Black Hills blogger Bob Ellis bleats that Governor Dennis Daugaard has betrayed the Republican Party by criticizing Senator Phil Jensen (R-33/Rapid City). To support this claim, Ellis points to a letter to the editor in which Glenn T. Freeman of Kadoka accused the Governor of issuing a "pro-gay rant" in the March 20 Rapid City Journal.

Whoa—if anyone in South Dakota is making a "pro-gay rant," I want to hear it!

Roll the tape, and let's review what Governor Daugaard said in response to Senator Jenson's controversial statement in defense of the Ku Klux Klan against government civil rights enforcement. First, here's the statement Senator Jensen made:

Jensen goes so far as to say that businesses should have the right to deny service based on a customer's race or religion – whether that's right or wrong, he says, can be fairly addressed by the free market, not the government.

"If someone was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and they were running a little bakery for instance, the majority of us would find it detestable that they refuse to serve blacks, and guess what? In a matter of weeks or so that business would shut down because no one is going to patronize them," he said [Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, "Phil Jensen: South Dakota's Most Conservative Lawmaker?"Rapid City Journal, 2014.03.16].

...and here's the Governor's response, four days later:

Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Wednesday distanced himself from Jensen in a statement released to the media.

“I found his comments to be completely out of line with South Dakota values," he said. "I don’t agree with him and I haven’t talked to anyone who does” [Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, "Governor Distances Himself from State Senator's Ku Klux Klan Remark," Rapid City Journal, 2014.03.20].

And here's Glenn T. Freeman's interpretation of the Governor's text:

Daugaard's anti-business, liberal, pro-gay position clearly shows Republican insiders shift to the left. Our political party has deserted many of the faithful.

Daugaard is unique. I cannot recall any previous governor who has so brutally used the bully pulpit of South Dakota's highest office to seek political destruction of elected fellow Republicans [Glenn T. Freeman, letter to the editor, Rapid City Journal, 2014.03.28].

Hmm... the context and the headline make clear that the Governor was addressing Senator Jensen's KKK remark. Only the most extreme gay panic can lead Freeman and Ellis to interpret the Governor's response to Jensen's buffoonery as a "brutal" "pro-gay rant." I'd better not invite Freeman and Ellis over for hot dogs; they'll probably cry rape!

As I've noted with disdain before, Governor Daugaard's criticism of Senator Jensen feels more like a political safety dance than any flowering commitment to civil rights for homosexuals. The Governor offered no commentary on Senator Jensen's holy anti-gay crusade during the Legislative session; only after legislators went home did he hazard even muted criticism of the session's headline-grabbing but abortive homophobia.

Glenn T. Freeman and Bob Ellis are hearing things. Governor Dennis Daugaard has never issued a "pro-gay rant". His criticism of Senator Phil Jensen is far from "brutal"... and not being brutal in response to Jensen's retrograde politics betrays principles more important than the planks in the Republican platform.

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27% of registered voters in Spearfish and Spearfish Valley showed up at the polls yesterday to reject the city's proposed annexation of some of the nicest not-quite urban, not-quite rural agricultural land in South Dakota. On a 54.6%-to-45.4% split, referendum voters chose to keep the split between the city proper and that island of anti-municipal anarchy between campus and I-90.

Mayor Dana Boke sighs plaintively over this split:

“As we move into the future still a divided city, it becomes more and more imperative that leadership groups focus on communication, collaboration, and ensuring that the decisions made are focused primarily on the benefit of the people we serve,” she said. “While the division continues, we must find a way to work together — the people of the city and the people of the valley — the future of Spearfish depends on it” [Heather Murschel, "Public Votes No on Annexation," Black Hills Pioneer, 2013.12.10].

But Mayor Boke isn't exactly speaking a soothing balm to bring those her disagree with her back to the bosom of brotherly community-building:

“I believe in our democratic process, and I accept the decision of our voters,” Spearfish Mayor Dana Boke said. “While the Council determined that all Spearfish residents should share equally in the necessary costs of operating our community, it is clear from this election that the majority of the residents of the City do not feel the same way” [Murschel, 2013.12.10].

Translation: I believe in sharing things equally, but you jerks don't. 

Try that management style out for size in your office, see how that works with your team.

31 comments

Pip pip, cheerio! Here's more wholesome nutty goodness from Republican Senate candidate Annette Bosworth, responding to Todd Epp's question about health care:

We have a federal responsibility to take care of those who can't take care of themselves. We do not have a federal responsibility to take care of the whole bloody nation [Annette Bosworth, interview with Todd Epp, Northern Plains News, 2013.10.17].

Sigh.

  1. Doctors usually recognize a responsibility to take care of everybody.
  2. Senators swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution, which is all about the common defense, the general welfare, and securing the Blessings of Liberty for, yes, the whole darn nation.
  3. We ordained and established that Constitution after throwing tea off a boat and fighting a Revolution to free ourselves from having to bow to the British. Talking like the British makes any American but especially a Senate candidate sound silly. It also leaves the audience wondering what word you really wanted to say.
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The clearest way in which Annette Bosworth appears to be following the "Kristi Noem script" is in her ongoing inarticulacy. Listen to the clips Roll Call shares with us. Words tumble and clang to the ground like random junk falling out of the back of the station wagon after a hyperactive trip to the flea market:

  1. ...the way you win is show that we have some definitions in medicine that match politics, and the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and over again and expect something different to unfold...
  2. ...Matt Hoskins was somebody who interviewed me early in this story...
  3. ...we've got several strong Republicans running for the race, and they're quite worried about a newbie coming on scene, but in that retort I would say I get why they would be nervous...
  4. ...upsets come from outsiders with expert skills that are brave enough to run...
  5. ...my example would be a great representation for South Dakota.

Bosworth makes soundbites like cheese balls. Let's get our fingers all orange:

  1. The overworked insanity definition is variously misattributed to Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Mark Twain, none of them practitioners of medicine. There is no medical definition of insanity: "The term insane is outdated parlance in the mental health community. No legitimate medical or clinical professional would be caught dead saying it in public."
  2. Bosworth refers to her own campaign as a story. Really, Annette? story? A literary fiction?
  3. "coming on scene... in that retort"—now words are just clanging together.
  4. Upsets by definition come from people you don't expect to win, people with disadvantages in money, power, what-have-you. But here we hear Bosworth swimming in her story and campaigning by metaphor. She's not mapping real campaign strategy; she's just hanging labels on herself. Lots of failed candidates have expert skills, but those skills aren't necessarily the skills necessary to win elections and legislate justly. And a majority of candidates who are brave enough to run lose.
  5. How does an "example" become a "representation"? What does that last sentence even mean?

Bonus: in print, "outsider" Bosworth gets Roll Call to call her an "acolyte" of Bill Janklow. Annette, in case you haven't figured this out, you can tell stories about being Bill Janklow's chosen girl. You can tell stories about being an outsider. But you can't tell both stories and be taken seriously. Pick one.

Bosworth continues to entertain, if maddeningly. She demonstrates that she is listening to the voices in her head (who always sound grand) rather than the sound of the words actually coming out of her mouth.

14 comments

Michael Woodring reads a Forbes contributor and frets that we're misusing the word poverty. The Forbes contributor grumbles that it is inaccurate to say that 15% of Americans live in poverty:

The 15% number is not the number living in poverty. It is the number who would be living in poverty if it weren’t for all the money n’stuff we give to the poor [Tim Worstall, "It Is Not True That 15% of Americans Live in Poverty," Forbes.com, 2013.10.06].

Woodring responds with this unexpected blast:

Words. Just words. Poverty is not something which can be defined by, by numbers. Rather, poverty is shown in the human spirit crushed by the juggernaut of capitalism and the bloody bullion of the moneylenders [Michael Woodring, "Poverty of Meaning," Constant Conservative, 2013.10.07].

At least we agree on the deleterious effects of capitalism and moneylenders (Pastor Hickey! Don't let the usurers trick you!).

As for the word poverty... I'm having trouble seeing Worstall's or Woodring's point, unless it is simply to toss some swill to the hogs. Of course we define poverty as a number, just like tax brackets and other categories essential to carrying out government policy. Of course we calculate poverty prior to receipt of government assistance: it would make no sense to say, "Gee, if we include the value of food stamps and Medicaid for which you qualify based on your earned income, your total income would be higher than the poverty line... so we're not going to give you food stamps and Medicaid."

And of course we are all richer as a nation if we can use our vast wealth to ensure that no one ends up living in poverty. If our community efforts render the phrase "living in poverty" inaccurate and obsolete, then we should celebrate. We should take pride in keeping our neighbors from being crushed in the wheels of capitalism. And we should thank Democrats and elect more of them, since Republicans evidently think it's more important to keep sculptures and parks open than to feed the poor.

Contrary to Worstall's assertion, none of this means we should stop saying that people are living in poverty. We can understand the term to mean that we are helping feed and clothe millions of people whose employers don't pay them enough to feed their kids breakfast. We can use that term to remind employers that they are hoarding wealth that belongs to the workers whom they exploit, and that we as a community have cause to ask them pay society back, through taxes and higher wages.

Worstall and Woodring's word game is trivial compared to the reality of poverty in America. Poverty is real. Capitalism leaves millions of its workers in poverty. Instead of denying or, worse, punishing poverty, Americans should continue to give money 'n' stuff, through good government policy, to alleviate poverty.

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My potential allies at South Dakotans Against Common Core post this video by Chicago North Shore elementary school teacher Ellie Rubenstein. Amend that: former elementary school teacher Ellie Rubenstein.

Mrs. Rubenstein posted her resignation to the Intertubes last week. She doesn't mention Common Core, but her indictment of her school administration shows the degradation of education and the art of teaching to which Common Core, with its focus on standardized testing, can lead our schools:

But over the past 15 years, I’ve experienced the depressing, gradual downfall and misdirection of education that has slowly eaten away at my love of teaching. The emphasis in education has shifted from fostering academic and personal growth, in both students and teachers, to demanding uniformity and conformity. Raising students’ test scores on standardized tests is now the only goal, and in order to achieve it, the creativity, flexibility, and spontaneity that create authentic learning environments have been eliminated.

Everything I loved about teaching is extinct [Ellie Rubenstein, "In Pursuit of Happiness," YouTube resignation, 2013.05.21, transcribed by Paul Katula, 2013.05.23].

Spearfish's kids are done, but we teachers will be back in the building for one more day of in-service to discuss the implications of Common Core. Spearfish's teaching culture is far from the disastrous state Rubenstein describes in North Shore. (Worth noting: Rubenstein's superintendent describes her assessment of her own school as "inaccurate, misleading and, in many cases, factually wrong.") But I may forward this video to my fellow staff members as my contribution to the discussion of what Common Core could do to our school if we are not very, very careful.

*   *   *
Now don't get me wrong: I love tests. I loved taking tests when I was a student (yes, I am every current student's worst nightmare). I love writing tests, trying to come up with questions and challenges that will accurately measure what my students have learned.

But my tests are the antithesis of the quick, easily scored bubble tests on which Common Core and the industrial assembly-line model of education depend. Take a look at my final exam for French students. Sure, they get a thick on-paper test on vocabulary, grammar and translation. But there is no multiple choice. I call it "infinite choice": students could write any number of responses in the blanks. Instead of trying to convert the test into some computer-scored assessment with one correct response for each item, I eyeball each blank, assigning partial credit for spelling, accent marks, synonyms, and creative circumlocutions that show the kids were paying attention in our specific classroom.

For example, one of the vocab words I asked was never. Answer: jamais. It would be pretty easy to plunk that word into a computer test, have students type in the answer, and give them one point if their entry matches the response text string and zero points if it doesn't. But one of my students who struggled with spelling wrote in the margin to that item "I've never been to Jamaica." We used that mnemonic in class multiple times. That student gave me extra information that shows that student paid attention and remembers useful information that a standard bubble-test vocab item would not capture. I gave that student a couple extra points to balance the misspelling that the computer would have counted flat wrong.

Over the last couple weeks I spent five hours composing my French finals (each year, the tests change somewhat, because each year we cover some different things in different orders) and fifteen hours evaluating over 20,000 individual final exam data points. And that was just the written final, which is only worth 40% of the final exam.

I spent another 21 hours holding individual appointments with students to conduct the French oral final, which constitutes 60% of their final exam grade. Each student comes for a fifteen-minute one-on-one interview with me, in which I ask a series of questions in random order. Students must offer responses in French. The students get the list of questions and a practice video a couple weeks before the test, but in French 2 and French 3, they must be prepared for logical but unlisted follow-up questions. Then each student must ask me five questions in French and show they understand my French response.

I can't standardize or computerize that oral final. Consider one glorious moment from one oral exam: a French 1 student asked me what actor I'd like to have play me. A humorous conversation broke out in which we discussed having David Bowie and John Leguizamo play the two of us and break into a duet version of "Heroes" in the French classroom.

The student started it. The student got it. The student laughed. All in French. At that point, I don't need anyone's French bubble test or standardized curriculum to tell me that French 1 student deserves an A.

If the corporate standardizers and privatizers really wanted to make education better, they would not sell us bubble tests. If they really wanted to know if I am teaching my students good French, they would hire a French speaker to come spend forty hours with my students. They'd have to hire thousands of such expert speakers and listeners for each of the foreign languages taught at thousands of American high schools. Each of those listening testers would have to spend an additional couple hours at each high school prior to the tests studying each teacher's materials and vocabulary lists, since each teacher chooses different nouns and verbs and conversational expressions and grammar points to practice.

(Oh, but wait: we already have that corps of expert foreign language evaluators. They are called your local foreign language teachers.) 

And that's why you'll never hear about Common Core standards for foreign language. Common Core may barely get past English and math, into science and social studies, before it gets cast aside like No Child Left Behind after a decade or so for the next big education reform wave. Common Core will never get at whether students are really learning and whether teachers are really practicing their art well, because evaluating those questions is too complicated and too costly for anyone trying to make a living peddling multiple-choice tests.

Common Core will push more schools toward fact-heavy, concept-light testing and curricula. It will ignore the subjects that don't boil neatly down to flawed but mass-produceable, mass-sellable, mass-gradable tests. It will drive conscientious teachers like Ellie Rubenstein out of the business... or into teaching French, where Common Core can't claw at them as much as it does their colleagues in other subjects and grades.

3 comments

Tonight's mayor and council candidates' forum here in Spearfish was mostly what you'd expect from a local political event: mostly gentle questions, mostly general answers, mostly nice things said about Spearfish and Spearfish people.

And then Mayor Jerry Krambeck called candidate Dana Boke a "snollygoster":

I need to share with you that my opposition shot the first bow across the boat. I can hardly even pronounce it, Dana. "Ollie-garchie"? I'm not certain what it is, I had to look it up. And it says "a government in which a small group exercises control, especially for corrupt and selfish purposes." Dana, I'm offended with that comment. You've got it on your website, and you've mentioned it many times.

If you truly believe this, you need to look up something. It's called a "snollygoster," because I think this describes what type of government that we're going to have if you're the mayor of the city of Spearfish [Mayor Jerry Krambeck, candidates forum, Spearfish, SD, 2013.03.27].

Snollygoster. Snollygoster.

I welcome my longer-memoried readers to submit their examples, but this is the first time I've heard anyone call anyone a snollygoster in South Dakota. What did Krambeck just call Boke?

A politician who will go to any lengths to win public office, regardless of party affiliation or platform.

One of the earliest references comes from the Columbus Dispatch in October 28, 1895 which defined the term as "a fellow who wants office, regardless of party, platform, or principles, and who… gets there by sheer force of monumental talknophical asumnancy" [Teagan Goddard's Political Dictionary].

Various sources note snollygoster may originate from the German schnell (fast) and geist (ghost). Hmm... John Kerry got swiftboated... did Dana Boke just get swiftghosted?

And if Boke beats Krambeck, will we replace oligarchy with snollygarchy?

I'll have videos of the complete forum, mayoral and council candidates, up later tonight for your enjoyment. I'll embed the snollygoster video here.

Snollygoster. Snollygoster.

Update 22:40 MDT: Here's that video! After finding his closing statement, Mayor Krambeck says the magic word at 1:17.

3 comments

And in the technoliterary irony department...

President Obama also posts his four-trillion-dollar savings plan on Twitter.

2 comments

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