not throwing more money at the challenge, trying to sell bilge-water to the public that Idaho can do more with less. Instead of being ashamed regarding the declining support for public education they try to make a virtue out of disgraceful conduct. What’s that saying about putting lip stick on a pig?

To their way of thinking, innovation and more financial support for education are mutually exclusive propositions. Their stupidity is stunning.

One could argue Luna and the many members of the Idaho Legislature who are LDS are not even walking the talk of their faith. Mormonism from its very beginnings has stressed the importance and values to be gained through life-long learning and continuing education. It is a critical aspect of evolving towards being more Godly.

Thus, if one looks south to Utah, what do they see: a state that does a better job than Idaho in support for public education not to mention an impressive commitment to private education as demonstrated by funding for Brigham Young University in Provo as well as branch campuses like BYU-Idaho in Rexburg.

There is recognition that to keep up with a rapidly changing world it will take both innovation and more financial investment, not less. For Idaho the proof is in the pudding for it is clear that innovative companies looking to the future for places to move to are no longer putting Idaho on the map of places to visit.

It must be just too much to expect Tom Luna to grasp the concept that innovation and better more adequate funding can go hand in hand. But then what should we expect from an “educator” who received the required higher education degree in order to hold his office from a little known on-line university and the degree was in “weights and measures.”

In other words the man is certified to run the weigh station at Potlatch’s St. Maries mill. It is a continuing travesty that Idaho instead has a certified idiot running public education. What he and his ilk are doing to Idaho’s future by stinting on the state’s educational investment is condemning an entire generation to mediocrity.

Sad, truly sad.

CHRIS CARLSON is a former journalist who served as press secretary to Gov. Cecil Andrus. He lives at Medimont.

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