Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rolly was too nice. Senator Buttars showed his ignorance, Stephenson covered for him

Paul Rolly just wrote a column about Senator Chris Buttars' misinformation in an interview with Senator Howard Stephenson and Representative Greg Hughes on their Red Meat Radio Program. He beat me to it! I tuned in just in time the second hour and transcribed the interview as best I could and have just been too busy to write up my frustration. I thought I was the only one still listening to the show.

Rolly caught Buttar's first two easy mistakes. "Incarcerating" youth when discussing the supposed hidden socialism in Alpine District and being unable to identify Granite District. He actually called it Wasatch District until Stephenson corrected him. I suppose these errors, especially the first, can be chalked up to understandable slips of the tongue. I know my students enjoy catching me when I mix up words.

Rolly also did an excellent job of supplying the correct information about the Granite School Board's supposed UEA infiltration--one member, along with some dubious other connections like one person having taught 33 years ago, along with a real estate developer. I was actually surprised the Granite Board had even one teacher. I can't remember any teachers being members of the Alpine School Board as long as I've been paying attention. And just about every idea Buttars espoused was nonsense, from the secret socialism to the local school boards being special interests...while being interviewed by the professional lobbyist who serves in the legislature.

However, Rolly didn't mention the most egregious mistake Buttars made, the one that is more than a dumb misphrasing, but reveals his ignorance about basic, easy-to-verify information. First, he again couldn't correctly name the "common core" when they broached the subject. Stephenson corrected him after some stumbling around. Then Buttars claimed that the "Common Core Standards" recently adopted by Utah don't exist. Go ahead and click on that link for the list of 9 long and frankly boring pdf files containing the core standards along with appendices. Or type "common core" into any search engine. The three I tried displayed the core as the first result.

I wrote about this last week, when a commenter on another blog claimed the same thing, that the standards are not written yet, but somehow we know they will be written by bad people and forced to teach them verbatim. This despite the blog writer having prominently posted the link to the standards in her post. I can only assume the bad information used by both that commenter and Buttars came from the Eagle Forum. Buttars will ironically base major claims and policy decisions on incorrect information that he trusts because of ideology after ripping on school officials for not giving him correct information.

Stephenson even asked Buttars a leading question along the lines of "The new standards increase the rigor of math and English? That's not socialist is it?" Buttars sounded confused and replied, "Well, no." But after a pause, he went into a diatribe that these independently developed standards only appear to be uninvolved with Obama, and that they are not even written yet. On a timeline from 2010-2015, socialists will actually write the curriculum who "don't believe as we do" leading to a "change of doctrine." He finished by repeating that it was "disturbing" that the State School Board agreed to a core that has not been written yet and will be written by socialists.

At this juncture in my notes, I wrote "Long pause...." It was obvious that Stephenson knew the standards existed as he gathered himself in the silence and then completely ignored what Buttars had just said, instead changing the subject to the Education Budget Subcommittee Meeting. Stephenson may be unethical, but he's not stupid. Buttars is embarrassing. He presumes to lecture others while ignorantly passing on false information he gets from untrustworthy sources. He would flunk a high school sophomore writing assignment for presenting such faulty information, let alone an introductory college course.

Stephenson's enabling was further in display during the following interview with State Superintendent, Larry Shumway. Stephenson brought up Buttars' socialism claim about the common core to get Shumway's perspective, but he had to lie about what Buttars really said. It was actually a pretty funny conversation. Once again, my transcription is not perfect, but it's close.
Stephenson: Senator Buttars claims socialism is pervading the state public education system. Of course it's a socialist system.

Shumway's immediate interjection: "Public system."

Stephenson: Ahum. Well. What he meant is that the federal standards being pushed, the common core, is being developed by socialists. We asked him and he said the current math and literature standards are not socialist, only better. But he is concerned that future versions, for example social studies, will be.

Why did he have to make up words and ideas that Buttars never said? In my notes, I added "Covers for Buttars." Buttars did not say the core was better, and he never said anything about being concerned with the future social studies curriculum. He actually asserted that the existing standards had not been written yet. Even Stephenson was embarrassed to repeat his claims.

Superintendent Shumway also answered Stephenson's questions about some supposedly missing data that Buttars talked about with some fancy tap shoeing around a delicate insinuation that Buttars and his staff had not read existing reports containing those answers. "I was surprised that legislative staff and members of the committee were not aware of the reports..." repeated about three times.

It is very, very frustrating as an educator to be accused by someone so unwilling to educate himself.

Three final notes related to other content during the second hour of the Red Meat Radio show last Saturday.

1. Hughes and Stephenson made the point that "civility" is getting too PC and being used as a club to suppress views you don't agree with. I totally agree. (Though it comes from both sides. Conservative commentators and groups jump all over every little word of Democrats too.) They discussed a letter from the State School Boards Association to the legislature critical of Stephenson's comments about school boards which apparently compared his language somehow to the Rep. Giffords shooting. That connection is dumb and counter-productive. Now don't get me wrong, Stephenson's comments, which were repeated twice in the course of the hour, about local school boards being stupid and being led around by the nose by the superintendent, are ideologically idiotic. He means they don't believe in vouchers and think that school teachers should be replaced by computers, therefore they must not be as "bright" as him.

However, it is better to hear the criticism and know his position than suppress his ideas in the name of civility. The lack of trust he engenders by revealing his own thoughts should be the real consequence of such language. My post here could certainly be considered "uncivil" because of my harsh criticism of Buttars and Stephenson, but I feel my assertions are based on evidence and that it is important that the public really know these legislators as they make decisions and evaluate what they hear from them.

2. Superintendent Shumway is much better suited for his job than I would be. I am sometimes frustrated with Shumway for being too accommodating and uncritical of the blatant falsehoods some legislators perpetuate about education, but I can see he is needed. He, Hughes, and Stephenson had a lovefest of how much they trust each other's motivations, while all I could think was that I emphatically do not trust Stephenson's motivations. However, criticizing them openly wouldn't accomplish anything, and his diplomacy may hopefully at least moderate some of the extreme bills that will pass regardless of what Shumway or the State Board say. I was proud of Shumway for making the point that the hostile attitudes and mistrust of "some of the committee," (e.g. Buttars) were unfounded and actually hampered their work.

3. In the last minute, Stephenson proudly listed some of his pending bills to stick it to education. He mentioned the school grading bill, his teacher tenure bill, and a new bill about school accountability that I hadn't yet heard about. I'm assuming it's the unnumbered bill named "Public School Accountability" in his bill list. Stephenson said the bill would involve "dissolving" the 5 lowest public schools each year. The state would do an RFP for private management and the parents would vote on it. There were a couple other details I missed with my kids talking to me. This is another backdoor voucher scheme, and Stephenson and his association have financial ties with companies that would profit from this bill. He is determined to arrive at his goal of dismantling the public school system piece by piece, making a tidy profit as he goes.



Oak said...

Just a quick comment about this statement.

"Now don't get me wrong, Stephenson's comments, which were repeated twice in the course of the hour, about local school boards being stupid and being led around by the nose by the superintendent, are ideologically idiotic."

I agree with Senator Stephenson that our boards are led around by superintendents. In ASD we have board members that cover so many schools (one member has 24 right now and will increase to 26), it's insane to think they can know what's going on. So the superintendent develops a good relationship with them, keeps them busy on all their little committees and members never have a chance to dig into issues. Thus the superintendent runs the district instead of the school board. This is one of the reasons I favor tripling the number of school districts.


UtahTeacher said...


I agree that the district is big, but implying the board members are too dumb to keep up because of "all their little committees" that by implication must be wastes of time is an unprovable assertion seemingly based on the fact that they don't agree with you about your socialist infiltration claims. Stephenson believes anyone who doesn't believe his ideas are at best misled, but more likely whiny liberal socialists. I definitely have issues at times with decisions of the board or district personnel, but I think they are all sincere, capable residents whom I trust much, much more than almost all state legislators.

Once again, I think Stephenson's statement applies much more aptly to new legislators and party officials than to educators. Vote the wrong way and none of your bills will see the light of day. Do your duty on an obscure committee, and you'll get financial help from the party and better assignments once you've been up there 3 or 4 years.

I haven't read your link yet, but I will. I also will get to our longer discussion later this week. Sorry.

Without reading your reasoning, the only problem I have with smaller school districts in Utah is money. Orem dodged a bullet or they would be Jordan District, only worse off financially and self-imposed. I think many other aspects would be improved in smaller districts, but not enough to kill basic funding--the funding and size of the individual classes matter more.

Many small districts also argues for even more local control, which means districts would end up in many different places with curriculum, policy, tradition, etc. What happens when some parents disagree with something at a district, but not a high enough number are upset to change the policy, curriculum, or whatever they dislike? And say they go to the State School Board or legislature and argue that the local district should be reigned in or dictated to? What if your local district used Cleon Skousen textbooks, but other parents who felt strongly they were inappropriate got them banned by the legislature? I don't have my perfect balance of state/local control mapped out, but it seems your current attempts at state regulation fly in the face of advocating for increased local control...