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About Oregon’s record low unemployment …

This is from a report issued late last month by the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

Although Oregon’s unemployment rate is lower than it has been in decades, not every aspect of the state’s labor market looks rosy. A new report by the Oregon Center for Public Policy points out that more than one-third of counties in the state have yet to make up the job losses from the Great Recession and that the wages of the typical Oregonian have barely budged.

“By some measures, the Oregon jobs market has rarely looked better, but the statewide figures can mask the difficulties some communities are facing,” said OCPP policy fellow Audrey Mechling.

From a record high of 11.9 percent in 2009, Oregon’s unemployment had fallen to 4 percent by July 2019, according to the Center’s analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was the lowest jobless rate since at least three decades back.

Yet, as of 2018, 14 Oregon counties — all but one of them rural counties — had not recovered the jobs lost during the Great Recession, the Center said. Those counties were Umatilla, Baker, Malheur, Lincoln, Union, Coos, Douglas, Lake, Gilliam, Klamath, Curry, Grant, Harney, and Crook counties.

Among all rural counties, the unemployment rate stood at 5.5 percent in 2018, compared to 3.6 percent in the counties making up the Portland-metro area.

The unemployment rate also remained uneven along racial and ethnic lines, according to the Center. The 2018 unemployment rate for Latino Oregonians stood at 5.6 percent, compared to 4.1 percent for White Oregonians. Prior analysis by the Center also found significantly higher levels of unemployment among Black Oregonians.

And despite the big swing from record level unemployment during the depths of the Great Recession to record low unemployment at the end of 2018, the typical Oregon worker has seen little in the way of a pay increase, the Center’s report said. Real hourly wages for the median earner in Oregon increased by only 3 percent from 2009 to 2018. Since 1979, wages for the median earner were up only 1 percent.

“When wages remain stagnant even in the face of one of the longest periods of economic expansion and lowest levels of unemployment, it’s time for lawmakers to put in place policies that increase the paychecks of workers,” Mechling said. “From boosting tax credits for working families to removing obstacles to unionization, there is much lawmakers can do.”

The use of teaching health centers

From a guest opinion by Ted Epperly, MD, CEO, Family Medicine Residency of Idaho, Boise; Boyd Southwick, President, Idaho Academy of Family Physicians, Idaho Falls, and Neva Santos, Executive Director,
Idaho Academy of Family Physicians

James needed a sports physical and a vaccine booster in September. In November, he fell from his bike and broke his arm. In February, his parents made appointments for preventive colonoscopies. In March, his younger sister developed an ear infection. In August, his grandmother was diagnosed with high blood pressure and started a long-term treatment plan.

All of them went to the same doctor for their health needs. That doctor, a family physician, was trained in a teaching health center—a community-based residency training program that analysts say is an invaluable tool for increasing primary care physicians and addressing the maldistribution of doctors.

Since their inception in 2010, teaching health centers have been very successful in recruiting medical students into primary care and training them in comprehensive patient care at less cost. Currently, 56 teaching health center residencies are training 728 residents in 23 states and the District of Columbia.
In fact we have a Teaching Health Center (THC ) right here in Boise Idaho. The Family Medicine Residency of Idaho was one of the original 11 THC’s in the United States and has done a lot to help train family medicine physicians for rural and underserved parts of Idaho.

Equally important, they and their graduates have provided much-needed health services to 66.4 % of people in Idaho and nearly 80 million Americans living in health professional shortage areas. Research shows that more than nine out of 10 teaching health center graduates remain in primary care practice and more than three out of four plan to work in underserved communities. Studies also have documented that teaching health center residents are three times more likely than traditionally trained residents to practice primary care in a community-based clinic. Other data show that nearly twice as many residents who trained in teaching health centers went on to practice in underserved settings compared to their counterparts who trained in hospital-based programs.

That’s important because we know that an increase of one primary care physician per 10,000 people reduces deaths by more than 5%. Patients—particularly the elderly—with a usual source of care are healthier and have lower medical costs. They have better care coordination and fewer expensive emergency room visits, unnecessary tests and procedures. In contrast, those without a usual source of care have more problems accessing health services and more often do not receive appropriate medical help when it’s necessary.

Teaching health centers’ continued success now depends on Congressional action. Unless Congress reauthorizes the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program, federal support ends on Oct. 1. Ensuring a robust program requires a five-year extension and increased funding that can support new teaching health center programs, particularly in rural and underserved areas. Currently, the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act reflects family medicine’s goals of reauthorizing the THCGME program for five years, authorizing adequate and sustainable funding for existing residency programs, and supporting expansion into more rural and underserved communities.

This is critical. A Robert Graham Center survey of teaching health centers found that more than four out of 10 teaching health center residency programs would be very unlikely and more than two out of 10 would be unlikely to continue supporting residency positions without continued federal funding. Due to funding uncertainty, some programs have slowed their recruiting or closed over the past few years. Congress should pass this legislation immediately to prevent a disruption in the pipeline of primary care physician production.

The current primary care physician shortage and maldistribution remain significant physician workforce challenges. An Annals of Family Medicine study projects that the changing needs of the U.S. population will require an additional 33,000 practicing primary care physicians by 2035. With reauthorization and expansion of the THCGME Program, however, the United States can make significant strides in meeting the challenge.

Normalizing lying

This is a submitted guest opinion from former U.S. Representative Larry La Rocco.

President Trump’s State of the Union address touched me personally. And not in a good way.

As a former U. S. Representative from the First District of Idaho I was privileged to spend four years working in the hallowed House Chamber in the US Capitol. If you have visited or seen it on TV, you immediately grasp its historic significance and its relationship to our nation’s core values.

The State of the Union has gravitated toward increasingly more theater, campaign rhetoric and partisan messaging, but it still serves as an important vehicle for presenting the President’s agenda and gauging the reaction of the Congress. The speech is a dramatic spectacle filled with the leaders of the three branches of government under one roof at the exact same moment. It can be simultaneously spine chilling and stomach churning depending on the issues at hand, the behavior of the audience, the height of the oratory and the tenor of the message.

The 2019 speech for me was, quite simply, sad. Here’s why: it contained false claims, misleading statements, mis-characterizations and outright lies. The State of the Union is the place where falsehoods and dishonesty should be parked at the curb. The well of the US House of Representatives is not a plane hangar. President Trump’s mendacity fouled the hallowed chamber and it is inexcusable.

We live in a contemporary world of fact checkers. Pick your favorite: Politifact, The New York Times, Politico, NPR, The Washington Post, Snopes, The Annenberg Public Policy Center; and the list goes on. The Washington Post has documented 8,459 false claims and misleading statements in the first 745 days of the Trump Administration.
Depending on your political persuasion and your preference for news sources, that
claim of falsehoods could be off by anywhere from zero to 8,459. However, the “Pants on Fire” list of documented Trump lies by Politifact goes on for many pages. The New York Times meticulously catalogues the lies by subject and date. The other sources have cited hundreds of instances of outright falsehoods and the facts to
back up their claims.

I was deeply saddened because I believe the State of the Union should be a safe zone for facts. It is not a place or time for lies. President Trump stretched the truth 30 times based on fact checking by The Washington Post. His lies were mainly on immigration and the economy over the course of his 82 minute world-wide address. Anyone can access a fact-checking source with a phone or computer.

We must question whether Americans have become so accustomed to President Trump’s lies and falsehoods that it has become accepted behavior. We cannot brush this deceptive behavior off as “whataboutism” which is a convenient way of saying they all do it. No, they don’t all do it. This isn’t about “equivalency” and settling political scores with rivals or partisans. 8,459 falsehoods in two years is 8,459 too many.

The State of the Union speech was instantly accessible to 327 million Americans and was viewed worldwide. To wrap our brain around political mendacity and its insidiousness we should localize the impact of it on our lives in Idaho. What if Senator XXXXX gave the commencement speech at Eagle High school, and it contained 30 falsehoods? What if Congressman XXXXX spoke to the Parma Lions Club and dished out 30 lies? What if Governor XXXXX spoke to the Idaho Farm Bureau and skirted the truth 30 times? Would those speeches be acceptable to Idahoans? I don’t think so.

Yet, the Idaho Congressional Delegation sat in the hallowed House Chamber for the one hour and 22 minute State of the Union message, absorbed 30 falsehoods preceded by two years of thousands of false claims and lies and said nothing. Maybe they even stood and applauded when the emotional and dishonest red meat was served.

I was deeply shaken by this year’s State of the Union because it strayed from the truth for purely political reasons. We must demand better. Lying to Americans is not normal. I fear its normalization will tear at the core values we cherish and protect. President Trump should be ashamed, and his enablers should as well.

Blurring the lines

A guest opinion from Levi B. Cavener, a teacher living in Caldwell, Idaho. He blogs at IdahosPromise.Org.

As the legislature kicks into full gear this year, it's worth taking a look at how new charter-friendly legislation is making it the Governor’s desk. The J.A. & Kathryn Albertson Foundation has invested in growing charter programs in the Gem State. In particular, Albertson provides substantial financial support for the charter-friendly nonprofit BLUUM.

The IRS prohibits 501(c)(3) nonprofit groups from engaging in any substantial lobbying activities. However, BLUUM appears to steering some of the legislation at our state’s capital. BLUUM’s CEO, Terry Ryan, even registered as a lobbyist through the Idaho Secretary of State from 2016-2018.

BLUUM and Ryan appear, in particular, to be largely responsible for pushing the charter school-friendly “Innovation School Act” into law in a previous legislative session that allows charters to wiggle out of rules all other public schools must comply with.

According to an interview Ryan provided with Idaho Business Review, Ryan partnered with former Nampa School District David Peterson Superintendent to assist him spearhead the law at the capitol building. Why would Nampa’s superintendent want to push charter-friendly laws at the statehouse?

The answer is in the money. See, a month after the governor signed the Innovation School Act into law, Nampa School District received a million dollars from the Albertson Foundation to build a new “Innovative School” in Peterson’s district that went on to become Gem Prep Nampa. Albertson just also happens to be the same entity that supports BLUUM and Terry Ryan. Quid pro quo.

One wonders if Ryan’s collaboration with Supt. Peterson to press for the law would constitute lobbying. But Ryan appears to have gone further than using Peterson as an intermediary and met with the lawmakers himself.

Disclosure forms filed by Ryan to the Secretary of State indicate that Ryan spent over two hundred dollars to host a lunch for 12 of the 15 house education committee members. Two weeks later the House Education Committee produced and passed the bill for the Innovation School Act. It is hard to believe that Ryan was talking about anything other than this legislation when these representatives were in attendance.

But it gets more complicated. Ryan was also CEO of the Idaho Charter School Network during this time. Unlike BLUUM, the Idaho Charter School Network is a 501(c)(4) which can engage in lobbying activity. Unfortunately, it is impossible to distinguish when Ryan was acting as an agent for Idaho Charter School Network or BLUUM at any given moment.

For instance, in one set of Senate Education meeting minutes, Ryan is introduced as CEO of the Idaho Charter School Network. However, the handouts and visual aid materials presented by Ryan during this same meeting were from BLUUM, not the Idaho Charter School Network. Just which hat is Ryan wearing at any given moment?

Which is the point. Ryan should have known better than to put himself in such a conflict by removing himself entirely from any equation that involved lobbying in order to safeguard the integrity of BLUUM and its nonprofit status with the IRS. By not doing, so BLUUM appears to be a central actor in lobbying for passage of charter-friendly legislation; an action that puts it at odds with its 501(c)(3) status.

Unfortunately, one can expect Albertson to continue to fund “nonprofits” in our state pushing for privatization and charter schools in the Gem state. Their infatuation in pushing these types of schools knows no bounds.

Simple and beneficial

This is a guest opinion by Boise attorney David Leroy, responding to a recent column by Jim Jones about Idaho's Proposition 1.

As a former Idaho Attorney General and Lt. Governor, I am truly surprised at the misdirection and confusion which is being offered to oppose the Historical Horse Racing Initiative (Proposition One). For me, it is an easy "yes" vote.

The law would do nothing more than restart the process of allowing betting machines at live horse racing venues and a single, non-operational track that meet specific criteria, just as we had during the years 2014-2015, when a collapse of civilization did not take place.

A former Justice recently predicted that the Idaho Supreme Court could follow the logic of a Wyoming court to rule the initiative unconstitutional. The Wyoming decision is a moot point, because HHR terminals are legally operating in that state currently and the machines themselves are substantially different than when that court examined them. Furthermore, that now irrelevant conclusion ignores our own Idaho Constitution, specifically the language in Article III, Section 20, which allows "pari-mutuel betting if conducted in accordance with enabling legislation.” Already existing statutes permit any "exhibition" of horse racing at a location "where the pari-mutuel system of wagering is used."

Of course, a lawsuit may well be filed by one of the contending parties after the fact, but both the legislative history of the original act and a 2012 Idaho Attorney General's letter opinion predict that the track-based use of these pari-mutuel machines is likely to be held constitutional by the Idaho Supreme Court. Indeed, like many other states and courts, this week a Kentucky circuit court ruled once again that historical horse racing terminals were, in fact, pari-mutuel wagering based on the outcome of horse races, and thus constitutional, despite any appearances of a casino game.

Unfortunately, some newspaper’s editorials have not been as clear or instructive as their readers should expect about this "political" issue. For example, one editorial board last week suggested that citizens cast a "no" vote, because the measure is allegedly "complex and confusing." It is neither.

Simply put, Proposition One does the following:

1) Reestablishes the use of previously used and now familiar historical horse racing terminals, which are pari-mutuel in nature, meaning that bettors bet against other bettors in the pool, not against “The House.”

2) Co-locates the machines at horse racing tracks, and only at tracks, where they offer the potential to revive that industry and its related economics and employment,

3) If they remain as popular with the public as they once were, allows the devices to generate significant funding over time for Idaho schools,

4) Will not put any of ldaho's tribal casinos out of business, nor is it even likely to negatively affect their profit margins.

Politics in this day and age can be plenty confusing and conflicted. Almost every new, even well-intended public policy has trade-offs and unanticipated consequences. Historical horse racing for Idaho, however, is neither novel nor confusing. If voters pass the initiative, we will simply reauthorize a form of gaming which has been field tested without adverse consequences.

Certainly, many Idahoans may oppose gambling in any form and accordingly vote "no." That, too, is an honorable position, if taken on principle, for moral reasons or with a valid factual basis. But Idahoans should not be misled by the many untrue allegations or wild legal speculations swirling around Proposition One. As to me, for both history and horses, "YES" on Prop 1 makes sense.

David Leroy has previously served as Idaho’s Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor and currently practices law in Boise.

Why support the Nampa library?

A guest opinion from educator Michael Strickland.

When was the last time you visited the Nampa Public Library? If it has been a while, you may be surprised at the plethora of resources to help every sector of our community, from the homeless, to teens, to seniors, to small businesses and YOU.

“While public libraries are simply an abstraction to some, for many of us they were and continue to be a sanctuary, a community, a public rejection of the notion that knowledge should be contingent on what you can afford, a place where no price can be placed on the access to ideas,” said public intellectual Clint Smith on Twitter.

In the midst of a national trend of waning support for public libraries, it is a good time to visit just of few of them many reasons that the Nampa Public Library is a priceless community center:

1. Books music, and dvd checkouts: By offering access to a massive collection of books, music, and movies, the Nampa Public Library fundamentally advances the idea that culture is a public good. It is one that all people have a right to enjoy, regardless of their income.

2. Educational help and guidance: Reference librarians show patrons the correct websites to go to, help them navigate and interpret resources, and teach them how to scan and use email. Nampa Public Library staff helps people fill forms for low-income housing and other documents, which are often complicated and overwhelming. Sometimes this means showing them how to access and fill out an online PDF.

3. Story time and children’s programming: Mothers, fathers, grandparents, foster parents, nannies and children attend regular story times. Many of them acknowledge this as some of the only time they spend out of the house socializing. It’s a rare place that creates a sense of community, bridging socioeconomic gaps. The library is also a safe and creative space for teens.

4. Community events: Government officials, candidates, nonprofits, charities, health providers, businesses, church groups — all types of groups and leaders hold Q&A sessions and discussions at the library. The Nampa Public Library is a safe place for all people to gather.

5. Computer, internet and academic resources: Hardware, laptop, internet and wi fi access are available for those who don’t have them.

6. Job trainings: The library has courses as well as a wide variety of resources for the unemployed and homeless. Nampa librarians help patrons search for the correct offices. They print Google maps with walking or bus instructions. They give residents a running start to help improve lives. In a world heavily skewed toward people who can pay for access to resources, the library helps level the playing field.

7. Art, music, history and culture: There are more than this article can even list: Check out the Nampa Public Library Event Calendar.

Our library is essential to the Nampa community, in ways that even frequent patrons might not know. “Public libraries are a unique and irreplaceable amenity at the foundation of our democracy of informed citizens,” said Christopher Platt, Chief Branch Library Officer, New York Public Library. “That is not changing. If anything, the public needs its public libraries more than ever, as we work to close the digital divide, help the less fortunate, and separate fact from fiction. We’re not going anywhere.”

Take a minute and donate to the Nampa Public Library today! Follow the Nampa Public Library Foundation on Facebook for details and updates.

Michael Strickland teaches at Boise State University and is the Administrative Associate for the Nampa Public Library Foundation.

Of demagogues and democracy

This is a guest opinion written by Gregory A. Raymond, which is Distinguished Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Boise State University and a past recipient of the Idaho Professor of the Year award from the Carnegie Foundation.

Of those men who have overturned the liberty of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by playing obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues and ending tyrants.
—Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1

When the delegates to the Constitutional Convention gathered in Philadelphia during 1787 to craft a new system of governance for the United States, they drew upon their knowledge of history to identify potential dangers that might one day undermine the republic. The founding fathers believed that understanding the problems that marred previous experiences with citizen-centered rule would alert them to the perils that America could face in future. Foremost among their concerns was the threat that demagogues posed to civil discourse and democratic norms.

The term “demagogue” (dēmagōgos) arose in Greece during the fifth century bce to describe a new breed of charismatic politicians who sought to lead the masses by arousing their passions and appealing to their prejudices. In contrast to political figures who advocated courses of action that they believed were in the common good, demagogues used their rhetorical skills to promote policies that advanced their self-interests.

In ancient Athens, those skills were used when speaking before the Assembly (Ekklēsia), which met forty times a year on the Pnyx Hill above the city’s bustling marketplace. After speeches were delivered on an issue, the Assembly would vote and pronounce a decree, which was then implemented by magistrates and boards appointed by lot for yearlong terms. Because under the principle of isegoria (freedom of speech) all adult male citizens had an equal right to participate in Assembly deliberations, education in persuasive speaking was popular among Athenians. Gorgias of Leontini, Hippias of Elis, and Protagoras of Abdera were among the most famous itinerant teachers, known as sophists (“men of wisdom”), who offered instruction in the art of rhetoric. Pericles, the leading general and statesman of the period, mirrored the pride that Athenians had in their tradition of civic engagement. “Our ordinary citizens,” he proclaimed, though occupied with the pursuits of industry, are still fair judges of public matters; for, unlike any other nation, …instead of looking on discussion as a stumbling block in the way of action, we think it an indispensable preliminary to any wise action at all.”

Following the outbreak of plague in 430 bce, Athens fell under the spell of demagogues who flattered the common people and vowed to make them “winners.” Cleon, the most notorious of these individuals, was described by the biographer Plutarch as “a fellow remarkable for nothing but his loud voice and brazen face.” The son of a wealthy leather tanner and merchant, he was seen by blue-blooded Athenians as coarse and vulgar. Like an outer-borough New Yorker rebuffed by Manhattan patricians, Cleon was spurned by Athens’ social and cultural elites. He disparaged intellectuals, belittled critics, and lashed out at adversaries, once apparently threatening to prosecute Callistratus, producer of the play Babylonians, claiming that the performance slandered the state.

Although Cleon received an inheritance upon his father’s death, Critias, a controversial Athenian poet, insinuated that he was mired in debt and only recovered after leveraging his political position for personal gain. Knights and Wasps, satirical comedies written by Aristophanes, also implied that Cleon was corrupt, though we possess less evidence about his alleged venality than we have regarding his insolence.

Whereas Cleon was heralded by his supporters for speaking frankly (parrhēsía)—ostensibly, “telling it like it is”—Aristotle demurred that on the contrary bluster and bravado typified his oratory: “He was the first who shouted on the public platform, who used abusive language and who spoke with his cloak girt around him, while all the others used to speak in proper dress and manner.” The historian Thucydides added that Cleon was the most violent man in Athens, someone prepared to brand those who disagreed with him as “enemies of the people.” During the fourth year of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta (431-404 bce), when Mytilene, the principal city-state on the island of Lesbos, attempted to break its military ties with Athens, Cleon urged the Athenians to kill the city’s men and enslave the women and children. The Mytilenians were disloyal, he thundered. They deserved harsh punishment. Not only would this be just, but it would deter others from betraying Athens.

Even though the Athenian Assembly chose not to heed his counsel, over the next few years Cleon goaded its members into adopting a more aggressive strategy toward Sparta. He persuaded his fellow citizens to assault the Spartan position on the island of Sphacteria and reject any peace offers; he convinced them to demand a larger contribution to the war effort from Athens’ allies in the Delian League; and he recommended that they execute the adult male inhabitants of Scione, a city that had revolted against Athens. Ironically, despite his inexperience in armed conflict, Athenian forces under Cleon’s command succeeded in capturing several towns in the Chalcidice. But his ineptitude contributed to their failure to take Amphipolis, an important naval base that controlled access to timber, mines, and grain. Though he was accused by some of cowardice during the battle for the city, we lack independent corroboration of allegations about his behavior under fire. However, what the record does indicate is that Cleon was a shamelessly arrogant politician and mediocre military tactician who fraudulently promised to make Athens great again.

Cleon and the other demagogues of ancient Greece are removed from us by over two millennia. Their stories are intriguing, but what insights can we gain from them that might promote a better understanding of the political challenges of our day? Of course, the past never exactly presages the future, but examining history in a careful, discriminating way can help us think more deeply about the present.

By rebuking would-be tyrants who manipulated the anxieties and resentments of the crowd, the historians, playwrights, and philosophers of antiquity have forewarned us of the dangers that demagogues pose to democratic governance. Uppermost among these dangers is what demagogues do to civic life. Although, as Plato observed in the Republic, demagogues portray themselves as “protectors of the people,” they widen social cleavages by peddling conspiracy theories, playing one group of citizens against another, and by singling out scapegoats to blame for both real and imagined problems. They further degrade public discourse by hurling insults and spurious allegations at anyone who dares to challenge them, attempting to cow opponents into silence.

Demonizing the opposition, denying its legitimacy, and calling for its leaders to be locked up undermine the prospects for fair, inclusive, and competitive elections. Within this toxic climate, political divisions become almost impossible to bridge, which dissuades elected officials with differing viewpoints from deliberating together.

Thucydides presents a shocking description of what can happen when a society becomes polarized and political debate is infected by mutual loathing. During the fifth year of the Peloponnesian War, he depicts how Corcyra, an island located in the Ionian Sea, descended into a hellhole of civil strife. In the mayhem, political rivals became mortal enemies, with partisan loyalty transcending the bonds of family, religion, and ethnicity. Language was perverted as words lost their ordinary meanings. Recklessness came to be seen as courage, prudence as cowardice, and temperance as weakness. Extremists were considered honorable; moderates, traitorous. Piety and law were distorted for factional ends, as militants in each camp disavowed common moral ground.

When language is debased, and conventions governing honest discourse weaken, demonstrably false claims presented as “alternative facts” increasingly contaminate policy discussions. “What you are seeing,” demagogues tell the populace, “is not what is happening.” “Truth,” their apologists assert, “isn’t truth.” Deliberately employed to sow doubt about what to believe, incessant falsehoods overwhelm listeners and beget resignation, inducing people to live public life as passive subjects rather than as active participants. In this environment of uncertainty and suspicion, civic trust erodes and the normative pillars of democracy—tolerance, forbearance, and compromise—crumble.

America’s founders recognized that modern demagogues, like their ancient predecessors, posed a serious problem for democratic governance. Armed with beguiling words but bereft of realistic plans for solving social and economic problems, demagogues hope to capitalize on the chaos they provoke. Writing in Federalist No. 68, Alexander Hamilton cautioned against any “man unprincipled in private life” and “bold in his temper” who would “throw affairs into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind’.” Rather than embodying what the Greeks called sōphrosunē—discretion and self-control—such a person, Hamilton feared, would act impulsively and “fall in with all the nonsense of the zealots of the day.”

The founders believed that the Hellenic world’s experience with demagogues was worth pondering because the ancients wrestled with questions about the advantages and drawbacks of rule by the one, the few, and the many. Demagogues would occasionally gain power in democratic political systems, the Greeks acknowledged; nevertheless, no matter how entrenched such aspiring tyrants might seem, their footing remained insecure. Deep-seated character flaws ultimately would trip them up.

Individuals who unendingly boast of their intelligence and wealth, who traffic in malice and divisiveness, and who bully and humiliate others, show symptoms of hybris—unbridled arrogance.

“All arrogance will reap a harvest rich in tears,” warned the tragedian Aeschylus. His portrayal in Persians of King Xerxes’ catastrophic losses at Salamis to a smaller flotilla of Greek warships underscores the heavy reckoning ordained by overweening pride. Those suffering from hybris lack the capacities for empathy and introspection. Callous and unreflective, they succumb to atē, the commission of an outrageous, morally blind act that leads to their fall, or nemesis. “A man’s character,” concluded the philosopher Heracleitus, “is his fate.”

Another look at school safety


This is an opinion piece written by Cindy Wilson, a candidate for Idaho superintendent of public instruction.

About 10 years ago, I started beginning my school year watching safety videos before the first day of class. It’s part of a teacher’s preparation for the year, along with lesson planning and syllabus preparation.

I’ll never forget the first time I watched a video that included a new role for teachers. Prepared by the police department, it showed a teacher doing everything she could to protect her students from an attacker – she quickly led them outside and they all ran to safety. I felt sick to my stomach. I knew the responsibility I had to protect “my kids,” the students in my classroom, should the unthinkable ever happen at my school.

Years later, I’m now a bit more comfortable with what I’m watching, but it is still frightening. The responsibility that teachers feel to ensure their students’ safety weighs heavily on their minds.

School safety should not be taken lightly – and it hasn’t been in Idaho. It’s a serious matter that affects all educators, students, parents, and everyone in the community, which makes it especially important to manage our resources wisely. If we approach school safety like we are reinventing the wheel, then we will surely see redundancies, short-sighted spending, and miscommunication – or worse, no communication at all – with key stakeholders.

Two of those important stakeholders can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise about school safety. First is Idaho’s Office of School Safety and Security, created in 2016 to assist school districts in ensuring student safety precautions. Second is our local public safety officials from the county sheriff’s department or the city police department, who are well-trained to confront violent threats. These groups are also well aware of the needs of each community and how they should customize their responses. Any plan that is considered for Idaho must include a partnership of these two areas, as well as those who are most closely involved with the students – teachers and administrators, which of course would include groups like the Idaho School Boards Association, the Idaho Association of School Administrators, and the Idaho Education Association.

But most importantly, in addition to ensuring we have safe buildings and prepared responders, we need to focus on the reason behind the violence. Violence in schools is a symptom of what’s happening with our young people today: feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, and mental illness generally. Many have had traumatic experiences in their young lives, which can affect their mental health.

No measure of school safety will be complete without addressing these student needs. And how do we do that? Schools must create a culture of community where everyone is nurtured, where individual needs are met so students can feel successful and learn how to communicate with one another in a civil way. Students should have access to highly trained counselors, and families should know that expert help is available from partners who care about their kids. Children should be taught to care for one another and feel empowered to act on these lessons. And of course, they should learn to notify adults whenever they see something out of sorts or when they have concerns for a classmates’ well-being.

Adding the civic dispositions of kindness, respect for one another’s differences, respect for the law, compassion, honesty, courage, negotiation and compromise to the culture of a classroom, school, and district can help eliminate early signs of bullying, and yes, even help protect students from violence at school.

But it takes everyone working together, everyone on the same page, and everyone having the same goal in mind: protect our children.

As this new school year begins, let’s all make a pledge to work as partners in ensuring our students’ safety and healthy development. We must focus on the root causes of school violence and not just cover it with a bandage. After all, Idaho’s public schools are not just about securing the fort during the school day; they are also about partnering with communities to coach our kids into lives of meaning, respect and dignity.