Sunday, November 13, 2011

Some "Civil Thinking" To Consider

Bruce Krochman, operator of the Civil Thinking blog, has kept a pretty low profile in recent months. He doesn't post very frequently on his blog, so we get out of the habit of checking in on it. However, when he does post it is always worth reading and considering, just as are his occasional comments posted here. They always enhance the discussion of important issues.


Last week, on
November 8th, he posted an interesting observation on his blog titled, Local control is just that, Local!, which you can find HERE. It deals with the proposal the Newport Mesa Unified School Board was to consider that evening regarding the proposal by Board Member Katrina Foley to fund, district wide, the 6th grade science camp. He linked to a Daily Pilot article on the issue in his blog.

On the 9th the Daily Pilot ran Britney Barnes' article covering the story, HERE. The school board chose to do nothing about the issue, remaining mute when Foley moved to put the issue on the next meeting's agenda for discussion.


I confess that I've not immersed myself in school issues, but I wonder what the readers here think about this situation? I do know that I'm concerned when any government body, elected to serve the people, refuses to place an issue on the agenda for discussion.

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Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Sixty years or so ago, with the cold war getting big, there was a gent named Don Herbert that ran a science show on TV called "Mr. Wizard". He showed real scientific principles, with no attempt to be comic or entertaining. There were quite a number of educational films on science, ones that talked about crystals forming from a supersaturated solution, chemical bonds, rockets, the solar system, you name it. Disney put out a couple of them. There was one called "Hemo the magnificent" about blood that aired in '55 or '56. The salient feature of all these was that the SCIENCE was the exciting part, not the balderdash, not the camera angles, not the clowning-around; the scientists were the heroes of these stories, not the actors who dramatized them.

Those of us who were interested in the exciting stuff presented were the ones who went on to have a lifelong interest in it, mostly because it was real.

Seems to me that much of that excitement has been lost inside the philosophy that our little ones must be protected from exposure to any form of dangerous knowledge. M'gawd, the dangers of the subjects were the ESSENCE of the excitement of science. You made gunpowder (maybe it fizzled, but what the hey?) because it was dangerous! You did chemistry to make annoying things like stink bombs, or things that went bang, and you did stuff like that out of sight of adults, because you knew they'd put the kibosh on your fun.

Science camp... maybe it's just another way to water down the excitement of discovery, to take the joy out of all the mischief a kid can get himself into. Maybe it falls into the same category as "safe and sane" fireworks: I can think of nothing more insipid than those. (Now, cherry bombs, on the other hand...) Maybe an exceptional kid who gets into a science camp and gets held back by an instructor who's afraid he'll hurt himself if he tries something interesting, will have his keen interest blunted, and instead of going into physics will open a worm ranch in Texas or a taco truck in Santa Ana...

There are kids who are better cut out for football than physics. There are also kids who are better cut out for physics than football. Lump them all together in a football camp and what comes out is a grayish mass of sludge. Lump them all together in a science camp and you will get no better result.

Katrina Foley, though, cannot be faulted for her efforts in this. She attempted to stir up some real thought on the matter, by bringing forth a motion on a subject to which she is committed. Her action is entirely in keeping with her commitment to education here in Costa Mesa. At this juncture, however, it is impossible, at least for me, to discern whether the failure of the motion for want of a second can be laid at the feet of a school board composed of highly intelligent scientifically-savvy members who understand all the above points, or a school board composed of crack-brained religious fundamentalists whose understanding of science and its methods and its attitudes and products stands at the same level that most governing bodies had in around 300 AD. In all probability, the real reason lies somewhere between those extremes...

But Foley, in the manner that should be followed by all conscientious elected officials, made a motion of conscience, and not all such motions, for whatever reason, will fly. For the sake of the future, she must be commended for doing what we elected her to do.

11/13/2011 11:35:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Attempted Dimel Defamer,
Your link didn't work. I rejected the entire comment.. try again...

11/14/2011 02:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

Response to Terry:

I appreciate your take on this and that you took the time to put it in writing. And as an engineer, I understand and applaud your obvious excitement about science.

While I don’t know enough about “science camp” to comment directly on it, I can maybe add something to the conversation.

I was on the school board for four years, and worked with five of the current trustees in that capacity. I know the newest two from other milieus.

I can summarize my four years as a politician in two words: “It’s complicated.”

There were few, if any, issues that were black and white. Yet, there’s only a stark choice available to a trustee: for or against. So with that binary vote, you have to take into consideration many factors, most of which typically are polar opposites.

There are budget issues, short term vs. long term. There are stakeholder issues: students, parents/ guardians, teachers, classified employees, the community at large (which, in the case of NMUSD, includes two cities that definitely aren’t the same). There are political issues that, believe it or not, run the gamut, even though it seems that a school district would be shielded from most politics. The list goes on …

So I can assure you, Terry, that we have “ … a school board composed of highly intelligent scientifically-savvy members who understand all the above points …” I haven’t talked with any of them about science camp, but they are all very smart, and I’m sure each has a long list of considerations that led to his or her actions or inactions.

I, too, think Katrina Foley is to be commended for championing the idea of making science camp more available, but I also think the other six trustees should be commended for doing what they thought was right, too. (Remember, they’re limited to only yes or no votes, nothing in between.)

11/14/2011 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

I understand your point of view - one that none of the rest of us have. However, the situation in question was that not one of the other trustees would second Katrina's motion so NO discussion could take place. Of course, that discussion might subsequently force each of them to take a position on the issue. It's sad that, for apparent fear of taking an unpopular position, they all were frozen like deer in the headlights. I don't think we were well-served in this instance.

11/14/2011 05:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...


You observe “It's sad that, for apparent fear of taking an unpopular position, they all were frozen like deer in the headlights.”

This is one of the frustrating (to voters) things about politics.

We (I say we, because I’m back in the ranks now as a voter) want vigorous debate, we want politicians to charge full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes, we want the TRUTH to come out, and we want eggs broken to make that omelet. In fact, we don’t care what happens to politicians, we want what WE want.

As long as it comes out the way WE want it, right?

But this is where the trouble begins: The WE starts to splinter into the familiar camps … left/right, business/homeowner, parents/nonparents, wealthy/poor, Anglo/Hispanic, and so on. And this makes it hard for politicians to decide yea or nay.

Politicians in our representative democracy have to take into account what EVERYONE in their district wants and doesn’t want. If they don’t, they don’t get reelected. Success in American government means getting reelected. If not, you’re been a relative failure.

With that as a preamble, let’s look at your observation quoted above. The first part can be true. After all, who in their right mind would take an unpopular position unless their values and principles were compromised?

But there’s another legitimate reason for not seconding a motion: if you don’t support the motion, why give it any chance for life? (I’d guess this was the case. Since no one supported Katrina’s motion, no one figured they’d vote for it.)

“But,” you say, “why not second it just for discussion?” Well, suppose you did, and after the discussion you voted against the motion you seconded. Now you look like a flip-flopper, and that doesn’t play well in these Republican parts; we don’t like nuance!

And even worse, what if the discussion led others to change their minds, and you ended up on the losing side? One thinks of the expression, “cutting your own throat.” Or maybe, “shooting yourself in the foot.”

Would anybody in business run this risk? Or anybody in real life but an altruist? I think not.

So why should a politician do it if you wouldn’t do it?

11/14/2011 08:54:00 PM  

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