Our View: DeVincentis strikes again

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Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008

  • Bryna Larsen, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Eric Morris, community representative
  • Paul Draper, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— Steamboat Springs School Board member John DeVincentis has penned yet another chapter in his unfortunate history of unprofessional and unethical behavior. At the minimum, he once again owes the public and his fellow School Board members an apology.

DeVincentis' latest regrettable act came at the end of last week's controversial School Board meeting, during which the board voted 3-2 to not renew the contract of high school Principal Mike Knezevich. DeVincentis and Lisa Brown were the two dissenting votes.

According to some district officials and members of the public who remained in Centennial Hall after the meeting adjourned late Monday evening, DeVincentis confronted School Board member Laura Anderson and others and yelled profanities at them before leaving the building.

DeVincentis apparently was upset with the board's decision to remove Knezevich, and he previously had accused Anderson of unethical behavior. He said she had inappropriately met with some of Knezevich's critics.

Of course, DeVincentis accusing anyone of unethical behavior is laughable. The former principal of Strawberry Park Elementary School has been the subject of unprofessional and unethical behavior for years.

He had a well-documented feud with then-superintendent Cyndy Simms that led to taxpayer-funded mediation between the two. Simms eventually left for Mercer Island, Wash., but DeVincentis' dislike for her didn't end with her departure. DeVincentis penned many e-mails from his work computer to a Mercer Island teacher that made disparaging remarks about Simms. DeVincentis also wrote about lying to the Mercer Island School Board so it would hire Simms away from Steamboat, and he gave the teacher tips about how to undermine Simms' authority.

The e-mails were made public last year. DeVincentis apologized for the e-mails but refused calls to resign. A recall effort to remove DeVincentis from office failed because of a lack of valid signatures.

In a public letter of apology after the release of the e-mails, DeVincentis acknowledged that his future actions "would be under close scrutiny, as they should be." He also wrote, "In the future, I will serve as the board member the public expects and deserves. : It is the time to serve the needs of our district and students. Everything else is secondary."

During a public forum about the e-mail issue, DeVincentis said he would seek professional help for what he described as "fixating anger."

"I believe the purpose in life is to always improve," DeVincentis told community members in April 2007. "You're always improving emotionally and mentally to really understand yourself, to be the best person you can on the last day of your life. In a short time I have learned a lot about me. I have really, really focused on myself. Myself alone. And I didn't like what I saw. I can honestly say I am not that person I was three years ago."

At a board meeting in May 2006, DeVincentis had elementary school teacher and longtime friend Mike Johnson read a scathing letter - in public session - about then-superintendent Donna Howell. DeVincentis was out of town and not able to attend the meeting.

He apologized for the letter several weeks later. During a board meeting in June 2006, he said, "My comments were totally inappropriate, and I will never allow that breach of my responsibility to happen again."

Which brings us back to last week's meeting, when DeVincentis once again proved his actions speak louder than his words. His accusations against Anderson and subsequent yelling of obscenities appear to have violated several School Board policies, including "Board Member Covenants," "Board Member's Code of Conduct," and "Process for Addressing Board Member Violations."

The bottom line is that if DeVincentis truly had the best interests of the community and its children in mind, his most recent actions never would have taken place. But like a schoolyard bully unable to control his anger, DeVincentis lashed out at those with whom he disagreed.

Urging him to clean up his act almost seems pointless, because with history as our guide, last week's outburst from DeVincentis won't be his last.

Comments

fish 6 years, 3 months ago

I realize that this is an opinion piece and we know that the past history between the egos involved, but if this would have been written by anyone else the Pilot would not have allowed it to be published.

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id04sp 6 years, 3 months ago

jezi,

There are people in our society who think that playing video games and getting their Microsoft Network Engineer certification is enough. The fact is that the ability to run a network and code software are the easy parts of the problem. It always comes down to people looking for some "smart guy" to tell them how to figure out the solution, when in fact, if people were getting the right kind of education, they would already know what can't be done, and we could concentrate on problems which can actually be solved.

Our society needs people who can build things with their hands, and plumbers, electricians and people with construction skills play a valuble role in our modern society. Why? Because the video game, office job crowd cannot do ANYTHING for themselves anymore. They are ALL limited to skills they are being taught in school, and the skills of the so-called teachers are minimal.

I have degrees in engineering and applied mathematics. I am schooled in the THEORY of engineering, mathematics, probability and statistics. This enables me to apply "first principles" to solve new problems that are presented to me in my work. I am currently applying epidemiology theory to the prediction of the number of serviceable and "broken" pieces of equipment out of a given population of heavy equipment, depending on the rates at which items become "broken" and then "recover" to be used again. Once I do the research, come up with the system of differential equations that solves the problem, and write it up, then just about ANYBODY can code it and deploy it on our network.

High schools in 2008 are run by people with college degrees in "education" who only know ONE thing; how to get a C student to pass the state competency exams. This is why we are getting our butts kicked by students from other countries where EXCELLENCE is the standard. We are only interested in getting everyone to a minimum level. That is WRONG and it's the reason we have fallen behind. Life is too easy today, but it's just beginning to get harder again -- people are losing homes, jobs, income and prices of imports are going up because the dollar is losing value. We have not invested in the human capital necessary to keep us ahead in science and technology, and people are going to find out that living on money made by their parents won't be enough.

We need to return to fundamentals, and make kids work HARD to get a B. The reason why people like me fail as teachers in the educational system is that our real-world experience is beyond the comprehension of the people who run the schools. Twelve years in day care is not an education. We are screwing our kids over by letting low-achievers run the schools. Our kids cannot be sufficiently inspired by people who got out of college and ran back to the only place they are qualified to compete; in high school.

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SilverSpoon 6 years, 3 months ago

Ever hear of the cursing canoer?

In the Lake/In the Gutter Timothy Boomer let out a stream of four-letter words that would have made a real sailor blush.

The Smith family was not impressed by Boomer's vocabulary.

They summoned a nearby county sheriff.

Old Law The officer cited Timothy Boomer under an 1897 Michigan law that says anyone using:

"Indecent, immoral, obscene, vulgar or insulting language in the presence or hearing range of any woman or child shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."

The media, especially Leno and Letterman, had a field day with the Cussing Canoeist.

Mr. Boomer fought the charge.

Convicted But in June, 1999 a jury in county court convicted him.

He was ordered to pay $75, plus court costs, and to complete 4 days of community service at a day-care center.

Timothy appealed. Sounds like the sheriff should have been called in to arrest Dr. D for obsenity

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id04sp 6 years, 3 months ago

Consider the possibility that Dr. D. may be completey right in everything he opposes and proposes.

Could it be that he's as sick and tired as the rest of us over the way things are in our school system?

Your code of conduct, mission statement and all that crap mean nothing if the kids are not being prepared for life in the 21st century.

For the man to react that passionately, something must be really wrong. I wish everybody would stop worrying about what people SAY and look at the results as the measure of the school board's value.

If the Pilot would find out and report on the things that have Dr. D. so upset, instead of criticizing him for reacting strongly to things he thinks are wrong, that might be a lot more useful to the community.

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justathought 6 years, 3 months ago

I repeat...Hey STEAMBOAT PILOT, IF "Process for Addressing Board Member Violations." IS "Board policy prohibits discussing an issue regarding another board member in public", isn't that against the sunshine law? Elected officials are not supposed to get the option of hiding their infractions from the public. This sounds like something you should be pursuing or are you afraid you might end up helping DeVincentis? I agree he has major problems but I think there is also a problem with the rule of hiding boe members misconduct from the public.

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papafu 6 years, 3 months ago

id So the end justifies the means in your opinion? And are you also saying that the students who attend our schools are, as a whole, unprepared for life when they leave one of the best performing schools in the state?

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424now 6 years, 3 months ago

I have got to get to more of these school board meetings. I am certain it would have been an eye opener. I have to agree with "id" on this one. Pilot, Investigative journalism requires a little more effort than I have seen in these articles. Is it that the Pilot is concerned about the toes they might step on? Or is it that the Pilot's more interested in shaping opinion? I understand that there is a considerable amount of effort that goes into the production of your paper on a daily basis. I am simply pointing to an area that appears to need development.

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JustSomeJoe 6 years, 3 months ago

424now - Looks like the Pilot did all the investigation needed. They measured DeVincentis' actions against his words and found him lacking. I suspect most reasonable, open-minded people will come to the same conculsions.

This is a man that clearly doesn't play well with others. He lacks the core skills to work within a committee; consensus building, leadership, and a filter between his brain and his mouth.

Hopefully he will see the light by next fall's election and realize he is causing our school system and community far more pain than good. We don't need a second term of Dr. D., the first term has been more than enough.

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cmducks 6 years, 3 months ago

Jezilu

Thinking that the need for technical trades to be taught in school is 20 to 30 years behind the times, is the reason that licensed electricians make 35-40 and hour and have helpers that graduated college with a business degree making half that. It's the same, if not worse with something like welders. Even one of Obama's biggest points is revitalizing the idea of apprenticeship and value to trade style work.

I've known Dr D for a long time, mostly from sitting in his office as an elementary kid. I don't know what has happened, but all of this crap has made me want to get more involved to prepare for my kids entering the "system".

The best teachers I had through the years at SSHS weren't the most popular because they were "hard" and "unfair". The people who didn't like those teachers had powerful parents, who made sure to iron out any "wrinkles" that their precious children encountered. It takes a little rougher, tougher lead into life and accountability. That is something I don't think is widely happening in the current system.

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jomarch 6 years, 3 months ago

Does anyone else see the irony in the paper commenting on Dr. D's professionalism and ethics? I'm not condoning Dr. D's behaviour. But whatever happened to objective reporting and letting the public decide for themselves? I think everyone is enjoying the drama so much they are losing sight of what's important here... the kids. Until we hold ourselves to a higher standard, we can't expect others to do the same. Instead of rallying against the schools, it makes sense to me to rally around the schools. It's what's best for the community. The challenge is to take the high road. We could all benefit for being selective about the paths we choose --- in words and actions.

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id04sp 6 years, 3 months ago

fuddy,

Yep, sometimes it does. I'll refer you to the Boston Tea Party for starters.

And no, I don't think the schools are preparing the students to make a living and thrive in an economy that needs innovative thinkers and scientific minds to solve the real problems facing us. There's way too much BS about how people "feel" and how the students' self esteem should be preserved and all that crap.

The teachers have no idea what it takes to be innovative and solve the problems for society as a whole, because they don't know how to do it themselves.

Life doesn't come with a teacher's guide and Cliff Notes. We need vocational and technical education in the schools, plus college prep for scientists and engineers. It's not the fault of the kids that their parents live in a ski town, and the kids deserve better than the unrealistic examples of adult behavior they see all around them.

If people think Dr. D. is "not nice," just wait until they get out of school and have a few bosses who expect performance in return for pay.

It's understandable that a bunch of people who are "professional educators" just don't get it. If they "got it," they wouldn't be educators.

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424now 6 years, 3 months ago

id,

Picking on the educators again? I am seeing a pattern there.

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justathought 6 years, 3 months ago

I see nothing wrong with the paper "commenting" on anything they choose, that's what editorial boards do and it is labeled "Our View" not news. "Objective reporting" concerns news articles, not opinion pieces properly labeled as such. This isn't like the majority of the mainstream media trying to influence the outcome of a presidential election by shoving their view down your throat 24 hours a day and calling it news.

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nickleD 6 years, 3 months ago

DeVincentis is passionate about holding grudges against anyone who signed the petition for his recall. His verbal onslaught after the meeting pointedly referred to the "chicken____ (coward) who signed the petition", and had nothing to do with anything discussed at the meeting that night. He knows every name on those petition sheets, and obviously his anger over that whole ordeal is still very close to the surface. If you had anything to do with supporting the recall effort, you and your family get a big black mark in his book. Just hope you never need to go before the Board for anything, as you have one vote against you. So much for caring for all the kids.

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jezilu 6 years, 3 months ago

id(iot) actually you are far from that. unfortuantely, you are still living in the past--by about twenty to thirty years.

how about you spend some time in any one of the schools, and perhaps volunteer your expertise--after you spend some time in front of a class and lets see what you have to say. the public schools have had many from the private arena attempt to teach and guess what???

most did not last long.

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papafu 6 years, 3 months ago

idi, If we want to compete with the other countries that are turning out the top science and math students you refer to, we need to do what they do and take our best and brightest students and move them through the system in schools that are just for them. Unfortunately(or not) we have an educational system that is required to educate all students. Those who can afford the cost have the luxury to send there kids to private schools. Most cannot. To berate the professionals who give so much to all students makes me think you overestimate what you really contribute to society. Of course that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

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handyman 6 years, 3 months ago

The teachers have to work within the system. The system puts limits on what they can do. Like in any sector of society, there are some outstanding individuals and there are some who are not so outstanding. I'm sure that some of the outstanding ones become very frustrated at the limitations placed on them when they have the potential to do so much more. Some can see the potential that the students have and, unfortunately, are not allowed to do all that they can to foster those abilities. I think that the testing structure has too much importance placed on it. I watched some students over the last year endure the ACT/SAT testing regime. Anybody can cram for a test and get a good or great score, but that does not mean that they are educated. Whole books are written on how to ace those tests. I think that the education system these days places too much value on the test scores. My spouse works at the high school and he/she watches students roam the halls all day long and not attend classes. He/she listens to the profanity spoken by the students in the halls. He/she sees the massive amount of vandalism that happens on a daily basis. Oh yes, Steamboat parents, your precious babies destroy the high school. Sure, the school looked all neat and tidy at graduation, thanks to all of the staff who worked hard to clean up, repair and decorate it. I think that the evolution of our educational system in this country has gone down the tubes. No matter how much an educator wants teach, lead or prepare our children for the future, they run into a brick wall.

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80488mom 6 years, 3 months ago

I think many people are placing all the responsibility for their children's education and all the blame for their lack of success in the wrong place. I've always thought it was the school's responsibility to help facilitate my child's education and my responsibility to build upon the foundation they provided. If a child stubbles and falls it isn't the school's fault or the teachers' shortcomings it's the parents inability to recognize their responsibility in the equation.

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80488mom 6 years, 3 months ago

Stumbles......fumbling fingers. Sorry mumbles mom.

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jezilu 6 years, 3 months ago

id

Thanks for your last post. Your engineering background explains your point of view (my brother is a geo-chemist).

I agree that schools should provide strong vocational programs for those not interested in college--at least when they leave school.

Twenty to thirty years ago schools provided better vocational training. Unfortunately, societal pressures have pushed for competency testing that has altered curricular expectations. Teaching basic fundamentals goes against teaching problem solving unless the two are integrated into the curriculum.

Like it or not, educational institutions in large part represent the community in which they are found. Where education is valued, schools will be successful. I believe that is why the Steamboat Springs school district has done as well as it has. This community has been very supportive of its schools.

School adminstrators in the district, at least the ones I know or have known, are not those you have described in your posts. (I do not believe this community would accept them if they were.)

Dr. D was an exceptional principal. He was tough on his staff and expected that they respond to problem solving in the manner you work--research tested methods, action-research, etc. Working with human beings, who do not always fit differential equations or quadratic formulas.

It was my hope that John would act in the same way as a member of the school board. At times he exhibits that kind of behavior, at other times...

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handyman 6 years, 3 months ago

Mom - I agree. I see too many parents blaming someone else for any problems in their lives and their children's lives. We all need to take responsibility for our own actions.

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id04sp 6 years, 3 months ago

fud and jezi,

There are certainly students in any population who have the ability to excel. Others will do well to learn enough to read and write. Our biggest problem is that the administrators and teachers are far more worried about how the kids "feel" than about their ability to go out and make a living after graduation. That, after all (an educated workforce) is the REASON we have a system of public education in this country. Our pioneering nation needed educated people to grow and prosper and build up an industry, and a free education at public expense was the best way to produce qualified workers. Schools are not run for the benefit of the student. They are provided for the benefit of society as a whole, and unless every kid emerges qualified to go out and earn a self-supporting living upon graduation, the school has failed.

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papafu 6 years, 3 months ago

id

"...unless every kid emerges qualified to go out and earn a self-supporting living upon graduation, the school has failed."

No doubt that this should be the goal. Is it being met in the Steamboat schools? My thinking is that most of the students who graduate either continue on with there education or enter the workforce and are able to be successful, contributing members of society. However, I agree that the school district should institute a voc ed program for the students who choose to develop there interests in those areas.

I also believe that most of those who work in the Steamboat schools do there best, within the limits of the system, to accomplish this goal. To bash the system and demand change is one thing. To bash the people working in the system is another.

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80488mom 6 years, 3 months ago

"...unless every kid emerges qualified to go out and earn a self-supporting living upon graduation, the school has failed."

You are expecting way too much of the school. The most notable contributing factor to a child's success is the parents. We have put too much responsibility on the school and at the same time restricted what they can and cannot do. Your expectations are unreasonable.

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id04sp 6 years, 3 months ago

fud,

I wonder; would you want the doctor who treats you in the emergency room to be the product of a school where the faculty is made up of people who only graduated from medical school and then went right back to teach medicine without any practical experience?

High school teachers need more than four years in college to be able to address the true needs of high school students. How can you prepare people for life outside of school if you've never been outside a school?

If you go look at the CV of professors teaching in schools of engineering, medicine, the natural sciences, and even so-called "liberal arts," you will seldom, if ever, find one who has a degree in secondary education. So how is it that the people who invent, innovate, discover and build things for the future get by without the benefit of a "certified teacher?"

Public secondary education is a job field for people who seldom aspire to greatness beyond the need for a paycheck and medical benefits. It doesn't attract top performers because the pay is low and career advancement is limited from day one. Obviously, some people choose it as a career because they love it and do very well with kids, but far too many figure out early-on that being in the classroom sucks and move into administration as quickly as possible. By far, the greatest growth in school system salary expense has been for administration.

If being a teacher was so damned cool, why do people become principals and administrators? Don't you see the dichotomy?

The current system is beyond salvage, and as a result, our kids are way behind the rest of the world. How can motivated kids aspire to greatness when their examples at the front of the classroom got there by taking the easiest major in the easiest schools? It's like having the teacher play a recording of a symphony and expect the kids to go out and perform at Carnegie Hall.

High school teachers should be among the smartest members of the community, and should be paid according to their skills AND real-world experience. You don't get to be "the best" when you are trained by "the average." Steamboat is full of examples of this concept, but they are limited to winter sports, not academics.

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beagle 6 years, 3 months ago

This editorial tries its hardest to dredge things up from a year ago. Face it, Pilot, you lost and you lost big in your anti-D campaign. The man's not perfect, but you guys are weird. How many smear editorials have you written about him now?

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skygazer 6 years, 3 months ago

id04sp--

I was impressed with many of the teachers at the high school that my children had; they were dedicated, intelligent, and creative. Granted, the pay scales, cost of living, and lack of support have caused a huge turnover in new teachers, but many experienced teachers are highly educated, well-trained, and are devoted to the students. I just wonder what is your personal experience in public education that you so easily demean those who choose it as a profession? The teachers that I have known didn't choose teaching because they "didn't aspire to greatness" but because they love teaching kids.

Also, what percentage become administrators? There are only a couple per school, so your efforts to find a dichotomy are ineffectual.

Maybe you should work to change the system that makes it so hard to retain and support good teachers instead of griping about what you perceive as an inadequate talent pool.

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dogd 6 years, 3 months ago

ID: You are not qualified to tell any school what thier mission is. Who are you to say that schools should exist to convey trained and programmed workers to an overclass of business owners. This is not 1890.

Your overall view of life seems to be consistently bitter, grim, and fixated upon a lack of authority and power which apparently leaves you with a lack of happiness as well.

I guess your rambling put down of schools, teachers, and administrators is meant in support of doctor D, but most of it is a waste of kilobytes. If you support the guy, and the value of substance over style, which apparently some of us still do-why don't you just say so.

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id04sp 6 years, 3 months ago

doggy,

Ah, a socialist rant.

You implied that I value substance over style; well SURE I do. Was that a Freudian slip on your part?

Some of US will produce, and grow, and build, and some of YOU will spend your time walking back and forth in front of a full length mirror, wearing high-heels, a wig, smoking a cigarette, and calling it "style." Right. Good luck with that.

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id04sp 6 years, 3 months ago

Sky,

The problem is with the way the system is run. If the school systems had higher qualifications for high school teachers, those who want to teach would meet them.

The public schools are, in general, out of touch with what business, industry and higher-education require from high school graduates. The result is that it's the KIDS who have to do the work to make up the difference, or else fail, or settle for less than they could be in life if they'd been prepared for life after high school.

I started college with 4,000 other freshmen right out of high school. Two years later, 3,000 had gone elsewhere, mostly due to academic failure. This tells me that high schools which produced graduates with genius-level IQs (based on pre 1984 SAT scores) and grades in math and science good enough to get into a top-ten engineering school simply failed to prepare 75% of my classmates (from every state) to live up to their potential. That tells me that the "college prep" education delivered in high school is inadequate, and that it's the KIDS who suffer from the failure of the high schools.

So, what we have is a school system where more kids pass and graduate, but then find out they're not equipped to succeed in college. It seems obvious to me that we have teachers who could not have gotten into the top colleges attempting to prepare kids to attend top colleges. I guess that's fine if the goal is to keep high school kids in day care, but it's not so good if we really want them to go out and succeed in challenging professions where they can actually contribute something meaningful to society.

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dogd 6 years, 3 months ago

ID: Your comprehension is as weak as usual. What I implied is that if you value substance over style-(which I generally ALWAYS favor) you should say so in less than 2500 words.

I am not sure if you have ever had any kids

As far as your idiotic accusation that I favor some sort of socialistic view-that's BS. You clearly want schools to program kids to be good little peoples party workers- I favor teaching them to THINK, to invent and to excell-and in my case I don't leave that task to the schools. That is the way we have PARENTED.

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id04sp 6 years, 3 months ago

Doggy,

Well, the thing I've discovered in my lifetime, including the years I've spent PARENTING, is that people have a choice of working for somebody else, or having their own business, unless they are fortunate enough to have inherited sufficient wealth to live without working.

You've actually hit the nail on the head; nobody in the schools is teaching kids how to THINK. They are teaching them WHAT to think in some cases, and from what I know about the things my kids were taught in high school, it's unrealistic, pacifistic, socialistic, and utopian crap that has little to do with real life. A worker's first job is to protect himself, no doubt about it.

Military tacticians and strategists don't spend their time teaching the troops how to hate the enemy. It's far more important to UNDERSTAND the enemy, and know how he fights. You have to know the enemy's weaknesses and strengths if you plan to defeat him and survive the battle.

High school teachers, in general, have no idea how the world of business and industry works. How can they prepare kids to function in that world if they know nothing about it? The reason we are victimized by predatory business practices is that a smart, innovative person who doesn't care about the harm done to other people can very easily pull the wool over the eyes of people who don't think for themselves.

I would only suggest that, while you're teaching your kids how to THINK, you teach them to consider the good of our society as a whole along with their own welfare. I think it's a fact that nobody is going to change the laws of physics, or human nature, and those two factors pretty much govern everything else that happens to us in life.

It takes money to live, and most of us have to work for it. Understanding how the system works doesn't mean you have to agree with it, but knowing how to use it to get what YOU need is essential. People who have spent their whole working career as teachers are not equipped to teach those lessons to our kids.

I am curious . . . what do YOU teach your kids about the "worker's party," and what's your alternative? Be specific. Tell me how a firm foundation in math, science and language makes a person ill-equipped to make a living.

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another_local 6 years, 2 months ago

It sure will be nice when Dr D is gone after the next election. he is unsuitable for public office and also for succeeding in a group that has to work together.

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