Saturday, January 30, 2010

West Bend School board election fields candidates from the 14th Century.

Hi everyone,

In the "This-isn't-rocket-science" category of "who-to-vote-for," my answer is always "vote for people who can do math and won't cost us a gazillion dollars by landing the school district in a federal lawsuit it can't possibly win."

If the self-proclaimed creationists make it on to the school board...

-- I'm sorry... I can't believe I even had to write those words.

Saturday's column.

Common sense dictates who to elect to School Board

The School Board primary on Feb. 16 has drawn quite a few letters extolling the virtues of various candidates.

I have one rule for voting in local elections – I am completely happy if the candidate can do math, regardless of where they are on the political spectrum.

Take School Board member Tim Stepanski, who ran as “the eye for the taxpayer.”

Politically speaking, I disagree with his political commitment to conservative, anti-tax, principles but I completely agree with his commitment to good mathematics. Once he'd seen the actual numbers the school district was up against, he made a tough decision to support the tax levy increase. His principles remain in place, but he did the math and put his responsibility to the kids first.

You have to respect that -- and I do.

I also have no interest in the religious views of anyone running for office. Frankly, it’s none of my business, or anyone’s business, how elected officials worship or which god, or gods, they worship. I don’t care. I don't care, that is, so long as they don’t make their religious views my business.

But they cross the line when they think it’s OK to use my tax dollar to fund teaching their religious views in a science classroom.

(Personally, I approve of teaching kids about religion in literature or history or social science classes. It’s important that kids, especially in today’s global economy, understand how people from all parts of the world think – even in distant and strange places, like Madison, say.)

So long as candidates don’t insist on teaching their religious views as science, no problem. I mean, imagine if a religiously committed School Board member, maybe one who worshiped the old Scandinavian gods, insisted we teach science students that lightning is caused by Thor swinging his hammer. Thor is not a scientific hypothesis and this fact, along with the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, explains why fundamentalist Christian beliefs (in the form of creationism and its slicker but equally unscientific little brother, “intelligent design”) have repeatedly been removed from public schools by the federal courts.

Speaking of which: in a bit of karmic turnabout, I find myself indebted to the local chapter of the Eagle Forum for their recent poll of School Board candidates. Fortunately for all of us, this poll identified some candidates whose personal views could weaken the science curriculum and drag the school district into federal court.

Three of the remaining six candidates — I understand that Knepel and Williams have withdrawn — told the Eagle Forum that they were in favor of teaching creationism, a religious doctrine, in science classes. Those who demonstrated this lack of respect for either competent scientific education or the rule of law are Randy Marquardt, Douglas Rakowski and David Weigand. The Eagle Forum site notes that Mr. Weigand would be in favor of “teaching the TRUTH about evolution” — but to my jaundiced eye this suggests he believes evolution isn’t true. His original answer online indicated a desire to teach creationism in science classes.

Ziegler gave no response to the question but both Van Eerden and Corazzi gave answers indicating they believe that, regardless of your upbringing, a public school board needs to follow federal court rulings and teach science, rather than religious doctrine, in science classes.

Quite apart from simply upholding Constitutional principles, there are even more practical reasons for adhering to federal court findings. The now infamous Dover case (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District), in which some School Board members pressured their science classes to include creationism, wound up costing that school district over $1 million in legal fees after a spectacular loss in federal court and a scathing opinion from the judge, one of the most conservative in the country.

Maybe Marquardt, Rakowski or Weigand won’t try to impose their religious views on the science curriculum, but let’s take them at their word: they think religious doctrines should be taught in a science class — even though pursuing this agenda would land West Bend in federal court.

And make no mistake: it will.

West Bend is now on the media’s radar and some of these creationist candidates are affiliated with the same people who made West Bend a national laughingstock during the last year; those who, first, attempted to eliminate anti-gay and lesbian language from the district’s hate speech policies and, second, helped put West Bend on the map as the book-burning capital of North America. The whole world is watching us now and waiting for the chance to send in reporters, film crews and the National Center for Science Education and ACLU legal teams. I don’t think we need any more of that.

One last irony: Weigand and Marquardt have been endorsed by Common Sense Citizens of Washington County. Here’s what I want to know: how much common sense does it demonstrate to endorse candidates who publicly assert that their religious beliefs should be intruded into the school curriculum in a way that could cost the district millions in legal fees and international ridicule?

Common sense dictates a common sense approach to electing this board. Let’s elect people who will guarantee competent scientific education for the kids, keep us out of federal court, and off the front page of the New York Times.

Common sense dictates Corazzi, Van Eerden or Ziegler.

No really, the current year -- for those of you double-checking -- is 2010, not 1350.



MorninStar said...

Thank you, thank you.. a million times thank you for your wonderful article. You hit the nail on the head. We don't need this type of idiocy, divisiveness & expense in our public schools.

Noncensor99 said...

Thank you for writing this. I have to confess that I'm taking a wicked pleasure in West Bend's growing Creationism debate. Part of me wants the Creationists to get elected and then to actually try to make an issue of it. The end results are a forgone conclusion, so I'm not worried about that, and the process will be highly entertaining. Of course, I don't live in Wisconsin, and it's not my tax dollars that will be poured into the legal fees and court costs.

Ordinary Jill said...

I think they should consider teaching students about Shiva's Dance in physics class. It's a much more common-sense explanation for the creation and destruction of matter than atomic theory.

Anonymous said...

Solid article. Creationism is costly, and some of these folks you pointed out stink of costly time wasting and bad, bad publicity for West Bend. Their connections to trouble-makers are troubling.

Kevin Scheunemann said...


Did you ever consider the fact that your endorsement may be a political "scarlet letter" in this area?

wbman said...

Doug Ziegler's unresponsiveness to questions is disappointing. I was initially pleased with his decision to run, but now I wonder if he's really prepared. I'll vote for Van Eerden while holding my nose. She's a holdover from the disastrous and arrogant board that hired Randall Eckart, probably the worst superintendent the district ever had.

Anonymous said...

Randy Marquardt, Douglas Rakowski and David Weigand are FOR assisting these "combine religion and state" types in their recruiting.

They must want for of these folks to come settle in West Bend too.

Great, more people who do not want to pay for public schools, but still want to indoctrinate public school students, children of other people's families, with their anti-science, religious views.

Are Randy Marquardt, Douglas Rakowski and David Weigand so lacking of confidence in their abilities to be school board members that they bend for these anti-science witch-doctors? Well, Weigand I get: He lives with one.

Is the Mrs. still lurking at the public library moving religious books into the Science section?

John Jost said...

Thank you, great column. That was telling 'em.

Just as Obama tells 'em too. Apparently, he walked into their tavern and beat the shit out of everybody.


Rich Kasten said...

I wonder if Kevin will be right... based on the reactions to some of your columns.

I think the budget is more a concern as the successful candidate will have more impact on that piece of the puzzle. I am sure any of the candidates will be able to do the math - they just may not come to the same conclusions or go about fixing it the same way you would.

Anonymous said...

Owen is so taken with you (Check out the Hypocritical Rat's blog. Constitutionalist my ass; he's the reason my ancestors left Europe.). You are significant, Mar, and a threat. Rock-n-Roll!

Mpeterson said...

Rich... I can take no issue with anti-taxers coming up with realistic solutions based on real math -- witness Mr. Stepanski who changed his mind after looking at the numbers. If our three creationists promise not to intrude their religious beliefs into the classroom, great! Like I said, I don't care about the rest. For instance, I like the budget plans you helped create on CFAC, regardless of any political difference we have.

I too suspect Kevin is right -- my calling them out might actually get them votes.

Wouldn't that be something?

Kevin said...


Let's keep all Prof. Peterson thinking "Kevin is right" stuff to ourselves.

I don't want any implied academic endorsements for this spring's village board election.

I trust you wouldn't want that either.


Kevin Scheunemann said...



Let's keep all this "Kevin is right" stuff to ourselves. You (and me) don't want any implied endorsements for Kewaskum village board elections this spring.

I welcome you to endorse any of my opponents.

All kidding aside, this is what I mean by the "passion" vs. (so called) "science" of the political debate.

Anonymous said...

Lawyers and court workers need to work too!

Put your over abundant extra tax dollars to good use and put these poor under utilized public servants to work. Just make sure everyone hires local lawyers, and buys local judges.

The school children will get first hand knowledge of how the courts work and so what if they can't afford music, art, phys-ed, modern facilities and up to date curriculum materials. One room school houses were good enough, and that's about all you'll be able to afford.

If your column brings them votes, it will also focus attention and assure that they're held to scrutiny and accountable for their actions from day 1.

MorninStar said...

As a parent of a child who began in parochial school & transferred to the public school system due to a learning disability, I have nothing but wonderful things to say about our public school system. Our child went on to succeed in a way that exceeded all our expectations and is now doing very well in college. The excellent opportunities that were available to us through the public school system were invaluable in helping our children become a productive members of society.

In the years since we have been out of the public school system (especially on the elementary level where most of the help was received)I have seen cut after cut in programing & it makes me weep to think of all of the children who will never meet their potential due to the shortsightedness of the community. Penny wise and dollar foolish. When children fail they drop out and our community looses. We will pay for it in the long run. My concern is not only go for children who have 'special needs' such as a disability, but for all students, including those in the area of gifted & talented. Without programs to nurture these exceptional students.. we ALL lose. The promise of our future lies in nurturing the gifts of these children or it is forever lost.

I attended a meeting yesterday to listen to Kathy Van Eerden & Lynn Corazzi and I was impressed with their understanding of how the budget operates (and their ability to explain it to me) and just what a difficult job it is. Like Mr. Stepanski said, it was an eyeopener. I would suggest that anyone who has questions on how the school budget operates.. what can & cannot be cut due to regulations, where funding is lost when we do not invest in our own system, etc.. to contact a school board member or see the West Bend School districts' website under Budget update. I was also impressed with Kathy & Lynn's passion and commitment for our schools & students.

As for some of the other candidates, they are proponents of home schooling and I have little doubt that they could care less if our public schools fail unless they can advance their religious agenda. They have been protesting & handing out young earth creationism/religious materials in the school parking lots, blocking doorways, etc.. for at least the past 9-10 years. Their concerns are obviously elsewhere. They do not seem to care if they make a circus out of meetings and drag everyone down with expensive legal processes in order to advance their personal religious agenda. At least one of the candidates has threatened several law suits against the schools and the city/public library if they do not get their way. These are PUBLIC institutions.

Is this the kind of circus we need? Is this how we want to see our already stretched-to-the-limit school budget spent? I vote No.

Charlie's Angels said...

I'll take you on for a round or two.

you asked in your post below "why are people so afraid of the enlightenment?"

So, you do acknowledge that the Enlightenment, a PHILOSOPHICAL movement, in other words, theory, gave birth to science.

So Kevin is right and you are wrong.

The proof is in the pudding: to believe that we stand at the ne plus ultra of what is possible for "humanity" is quite arrogant, but it is also bad news for those that have not "evolved"-now we have come, with the full force of the very logic the enlightenment gave birth too (or at least modulated), full-circle to where we started, except you don't see it (understandably) because you wear "blinders" and so you think you can isolate "scientific" Darwinism from "social" Darwinism.(just as you think you can teach religion in the humanities department so that it is "contained" from "infecting" the supposed purity of the science lab. HAH!)>
It constitutes the supreme irony to be blind to the very logic you are embracing, doesn't it?
Anyway, that is just my humble opinion. You are the philosophy professor, though WHAT philosophy I do not know, because I know of no reservoir of knowledge so vast that it can be tapped by people who say "Eureka! I have found unrestricted access to the truth."

The paradox is that, if there is evolution, then logically speaking the door is open for new, let us say, possibilities.

Charlies Angeles said...

And I will give Kevin and the others credit for being more concise on this then I could ever be, but keep in mind they have the inherent advantage of having had a "proper" education.

Let's discuss this over some steaming joe-you're still on for coffee, right?

Or do you think I am someone else....?

(PS. see what happens when you censor your own website?)I don't believe we should silence those we disagree with... I got that idea from Barry.">

Mpeterson said...

Charlies Angels.

Alas, since I do not have unrestricted access to the truth, I don't feel competent to reply.

Besides, my question about the Enlightenment was rhetorical.

Charlies Angeles said...

Thank you for catching the joke!)
(now we are going somewhere...)

Charlie's Angels said...

i am a man with integrity and pride and a moral backbone and i would never actually believe their crap unless they paid me to

Mpeterson said...

Charlie's: I'm sympathetic with your situation here. I agree with John Dean's assessment of what's happened to the conservative movement: it's being taken over by wing nuts who are marginalizing traditional, fiscal, conservatives (with whom I agree on any number of spending related policy questions).