Ohio Carnival 167 . . . with Washington

I did a double-take upon seeing installment 167 of the Carnival of Ohio Politics.  Lisa Renee, of Glass City Jungle, used a Washington state route marker as an illustration for the latest Carnival.  I did a double-take because I’ve actually driven on that very road.  Nevertheless, though the road sign is from Washington, the posts are all about Ohio and its politics.  Great reading.  You know the drill.  Get over there and click on those links.

My opposition to charter schools

I oppose charter schools.

I’ve been called a RINO because of it.  Conservatives might say I’m a moderate, or might even say I’m from the liberal wing of the Republican Party because of it.  I think they’re wrong.  I think I’m more conservative than the supporters of charter schools (despite what this graph says).  I think backers of charter schools are the ones who are in the middle of the road, trying to have their cake and eat it too.

I guess I’m not a compassionate conservative, you know, the kind that grows government spending on corporate welfare while hiding the corporate welfare part by thumping the Bible and using compassionate conservative code words such as “faith-based initiatives,” and “school choice.”

So I guess if I wish to describe myself as a conservative, I’ll have to delineate that I’m not a compassionate conservative.  I guess that makes me an insensitive, uncaring, arrogant, and heartless conservative.

But I’m not liberal.  I’ll explain.

I firmly believe that parents are the ones ultimately responsible for educating their children.  I believe that schools should be used as tools in the hands of the parents to help the parents fulfill their responsibility of educating their kids, and that, ultimately, if kids aren’t prepared for adulthood by the time they finish school, it’s not the schools that failed the kids, it’s the parents and the kids that failed the kids.  Doesn’t that sound conservative to you?

Along that vein, parents have three choices:  Home schooling, public schools, and private (including parochial) schools.  I leave it to the parents to decide which of these tools to use.  I’m OK with whatever they choose from that menu.

If I were a liberal, I would scrub home schooling from the list, because liberals don’t believe that parents are competent teachers unless they are actually licensed as such by the state, and even then, they’d only be competent to teach the grade levels and subject matter indicated on the license.  Liberals would also be concerned that home schooling isn’t sufficiently multicultural.  I leave it to the parents for them to decide whether they have the competence.  In areas where they feel less competent to teach, they can always supplement instruction with tools from other sources.  Parents can make home schooling as multicultural as they like.  There aren’t limits on how multicultural they can make the home schooling experience.  Again, I would empower parents with that kind of discretion.

Looking back over the centuries, home schooling took the form of apprenticing your children in your own trade.  Before the industrial revolution, nearly everyone worked their business out of their own homes.  Stay-at-home housewives?  Yeah, and stay-at-home househusbands, too.  What do you do to take care of the kids at the house while you do the work that sustains the family?  Have them learn the work with you, of course.  Some families might send some kids to be apprenticed elsewhere.  Some families might send some kids to the military, or to a convent, or to a monastery, or to a university.  In these cases, the parents worked out some form of monetary agreement to make those other opportunities possible.  The parents, in some form or another, footed the bill.

Public education is a fairly newfangled contraption.  Especially after the industrial revolution drastically altered family life, compulsory education in one form or another was deemed desirable by society, so we, the people, agreed to means by which the government became a provider of schooling.  It’s a shared cost arrangement.  Parents still foot the bill by way of taxes, but so do non-parents.  Anyone may send their child to a public school without having to pay extra tuition for it.  Children who go to public schools vastly outnumber the children who are home schooled and the children who go to private schools.

My parents sent me to public schools.  After all, they were already paying the taxes that are used to support the public schools.  They could have sent me to a private school, but that would have cost them a lot more.  They realized that they didn’t want to be saddled with the burden of private school tuition costs, especially since I was the oldest of 10 children.  If they had chosen private school for all of us, the cost would have been prohibitive.   They didn’t home school us.  My dad was a die maker at Ford Motor Company who often worked overtime to support our very large family.  Mom was often either pregnant or nursing.  Thus, home schooling would have been too time-intensive for my parents.  Still, my parents understood their responsibility to educate us.  They tell me I knew my alphabet when I was one year old.  I knew how to read before I was age three.  When I got to kindergarten, I was one of a small handful of kindergarteners who could already read who spent a segment of each school day in the first grade reading room with a first grade teacher (we readers had to miss milk and cookies, which is what the other kindergartners did in our absence).  I was adequately prepared for school as a preschooler by my parents.

My parents are aware that sometimes values are taught in public school that run counter to their own values.  My parents are aware that some values are totally missing from the public schools.  Knowing such things, but also knowing that they bore the ultimate responsibility for our education, they supplemented my public school learning with other opportunities for learning.  Much of the learning took place in the home.  Some of the learning took place at church.  Some of the learning happened through friends and relatives of the family.  Some of the learning occurred through extra-curricular activities at school.  Some of the learning occurred in clubs and organizations that had nothing to do with school.  My parents truly sought to adequately prepare us for adulthood.  They made mistakes, of course, but one isn’t spared from mistakes no matter what form the schooling takes.  One other thing my parents did when the public schools were found lacking in one respect or another, was that they were advocates when they felt they needed to be.  They would make their voice heard at a parent-teacher conference.  They would have a discussion with a principal or a superintendent.  They would state their case at a meeting of the school board.  It is critical that public schools remain under local control and it is imperative that they are responsive and accountable to local parents and local taxpayers.

I guess compassionate conservatives, however, who don’t feel up to the rigors of providing home schooling would rather place the blame for failing kids upon the schools, as if the schools are ultimately responsible for the education of their kids.  What?  Pass the buck to big government?  That doesn’t sound conservative.  And if the public school isn’t satisfactory, do they take it upon themselves to supplement the child’s learning, as my parents did?  Apparently they’re too lazy for that.  OK, so send the kids to a private school.  Nope.  They don’t want to pay for that.  OK, so they’re too cheap to send their kids to private school and too lazy to supplement the public school instruction, so what do they do?  They come up with charter schools.

I believe that in being ultimately responsible for children’s education, the parents should foot the bill, unless others agree, by way of a vote of the people, to chip in, as well, and help foot the parents’ educational bills.

For home schooling, the onus is on the parents to make it all happen.  For private schooling, the parents have to foot the bill.  For public schools, the parents and the rest of the community pay taxes to foot the bill.  The taxpayers of Ohio have had many direct votes on the funding of public schools.

Charter schools, however, want to charge tuition AND squeeze the taxpayer, and maybe even make a profit.  The taxpayers of Ohio have never had a direct vote on whether they want to also fund charter schools. Oops, there I go, sounding like a conservative again–a heartless conservative.  Conservatives more compassionate than I orchestrated the charter school movement in the state legislature.  To me, it’s just more government spending on corporate welfare.  Essentially, the charter school organizers didn’t want to try to compete with private schools in the open marketplace.  They were too averse to taking such a financial risk.  Therefore, they found a way to open a school with a private agenda, like a private school does, but they found a way to pay for it from government coffers, like a public school does, and no one ever gets to vote on a tax levy of any sort to determine whether the public really supports the private agenda of the charter school.

Charter schools represent some kind of utopia for compassionate conservative parents who will only set aside a beer budget for their family’s education, but wish to quench their champagne taste, all with a minimum of effort.

They call it compassionate conservatism. To me, it’s just corporate welfare.  To me, it just sounds like socialism.  To me, it sounds like taxation without representation.  To me, I hear the grunting and squealing sound of pigs at the government trough.  To me, I see charter schools too incompetent to survive as private schools, so they become parasites to survive, feeding off the host government.

Education is something worth working for.  It’s something worth earning.  It’s something worth a lot of effort.  It’s not an entitlement.  It’s a responsibility.  It’s a prudent preparation for the future.

If I were Ohio governor or member of the General Assembly, I’d give all charter schools an expiration date, with enough time for parents to sort through the educational alternatives.  By the time the expiration date arrives, the charter schools would have to do one of the following:

  1. Become a self-sustaining private school.  Not a bad choice, considering that other private schools didn’t have the state government’s help with their startup costs like the charter schools had.
  2. Get the taxpayers of the community to vote for a tax to support the school independently from the public school.  I’d be so surprised if such an effort succeeded, but we do live in a democracy, and if the people voted to sustain the school and its mission with their tax dollars, so be it.
  3. Become an adjunct, alternative school within a school district.  Someone would have to come up with a brilliant sales pitch to persuade the community and the school board to allow the school to operate by different rules than the rest of the schools in the district in order for it to continue its mission.
  4. Have the school dissolved and all its resources absorbed into the public school district.  Investors in the charter school could get some reimbursement for the materials they provided that the school district absorbs, though the reimbursement would be tempered by the calculation that tax funds also helped pay for those resources.
  5. Shut its doors permanently.  Assets and resources could be sold however the charter school organization sees fit, but there might be some reimbursements due to the state according to how tax dollars were expended.

I’m such a moderate.  I’m so middle-of-the-road.  I’m such a RINO.  No.  I’m conservative.  An insensitive, uncaring, arrogant, heartless conservative, without an ounce of compassion.

North Korea’s underground nuclear test

One of the striking features of South Korean foreign affairs during the Roh Moo-Hyun administration was how much South Korea offered to North Korea for so little in return.  It’s undeniable that South Koreans would like the entire peninsula to be unified in peace, but being soft with North Korea didn’t work out the way South Korea had hoped.

Then, in the wake of Roh Moo-Hyun’s death, the same Roh Moo-Hyun who was so generous and conciliatory toward the North Koreans, North Korea conducts an underground nuclear test.

It’s like spitting upon his grave.

Let there be no mistaking the character of the rulers of North Korea.  They have no love for humanity.  They are narcissitic in the extreme.

You’ve heard that all politics are local, and that’s especially true of North Korea.  The shameless way in which they conduct themselves is a Herculean effort to maintain a personality cult.  The personality cult has allowed the leadership to enjoy a consolidation of power for decades now.  With a succession question looming due to Kim Jong-Il’s declining health, we can surmise that top deputies are vying to be the most valiant and daring in continuing the legacy in order to arise as the eventual successor atop the pyramid.  Kim Jong-Il, and his father before him, have been shrouded in mythology, and the successor to Kim Jong-Il will certainly want to build a mythology around himself, too, to remain atop the personality cult pyramid.

But we, abroad, all know it’s a mirage.  Kim Jong-Il is no Superman, neither was his father, nor will be his successor.  They are human like the rest of us.  But we haven’t been inclined to demonstrate that the emperor wears no clothes.

Is it any wonder that North Korea and Iran seek nuclear weapons when the United States will never take punitive actions against other members of the nuclear arsenal club?  Not only are we inseparable allies with the United Kingdom, France, and Israel, but haven’t we become all too cozy with China?  Pakistan and India may be enemies of each other, but the United States has positioned itself as fawning allies of them both.  And finally, when Russia runs roughshod all over Georgia, we offer only lip service as condemnation?  Defense Secretary Gates said that since the end of World War II, the United States has always sought to avoid military confrontation with Russia and its predecessor, the Soviet Union.

And I think that’s the crux of the matter, right there.  There’s no upside to being a party to a non-proliferation treaty.  As long as countries agree to forego nukes, they run the risk that they will be meddled with by foreign powers.  Once a country has nukes, then outside interference ends.  That’s the lesson learned by the North Koreans and the Iranians.  It’s debatable whether North Korea has designs on its neighbors or not, but those at the pinnacle of power of the personality cult certainly don’t want to risk any outside interference in messing up their domestic hold on power.

The brinksmanship games that North Korea plays only feed the mythology propagated throughout the North Korean populace.  The six-party talks are characterized in such a way that renowned nations such as South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, and the United States, all come crawling to North Korea on hands and knees begging for some small concessions.  Sometimes the North Koreans indulge the petty requests of those beggars, and sometimes not.  See how the current methods of dealing with North Korea only enable them?

And the lesson from the Russian invasion of Georgia is that North Korea can continue the games of brinksmanship and certainly ought to continue the course toward a nuclear arsenal.  Iran has learned the same lesson.

When former President George W. Bush spoke of an axis of evil that ran through Baghdad, Tehran, and Pyongyang, he might’ve been right about two of the three.  And just maybe, he left out Moscow.

I don’t think that Ronald Reagan would have the same take on American foreign policy that Secretary Gates does.  I don’t think that Ronald Reagan thought that we should back down from teaching Russia a lesson.  I don’t think Ronald Reagan would have permitted this charade with Iran to go on as long as it has.  I think if Ronald Reagan were told that we don’t have the military capability of keeping Russia in check, then Reagan would say “Then lets acquire that capability, pronto.”

And then, if Russia can’t do whatsoever it pleases, even though it’s in the nuclear arsenal club, because the United States interdicts, then all of a sudden, nuclear weapons aren’t the ultimate answer, and maybe it is OK to be party to a nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

In the meantime, if we can’t get Vladimir Putin to mind his manners, then we aren’t going to get Iran and North Korea to mind theirs, either.  What we’re hoping for, on the Iranian front, is that internal dissent will grow until there is a change of the regime in power.  But on the North Korean front, internal dissent has been totally absent, and we’re playing a wait-and-see game with the question of succession.  Don’t hold your breath.

Shellshocked by suicide of Roh Moo-Hyun

Well, I don’t know what to think, at this point.  The news of the suicide death of the former leader of South Korea, Roh Moo-Hyun, is just washing over me in waves.

He was South Korea’s president when I resided and worked in South Korea, so he embodies the South Korea that I knew.

An apparent suicide note indicates that Roh Moo-Hyun felt sorrowful about news accounts that were investigating alleged bribes flowing from corporate interests to bank accounts of his family members.

I’ve had lengthy discussions with a few citizens of South Korea about their national politics.  It is widely understood that national-level politicians of all political persuasions are greatly influenced by bribes from corporations.  Rather than the “peasants with pitchforks” we see in the USA that would vow to purge the political ranks of such graft, voters in South Korea often felt like “What can we do?  We can vote for other politicians to replace the current ones, but they will be just as susceptible to bribes as the ones we just voted out.”  Political candidacy, in practice (as opposed to theory), can be pursued only by insiders.  Thus, the electorate never got their hopes up about cleaning up the political system.

But the media were more idealistic.  To their credit, they felt as though greater transparency would shake things up.  And it seems to be working, at least in small increments.  It’s unfortunate that suicide of a former national leader would become part of the fabric of the story.  I feel crestfallen, sorrowful about his untimely death.

One simple thing I might recommend to South Korea to improve their democracy would be to accelerate social studies instruction in schools.  When the politically connected wish to insulate themselves and maintain their status as an elite, exclusive club, they won’t give much of a road map to the rest of society who might want to break into the political ranks.  This has certainly been the case in South Korea.  While American public schools are not competitive with those in other developed nations, particularly in math, science, technology, and foreign language instruction, we Americans do get a head start on South Korea in the area of social studies.  I think that’s because, at our core, we know that our nation relies on its people to set the standards for our government.

With all its imperfections, America is still the nation most likely to have the people set the standards for its government, rather than the other way around, where the government sets standards for its people.  Even other developed nations, from Australia to the UK, from Japan to Sweden, are not governments of the people, by the people, and for the people the way America is.  We have our politicians on a much shorter leash, and if we have to throw the bums out, and we don’t know where else to turn to for an alternative political leadership, we, ourselves, are able to step forward and declare ourselves a political candidate.  We have a road map (or, at least, we can get our hands on one in pretty short order).  In America, we can be the government.  That’s just not so in other parts of the globe, South Korea being one example of that.

Nevertheless, there’s still a long way to go toward fully staffing South Korea’s government offices with the most honest and highly ethical people.  (We could say that about America, too, but we have much stronger mechanisms for correction.)  But the starting point has to be that ordinary citizens have at least an understanding of the political process, and I think that type of information is too closely guarded.

Despite the glaring deficiencies exposed by this latest tragedy, South Korea has made absolutely huge strides in moving from 3rd world country to developed nation in a very short span of time.  Thus, I remember the nation led by Roh Moo-Hyun in glowing images of advanced technology, advanced convenience, advanced modernity, advanced infrastructure, advanced primary and secondary education, advanced fashion, advanced arts, and great expectations for the future.

I’d like to share a few South Korean vistas with you.


I’m not sure why Itaewon, pictured above, attracts American visitors. It’s actually one of the seedier sections of Seoul.


New private academies with modern classrooms are sprouting up constantly as parents very much want their children to be well versed in everything.


This is the Gang-Nam bus terminal on the south side of Seoul. It’s so easy to get to anywhere you want to go on the mainland by bus.


I’ve already expressed my affinity for the Seoul subway.


One of my favorite weekend destinations was the Coex Mall beneath the Coex Tower in Seoul.


My apartment was rather small, but it was easy to maintain.


I lived and worked in Cheongju. Here’s a section of the downtown lit up at night.


South Korea, on the end of a peninsula, does have offshore islands. This is the ferry terminal in Pohang that is the jumping off point for the island of Ulleungdo and the Dokdo Islands.


Pohang also has an extensive beach.


Here’s a clifftop view of the harbor town of Do-dong along a rocky inlet on the island of Ulleungdo, accessible by ferry service from Pohang.


South Korea has strongly asserted themselves as having dominion over the Dokdo Islands, though Shimane Prefecture in Japan alleges otherwise.


Weddings are often held in wedding halls, buildings constructed for the very purpose of hosting weddings. I have no idea what the price tag is for renting one of these.


And to conclude, here’s yours truly, on the left in the foreground, frolicking in the countryside with classmates from my Korean language classes, sponsored by the YMCA in Cheongju.

Carnival CLXVI

That headline is supposed to indicate Installment 166 of the Carnival of Ohio Politics, but the author of The Boring Made Dull is whimsically turning the number system on its head.  There are a number of other whimsical anomalies contained within this newest carnival, like the Grand Canyon of slippery slopes,  political candidates with pro-crime platforms, where to place Hessians on the rating scale of mercenaries, and shaving yellow light time.  Click the links and enjoy.

Where is Sandusky’s City Manager?

If you happened to read my post titled “Smackdown on women in Sandusky,” then you are fully prepared to appreciate the humor behind this video from the Sandusky Register website.  What’s not good for the goose seems to be good for the gander.  Have a gander.


Brushing up on the English language

For those of us to the right-of-center, we may have found ourselves engaged in conversations with those to the left-of-center where we thought we knew the meanings of words, but to our puzzlement, found that we must not be talking the same language.

Luckily, I happened across a blog titled “Conservative Northwest” that purports to be “The Right Side of the Left Coast” that has endeavored to cut through the confusion by offering up a more up-to-date glossary on what words REALLY mean in a post titled “The Lexicon of Liberalism.”  Conservatives should print it out and insert it as a leaflet in the dictionary so that they don’t find themselves perplexed the next time they talk to liberals.