« Previous Story | Front Page | Next Story »

Waiting for OUR Superman, or Superwoman

By Diane Wahto
Analysis | March 10, 2011

education.gifThugs! Parasites! Bloodsuckers! Mediocre slackers! Class warfare against the rich!

WICHITA, Kan. - It's in the air everywhere -- unionized public workers are the cause of all the ills of the world, if not the universe. All those once trusted public servants, teachers, police officers, fire fighters, social workers, prison guards, health care providers, cafeteria workers, among others, have now become Public Enemy #1. Public sector workers, people who go to work every week day and sometimes at night and on weekends, are now, according to anecdotal reports, earning out-sized salaries and ruining our economy with their demands. They're taking taxpayer money (otherwise known as salaries) and using it to support corrupt unions. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and 18 Wisconsin senate Republicans think so poorly of unionized state workers that they voted to end collective bargaining rights. Is this opprobrium against public workers spreading throughout the country?

The scorn is mainly directed against public school teachers, probably because they are most visible of public workers and therefore most vulnerable. Even though I don't watch Fox News (or Faux Non-News, as many call it), I do see some of its biased editorializing when Jon Stewart does a Fox riff on The Daily Show. Recently, Stewart went after Fox as he featured clips of commentators going after public school teachers and their various perks. Then, showing clips of Wall Street operatives, he highlighted the hypocrisy behind the attacks on teachers.

The recipe for cooking up such scorn can be traced to several sources, including, among others, billionaire Bill Gates. Gates, a college dropout who never spent a day teaching in a public school classroom, is not the "expert" on teacher excellence. In his estimation, experienced teachers with tenure can't teach nearly as well as new teachers in the system. Thus, we should do away with teacher tenure, which contrary to popular understanding, does not guarantee that teachers keep their jobs. It guarantees only that a tenured teacher has due process rights before he or she can be fired. It would be good if Gates made his theoretical pronouncements after he spent a semester in a middle school classroom. He might change his tune. Theory is a good basis for creating computer programs. It doesn't work at all when human beings become involved.

Worse than Gates, though, are the Koch brothers, Charles and David, who live and reign over their industrial empire in Wichita, Kansas. The Koch family dynasty can be traced back to Fred Koch, the engineer who founded what is now Koch Industries. The elder Koch worked in the Soviet Union in the late '20s and early '30s. Working with Soviet engineers under the Stalin regime instilled in Koch a deep-seated hatred of communism and when he returned to the United States he became an original member of the John Birch Society. The John Birch Society and its upper middle class white protestant members spent a great deal of time and energy finding communists in every corner of American society and impelled Sen. Joseph McCarthy's ruinous witch hunts of the 1950s.

The Birchers also touted the benefits of limited government, a philosophy that fit with Fred Koch's anti-communist leanings. Fred Koch turned the running of the Koch empire over to his son Charles in 1966. Since that time, Charles and David have contributed heavily to charitable causes, both in Wichita and around the country.

However, they have also contributed heavily to right-wing politicians, including Scott Walker, and causes that espouse their limited government, anti-tax views. Everyone has a right to enter into the political fray in America. Why shouldn't the Kochs also have this right? After all, the left-wing billionaire George Soros also contributes to political causes. How is his political giving different from the Kochs? According to Frank Rich, New York Times columnist, "Soros is a publicity hound who is transparent about where he shovels his money. And like many liberals -- selflessly or foolishly, depending on your point of view -- he supports causes that are unrelated to his business interests and that, if anything, raise his taxes."

As everyone knows, money is the driving force behind politics, so it's no surprise that the Kochs, through Americans for Prosperity or Club for Growth, another front group, have succeeded in buying influence across the country in the last election.

In fact, the most insidious tool at the Kochs' disposal is the use of front groups posing as grassroots organizations. When the Tea Party sprung up right after Barack Obama's election, Tea Party rallies looked like a grassroots movement. Rally participants were noisy, generally getting media coverage far beyond what their numbers deserved. They showed up at Town Hall meetings to disrupt rather than ask questions or get information. Some carried signs questioning Pres. Obama's legitimacy to be president. Other signs portrayed Obama as Hitler, a turban-wearing Muslim, or a witch doctor with a bone through his nose. Some Tea Party members carried guns, with the implicit threat that they were ready to shoot anyone who disagreed with them.

It didn't take long for eagle-eyed journalists to find out that the Tea Party was funded by the Kochs through The Freedom Works Foundation, formerly Citizens for a Sound Economy, a front group organized by Dick Armey. It also didn't take long to realize that the participants really had no idea what they were agitating for. I took part in a Coffee Party counter-demonstration during a Tea Party rally in Wichita. Coffee Party demonstrators asked several of the older Tea Partiers if they were willing to give up their Social Security or their Medicare. No, they said, not realizing those were among the programs the Tea Party was targeting.

How does this relate to killing public service employee unions? Those unions support candidates through their political action wings. Because they generally support Democratic candidates, they are a threat to the Koch agenda of low or no taxes, privatization of public facilities and institutions, elimination of Social Security and Medicare, and crippling the Environmental Protection Agency. The Koch agenda includes corporate-run schools, prisons, and highways. It includes ending guaranteed pension funds, substituting 401(k) investments instead. It also includes being able to pollute the air and the water without fear of being punished by the government. These are all issues that Democrats have traditionally stood against.

koch-industries.jpgEven though unions can garner a lot of money to give to campaigns and lobbyists, the Kochs, the Wall Street CEOs, and other wealthy corporate figures have much deeper pockets to reach into as they fund the campaigns of politicians like Walker, a governor who has plans to cripple public worker unions. The Walkers of the world are bought and paid for by the Kochs of the world. The result of this could well lead to an American that looks more like a corporate plutocracy than a democracy. In fact, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling that corporations have the same rights as persons, we're already on the fast track to that fate.

Conservative politicians have taken up the mantra that public workers, especially teachers, who join unions are ruining America's economy with their demands for livable salaries, health insurance, pensions, and decent working conditions. Recently, Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute, a Koch-funded entity, said in an OpEd in the Wichita Eagle that he aimed his offensive remarks about public education, not at individual teachers, but at "the union." Trabert seems to forget that it is individual teachers who comprise union membership. The National Education Association, the union I belong to, is run democratically, as are most unions in America. The members elect union leaders and make decisions about union policies.

Despite claims that corporate charter schools and voucher systems lead to better education than public schools, experts such as Diana Ravitch, New York University research professor of education,refute such claims. She points out that while Albert Shanker, American Federation of Teachers president from 1974 to 1997, started charter schools as a way for teachers to give at-risk students more attention, he soon backed away from the charter school idea when he saw that such schools were turning into a profit-making venture for corporations.

Ravitch also takes on the basic tenet of David Guggenheim's Waiting for "Superman," a documentary that blasts public education and public school teachers. She says, "Guggenheim skirts the issue of poverty by showing only families that are intact and dedicated to helping their children succeed.... Nothing is said about children whose families are not available, for whatever reason, to support them, or about children who are homeless, or children with special needs. Nor is there any reference to the many charter schools that enroll disproportionately small numbers of children who are English-language learners or have disabilities."

Among other facts Guggenheim ignores or distorts, according to Ravitch, is his touting of the Finnish education system, the best performing system in the world. "While blasting the teachers' unions, he points to Finland as a nation whose educational system the US should emulate, not bothering to explain that it has a completely unionized teaching force. His documentary showers praise on testing and accountability, yet he does not acknowledge that Finland seldom tests its students. Any Finnish educator will say that Finland improved its public education system not by privatizing its schools or constantly testing its students, but by investing in the preparation, support, and retention of excellent teachers. It achieved its present eminence not by systematically firing 5-10 percent of its teachers, but by patiently building for the future. Finland has a national curriculum, which is not restricted to the basic skills of reading and math, but includes the arts, sciences, history, foreign languages, and other subjects that are essential to a good, rounded education. Finland also strengthened its social welfare programs for children and families. Guggenheim simply ignores the realities of the Finnish system."

One has to wonder what is to be gained from crippling the public education system, which seems to be the goal of Scott Walker, David Guggenheim, and Koch front groups like KPI. What is to be gained by taking bargaining rights away from workers? A lot, apparently, for wealthy people who don't want to pay their fair share of taxes to support the public school system and its workers and who do want to continue to pollute the water and air that we all have to drink and breathe.

David Koch
According to Rich, "When David Koch ran to the right of Reagan as vice president on the 1980 Libertarian ticket (it polled 1 percent), his campaign called for the abolition not just of Social Security, federal regulatory agencies and welfare but also of the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and public schools -- in other words, any government enterprise that would either inhibit his business profits or increase his taxes. He hasn't changed."

Yes, there are thugs, parasites, and bloodsuckers in our midst. There are those who engage in class warfare. They are sitting on top of the wealth heap and they don't want to pay their fair share to participate in American democracy. They simply want to arrange that heap so they are able to get more out of those of us on the bottom. We may have found our Superwoman in Diane Ravitch, whose credentials include serving as Undersecretary of Education in the George W. Bush administration. It was during her tenure there that she came to the conclusion that No Child Left Behind was unworkable and would eventually kill public education.

While we're waiting for our Superwoman to do her work, below is a list of Koch Industries products. If people care to, they can take the initiative by boycotting these products.

  • Angel Soft toilet paper
  • Brawny paper towels
  • Dixie plates, bowls, napkins and cups
  • Mardi Gras napkins and towels
  • Quilted Northern toilet paper
  • Soft 'n Gentle toilet paper
  • Sparkle napkins
  • Vanity fair napkins
  • Zee napkins
  • Georgia-Pacific paper products and envelopes
  • All Georgia-Pacific lumber and building products, including:
  • Dense Armor Drywall and Decking
  • ToughArmor Gypsum board
  • Georgia pacific Plytanium Plywood
  • Flexrock
  • Densglass sheathing
  • G/P Industrial plasters (some products used by a lot of crafters)
  • FibreStrong Rim board
  • G/P Lam board
  • Blue Ribbon OSB Rated Sheathing
  • Blue Ribbon Sub-floor
  • DryGuard Enhanced OSB
  • Nautilus Wall Sheathing
  • Thermostat OSB Radiant Barrier Sheathing
  • Broadspan Engineered Wood Products
  • XJ 85 I-Joists
  • FireDefender Banded Cores
  • FireDefender FS
  • FireDefender Mineral Core
  • Hardboard and Thin MDF including Auto Hardboard


I'm hesitant to blame Mr. Gates for the recent (or longer term) trend on scapegoating public unions. I'll certainly agree that the Koch folks are more directly connected to
Gov. Walker's efforts.

Still, we really don't have a good answer as to why people like Walker and Koch bros. pursue their agenda. I suspect if you interviewed them they'd say they don't mind spending money to support their causes because they passionately believe that a reorganization (or return) to non-interventionist policies in the economy (and the reduction of "state" influence in private affairs will either lead to greater benefits for all or that such policies are justified even if only a few benefit as they are the inevitable result of private property rights.

James--While I didn't have the space, or want to take the space to go into every issue in detail, all the sources I looked at opined that the Kochs just don't want to pay taxes. They think it's socialistic and unAmerican to force people through the taxation system to support public education and other public institutions. I think that's shortsighted and in the long run, would be harmful to our democracy, such as it is.

As for Gates, apparently he just now discovered that technology can play a role in education, something I knew and made use of twenty years ago. I recently read that he was touting videos as the newest educational tool. He seems to think we can make teachers obsolete by doing so.

Gates also believes that students in classes taught by "excellent" teachers (he doesn't bother to say who's making these judgments) will do well, even if the classroom is overcrowded. His claim is that these students will do better than students in smaller classrooms with poor teachers. That claim is ridiculous. I know this from my own experience as a teacher, as well as the experience of my teacher colleagues.

The fact still remains the biggest determiners in a student's success are the degree of poverty in the student's background and the involvement of parents in the student's education.

Diane- Great article. The Wisconsin bill was nothing but an attack on teachers. It exempted firefighters and policemen. Teachers are practically the only public employees left. It's not surprising. As the largest union in the country the NEA is an obvious target for the right. I posted a video of President Obama speaking about education yesterday. I'm writing my reaction today. I'm afraid the president isn't going to push for an educational system like you describe. He's pretty vague and it sounds like Congress (and the strengthened Republican party) are going to do most of the work. That can't be good for anybody.

Independent--I agree that Obama and his education secretary Arne Duncan have not been pro-teacher or pro-educationin their policies. When Obama lauded the firing of the entire teaching staff in that town in New Jersey (I think that's where it was), I knew we couldn't count on his support.

The Kansas legislature is doing its best right now to pick the NEA apart piece by piece. Even though I'm retired, I still want to make sure those who going into teaching, or any public service, for that matter, will have the same benefits that I had.

Ms. Wahto--have you never wondered why you (and I and most other "self-identified progressives") have not been influenced by the vast spending by the Koch brothers? What do you believe to be the reason that people we disagree with are so easily influenced to vote against their own interests by such feeble propaganda? Why are we immune?...or are we (like them) only immune to propaganda we inately disagree with?

Bo--I'm chuckling. This is a good question. I hate make an analysis without more thought, but I think I was born with a sense of fairness that has stayed with me throughout my life. The Kochs don't play fair. They create agencies to do their dirty work and only fess up to their behind the scenes manipulation after the fact. Left wingers do the same thing, but I don't pay any attention to propaganda. I do the research myself to get to the facts, that is, as much as I can.

As for why other people fall for the Koch-type propaganda, I think it grows from fear. They see the world changing into an unfamiliar place. They also see things spinning out of control. If the Wichita Tea Party is anything to go by, many of those folks are older and probably never expected to see a black president in their lifetime, let alone people living together outside of wedlock, legalized abortion, gay marriage or gays serving openly in the military. When I think how the world has changed since I was a kid my head spins. However, I knew the world needed to change so I was ready for it. Other people don't want the world to change and the Koch propaganda plays on that.

This is just off the top of my head, but your question made me think.

Hey, Diane--Thanks for thinking, and for the reply! There is a crisis in public education that goes beyond public employee unions and collective bargaining rights. In a comment above, you stated that the "biggest determiners of a student's success are the degree of poverty in the student's background and the involvement of parents in the student's education." While that statement is statistically true, it has not always been the absolute truth--(always true--no exceptions.) It seems to me that the most successful students, regardless of socioeconomic background, or parental involvement, are those students MOTIVATED to learn , even if that motivation is not parentally applied. Your statement merely measures parentally applied motivation and mirrors it. Our current education system does nothing to reward level of motivation, love of learning, or seeking of knowledge--it rewards discipline(parental?), timeliness, orderliness, and willingness to submit to "authority"--all qualities valued by an employer for his employees--but of little value to a leader, a thinker, an entrepeneur,or a learner. Self-discipline would be an invaluable asset to these groups as well, but until college, many "good students" have never developed that quality. For some, like me, that was a tough time to develope that skill, and it is still awaiting development some fourty years later.For the sake of our democracy, shouldn't we teach students to think for themselves and question "authority"? Shouldn't we teach them to seek truth instead of approval? Shouldn't the diploma be worthless, but the knowledge invaluable? No matter your level of learning,your quantity and quality of knowledge, there are jobs you can't get without that diploma--and in many, many cases (Michelle Bauchman--Sarah Palin) that diploma is worthless as an indicator of brain activity!

Ms. Wahto--I apologize for seeming to be questioning your obvious expertise with classroom learning and teaching in the above post. Please don't assume that since I may not be 100% in agreement with you that I claim to have all the answers to the problems America has with public education--or that I am an enemy of public education, or teachers unions, or public employee unions and their right to bargain collectively, because that is absolutely not the case. But just because I don't have all the answers, it doesn't mean I don't have questions. The reason I began this "correspondence" with you was because it seemed to me in your analysis above that you were viewing Bill Gates as an enemy of public education. Bill Gates..."who never taught in a public school classroom". Well. he can't--he isn't qualified!--He (like me) is a college droupout, and veiwed by classroom teachers as unqualified to teach even though he has "taught" perhaps hundreds of millions of people how to make at least some use of what may be the greatest invention by mankind of all time--the computer! That skill--the software he invented and his company is still inventing that allows us all to teach ourselves useful computer skills and access information unimaginable prior to him, has made him the richest man in the history of the world--and he is not your enemy! But like me, since he is not a product of "the box" of formal education, he is not restricted to thinking "in the box!" Some of the most valuable "life lessons" I learned through public education I learned from terrible, really crappy teachers! Some of the most valuable "life lessons" I learned from amazing, dedicated, wonderful teachers. As far as I know, they were both earning about the same pay, and as far as I am concerned, were both of equal value to me. I liked the good ones better, but have been unable to determine if they were good because they also liked me, and the others were "bad" because they didn't like me--because they didn't like my questions--or my "attitude". If you had been paid ten percent more per year would you have taught ten percent better? Or could you have handled ten percent more students? Or would you have just felt better about having to put up with smart-alec students (like ME) and a know-it-all administration and school board? Throwing more money at education hasn't solved any problem other than teacher self esteem that I can recognize, but I would be delighted to know how you think additional money for public education will produce citizens less likely to be fooled by the Koch brothers!

Bo--First, don't apologize. You've asked some good questions and raised some valid issues. I agree to a certain extent that "our system" doesn't value self-motivation in a student. Even though I've been out of high school for decades, I still remember the frustation I felt at being out of sync with everyone--and I was bored half to death. Finally, when I got to college, I discovered a place for me and people like me.

I also agree that students can learn from bad teachers. Even though I have had only a few really bad teachers, I never let that stand in the way of my learning. While my parents weren't exactly poor, we weren't rich, by any means. Somehow, though, I knew my parents wanted my brothers and me to do well in school and to go to college, even though they never said much about it. The only grade my dad ever commented on was the A I made in drivers ed. He was so proud that I knew how to change a tire and fiddle with an engine.

I don't believe in educating people just for work. I believe we must education people to participate in a democracy and in order to do that, they must learn to use critical thinking in their assessment of what goes on around them. I believe in a broad liberal arts education and I believe in letting students explore different areas of learning. While I do agree that parental involvement is not the only determiner of how well a student does in school, I also think students who come to school hungry because there's not enough food in the house, or exhausted because parents have stayed up all night arguing or taking drugs or partying, or who have no place at home to study or feel safe and secure--well, those students have several strikes against them.

As for Bill Gates, I think he could be a force for good in education if he could broaden his horizons. He might understand that teachers need the due process rights tenure brings them in order to practice the academic freedom necessary to good education. I know this from first hand experience. As a journalism teacher, I often butted heads with a principal or two, but I couldn't be fired because they disagreed with me and my students' free press rights. As I pointed in an earlier response to Colleen Johnston's blog, tenure doesn't mean a teacher can't be fired; it means only that the teacher has due process rights. Because I know teachers need this protection, I've been a union member everywhere I've worked.

As for money, I also can speak from experience on that. My first full time teaching job was in a country school in Michigan. By the way, I didn't have a college degree when I taught there. This was not a good thing. I had no idea how to teach first graders to read or how to teach eighth graders to do algebra. What I discovered when I went to the school to prepare for the first day of class was that the textbooks were horribly out of date, especially the history and geography books. As you know, the map of the world changes faster than anyone can keep up with it. The books we had were written right after WWII. Forget about space exploration. As far as those textbooks were concerned, the sound barrier hadn't even been broken.

Fast forward to 2011. Students live in a wired world. I taught online at Butler for almost twenty years and my classes were always full. I also taught a computer-assisted class, in which students used the computer lab to do research and write their essays. I don't know that every classroom has to be equipped with computers, but students do need to learn how to use that technology, which isn't even new anymore. In fact, I'm considered a troglodyte because I refuse to join the twittering crowd.

What students must learn, above all, is how to assess the information coming across the media--all media. How do they learn to analyze Fox News or Rachel Maddow or all the online blogs? How do they learn to winnow the wheat from the chaff in the realm of ideas? They need access to that media. They can't be in a classroom that is equivalent to that country school where I taught. The materials available to them must reflect the world in which they live. That material costs money.

As an example, one of my friends teaches middle school science. She needs updated textbooks and materials to teach that class. She ends up buying many supplies out of her own pocket. It's either that or her students don't get the hands-on learning they need as adult citizens who will be dealing with such issues as pollution, new sources of energy, global warming, all those issues that most politicians want to sweep under the rug. They need to learn to balance the need to protect our environment with the need to provide jobs. I don't believe there's a conflict here because the development of new sources of energy will provide plenty of new jobs. But those who have a stake in keeping the old sources of energy don't want to give up that stake. How do I know this? From research. In fact, the most interesting research I've seen on this issue came when one of my students did his semester's research project on marijuana. He found that when Henry Ford started building his cars, he wanted to use hemp for fuel. However, the oil barons, sensing that they would lose a lot money if this happened, put pressure on politicians to make marijuana illegal. I've done my own research on this issue and every source I've found confirms what this student found.

I do believe we should teach students to think for themselves and question authority. I always tried to do that when I taught. I had a few rules in my classes they had to follow, most of them having to do with respect for others. Also, they had to follow the rules of grammar, usage, and clear writing--yes, I was an English instructor. Otherwise, as long as what they had to say could be supported by fact, they were their own experts.

As for your not having a college education, I don't think a college education is necessary. I dropped out of college after my first year because I was sick of going to school (and I was also sick from being pregnant). When I went back, it was the '60s and I was in the middle of the big transformation that took place then. I loved it! I took part in my first anti-war march at Western Michigan University, which started me on a lifetime of peace activism. I went to college because it was more fun than playing bridge or hanging around with the other housewives gossiping about everybody. I was always interested in ideas and that's where I found like-minded people. I went back several times, mainly when I got tired of the world of work.

I've probably rambled a lot and haven't answered all your questions. I must say, though, having you as a student would have been made me very happy.

Diane--Thanks for the outstanding reply! I appreciate your point that information access is not as critical as information assessment! How do we as a society draw more people like you to the teaching profession? Shouldn't critical thinking be addressed prior to university level? Shouldn't all public school students be taught the difference between opinion and fact and the difference betweeen dogma and scientific research? I've been blessed with a pretty good B.S. alarm--my "internal lie detector" has proven to be nearly flawless, but I have been dissapointed to come to the realization that just because I can identify a lie, I still don't know what the truth is!

Bo--I don't know how to lure good people into teaching. I do this, though. It won't happen if younger people see teachers being demonized. Also, many people who have the skills to be good teachers will opt to go into the private sector where they can earn more money and get better benefits than teachers get. I went into teaching sort of by accident. I was a single mother, I needed a job right away, and getting my teaching certificate was the fastest most sure way to find a job. I also worked on the college newspaper and got a few credit hours in journalism, so I was qualified to teach journalism. Teaching it turned out to be a good career for me, especially at the community college level. My kids, who went to the high school where I taught, witnessed the headaches I dealt with every day and went into other professions. They've all taught at times during their careers and they're good at it, but they don't like it. It takes a lot of patience to be a good teacher.

I definitely believe students should learn critical thinking skills from day one. In fact, that learning can start before they start to school. When the adults in their lives ask the right questions, kids pick up pretty quickly on the need to ask their own questions.

Truth? That's big subject. When I was studying philosophy in college, truth was considered a matter of relativity. I suppose you could say certain physical laws, like gravity, are the truth. I know what Glen Beck spouts, while it may be based on some truth, is mostly made up fantasy. I suppose finding truth is a balancing act. When I taught journalism, I required my students to talk to a lot of people if they were doing a story on a controversial subject so that they got several points of view. We also did some classroom exercises that proved eyewitness accounts of any event are seldom accurate or objective. Truth is hard to come by and it reveals itself in bits and pieces. Maybe that's what keeps life so interesting.

I'm curious. Who do you like to read or listen to? Where do you get your ideas?

Favorite author--all time: Wilbur Smith...I love his semi-historical fiction tales of Africa and the grandeur of his characterization. Richard Dawkins for biology and evolution---currently, "Griftopia"--Matt Taibbi, "Too Big To Fail"--Andrew Ross Sorkin. I enjoy Rachel Maddow...so intelligent...so conscientious, but over the line on the Second Ammendment. Lawrence O'Donnel (also on MSNBC) is a fastidious reporter and interviewer--also a little kookey about my hobbies of target shooting and marksmanship, but I've never agreed with anyone about everything. Most ideas, goofy questions, etc. just arise from my never-ending conversation with my conscience and my inner philosopher, while I should be doing OTHER STUFF, like finishing one of the 14 or so novels I've written the first paragraph for...and never any more, or paying bills, or preparing my income tax, and while tractoring or harvesting on my little farm.

What an interesting bunch of authors and thinkers. I've not read much of Dawkins, but he does have an interesting take on all things religious. Those "goofy questions" and their origin aren't wasted. Who knows where they will lead you? You do need to finish the novels. I've finally returned to writing poetry after I retired from teaching. It's quite satisfying and takes me away from a world that seems to be falling into more and more chaos.

I too love Rachel Maddow. One of her producers is the daughter of one of my Wichita friends and it's fun to see her and talk about the show. I would probably agree with Rachel on Second Amendment issues more than you. I have shot guns before, but I'm more likely to shoot myself than anyone else. My dad used to take my brothers and me out to the chat piles for target practice and I realized I couldn't hit anything. When my first husband and I went hunting, the animals were safe. It's not that I'm anti-gun. I just don't see the reason for them.

And I'm not anti-golf club--I just don't see the reason for them! A high proportion of men are what I term toolaholics--(I am definately one)--we can't resist owning really cool very specialized tools (some of us own tools we never use--don't know how to use properly--can't afford, but own anyhow). I do most of my own maintenance on my old Vette, my old Harley, my old machinery, my old house, and own literally more than a ton of tools. Most of the tools I own could be used (as can golf clubs) as weapons. Most of the tools I own are very, very dangerous if handled irresponsibly by anyone, but especially by someone untrained in their proper use. Some of my tools are firearms, but most aren't. Many people view firearams strictly as weapons--with only one purpose--that of killing other people or other living things. It is absolutely true that firearms can be used as weapons to kill stuff, and to do so quite efficiently and at long range by a relatively unskilled person---and are extremely dangerous to oneself and others if handled irresponsibly or by untrained people. However, that is only one use of these highly efficient, very specialized tools. Many, many hobbies and occupations involve firearms in many different ways--gunsmithing, collecting, competetive target shooting, reloading (the process of developing the most accurate and most reliable round of amunition for one and only one particular firearm), hunting, and informal target shooting--to name the few I have enjoyed over the years. Men and women view tools differently--I'll never forget a little incident from my childhood...one of my older sisters was just 16 months older than me--we were great pals-often mistaken for twins, in fact. One day when I was maybe nine or ten years old, I got out my dad's whetstone and determined to learn how to sharpen my pocketknife (I don't know how things got so messed up--I've carried a pocketknife every day of my life...to school, to church, everywhere and anywhere, but now I can't board a plane if I have one). Much to my delight and amazement I sucessfully sharpened that little knife to the point I could actually shave the hair off of my arm! With great pride and satisfaction, I demonstrated this cool, fantastic accomplishment to my very best friend, my nearly constant companion, my big sister. I'll never forget the look of absolute horror, the terror in her eyes--the disgust she projected while screaming at me what a horrible, terrible,dangerous and crazy person I was to have done such a thing. I didn't (and still don't) understand her reaction--I don't understand the reaction of some highly intelligent people to firearms. Oh, well.

I won't belabor this, but I do want to relate an family anecdote that relates to the issue. My dad always had guns in the house, a pistol and a .22. After he retired, he became a volunteer reserve sheriff. We always called him Barney Fife because he was so skinny his gun belt looked like it was going to slip down off his waist. One day he was cleaning his gun in the bedroom and it went off, shooting a hole in the wall. Who knows where that bullet ended up. Fortunately, not in anyone's body.

Everyone assumes I'm anti-gun because I don't have a gun and I think there should be some limits on gun ownership. I'm not several of my friends have concealed carry permits and I don't care. They've had the training and undergone the background checks to get them. One of my teacher friends is a gun collector and it's interesting to hear him talk about his collection. On the other hand, I decided to leave my first husband because he had guns and he grew more and more violent, especially when he was drinking. I didn't want to be in the same house with him and his guns. I don't want to carry a gun myself. I don't like them. That's just my personal opinion.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and to vote accordingly. I don't believe the second amendment can mandate that everyone must own a firearm, but I do believe it guarantees the right of ownership to responsible citizens. That's the catch--responsible...I've owned at least one firearm since I was nine years old--in 52 years of firearm ownership I have had zero accidental discharges, zero accidents of any kind involving firearms--never shot anyone, either by accident or on purpose. I have been a Hunter Safety instuctor, an NRA trained 4H shooting sports instructor, and have taught sportsmanship, responsibility and ethics to a great number of Kansas youngsters--and scolded and schooled a few who weren't that young! I don't believe everyone should be allowed to own firearms, but then I don't believe everyone should be allowed to breed or to vote! Prospective firearms owners need proper training--prospective parents and voters need proper training--of course that's just my opinion, I could be wrong!

Post your own comment here

Do you want to read more? You've only just scratched the surface at the Kansas Free Press. We have so much more to read! Nearly all of the pieces published here are timeless and relevant, regardless of when the articles were first published. To discover more, please take a look at our Table of Contents or go back to our Front Page.

Our sponsors help us stay online to serve you. Thank you for doing your part! By using the specific links below (clicking through from our site) to start any of your online shopping, you are making a tremendous difference. By using the shopping links provided on a Kansas Free Press page, you are directly helping to support the Kansas Free Press:

About This Page

This page contains just one story published on March 10, 2011. The one written previous to this is titled "Earmarks Are Parlimentary Problem" and the story published right after this one is "Progressivism: Slow and Steady Wins the Race"

Our most current stories are always updated on our Front Page.

Other Archives

Interested in other topics? You may wish to poke around in our Table of Contents to find other sections and archives.

Do you want to explore pieces written by specific authors? You can find archives for KFP writers by reviewing our complete Directory of Authors and Writers here.

Recently Featured Stories

My Response As a Kansan to Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti has come on board The Nation magazine to fill in for Katha Pollitt as the feminist columnist while Pollitt is on leave to write a book. I've found reading Valenti's columns thought-provoking and insightful. She often takes …
Of Angels and God's Dogs

There might be a whole group of us out there--people who value our relationships with animals on a par with our ties to people. "Get over it--it was just a dog" does not resonate with us. Our society places …
Of Angels and God's Dogs

There might be a whole group of us out there--people who value our relationships with animals on a par with our ties to people. "Get over it--it was just a dog" does not resonate with us. Our society places …
Roots of the n-word

While N-word dialogue has slackened following Saline County Commissioner Gile's use of it recently, the word still has great power. So, let's look inward at the N-word. To reach a much deeper path to understanding, simply go to Ad …
Corporate Tax Reform

Basehor, Kans.--For an interesting twist on the corporate tax debate, look at Alan Sloan's opinion in the April 29 issue of Fortune Magazine. In all of the froth about corporate taxation, neither proponents of tax reduction, nor corporate critics, …

News and Opinion

Get Connected

See our FB page!
Subscribe for free!
[Feeds & Readers...]
Follow Kansas Free Press on Twitter, too!
Make Kansas Free Press your home page!

Journalists, sign in.

We're reader supported!

Whenever you use the specific links below to begin any of your online shopping, a portion of your sale goes directly towards the support of this site.

Tech Depot - An Office Depot Co.

Our sponsors help us stay online to serve you. Thank you for doing your part! By using the specific links above (clicking through from our site) to start any of your online shopping, you are making a tremendous difference. By using the shopping links provided on a Kansas Free Press page, you are directly helping to support the Kansas Free Press.

Thank you for your help!

Notices & Policies

All of our Kansas Free Press journalists are delighted that you are here. We all hope that you come here often, sign in and leave us comments, and become an active part of our community. Welcome!

Our writers are credentialed after referral to, and approval by, the editor/publisher of KansasFreePress.com. If you are interested in writing with us, please feel free to let us know here. We are always looking for Kansans who want to write about Kansas!

All authors here retain their own copyrights for their original written works, original photographs and art works. They welcome others to copy, reference or quote from the content of their stories, provided that the reprints include obvious author and website attribution and links to the original page, in accordance with this publication's Creative Commons License.

Our editor primarily reviews stories for spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting and is not liable or responsible for the opinions expressed by individual authors. The opinions and accuracy of information in the individual stories on this site are the sole responsibility of each of the individual authors. For complete site policies, including privacy, see our Frequently Asked Questions. This site is designed, maintained, and owned by its publisher, Everyday Citizen Media. The Kansas Free Press, KansasFreePress.com, and Kansas Free Press are trademarked names.

© Copyright, 2008-2012, all rights reserved, unless otherwise specified, first by the respective author, and then by KFP's publisher and owner for any otherwise unreserved and all other content.