School Board Election in Durango, Colorado

There are thousands of school districts in the US, and their board members are usually selected in low-publicity, low-turnout elections. Rarely are they education professionals. All too often, board members are funeral directors, used-car dealers, insurance salesmen, real estate brokers, and dentists’ wives, looking for publicity or for something meaningful to fill their spare time.

Creationist activists recognize that local school boards are the soft underbelly of the American educational system, and they often organize to promote a candidate of their choice. The support of such groups can be the deciding factor in a low-turnout election. The result is that an unimaginable array of maniacal crusaders, along with various self-promoters and civic-minded ignoramuses, are running the nation’s public schools.

We can’t possibly report on all the craziness that goes on in those local elections, so we usually write only about state-wide school boards, whose activities offer more then enough craziness. But every now and then we learn of a local election that has some entertainment value. Such is the case today.

Look what we found in the Durango Herald of Durango, Colorado: their headline is 8 Bayfield school candidates debate at forum. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

As a decisive election for Bayfield School District Board of Directors approaches, the eight candidates who are vying for three open seats explained their visions for local education in a wide-ranging forum sponsored by the La Plata County League of Women Voters on Wednesday night in Town Hall.

Here’s the district’s website: Bayfield School District. Hey — Bayfield High School are the Wolverines! But you want to know what happened at the showdown in Town Hall. We’re told that three school board seats are up for grabs, and these are the candidates:

Justin Ross, Daniele Hillyer, Koel Phelps, Kristi Smith, Wendy Cox and incumbent board member Timothy Stumpf are competing for two board seats with four-year terms.

Carol Blatnick and Judy Spady are competing for a board seat with a two-year term.

We’ll skip over the issues that don’t concern us — like raising taxes and sex education. (They all said children’s participation in sex education should be up to parents, and candidate Ross said: “I think abstinence gets very little time, if any. I think that should be emphasized that you can remain pure until you’re married.”) That’s boring. Here comes the good stuff:

Asked how evolution should be taught in schools, the candidates starkly divided along cultural lines. Spady, who home-schools her children, said though she reads the Bible daily, she felt evolution and creationism should be taught in schools. Hillyer, Phelps, Cox and Ross agreed.

How wonderful! One of those geniuses — Ross, the abstinence guy — explained his position like this:

Ross said, “Evolution is a theory and a belief. It’s never been entirely proven,” and suggested “teaching intelligent design” as an alternative, letting kids ultimately decide what they believe.

But two candidates disagreed:

Stumpf [an incumbent] said he thought evolution, a science-based theory, should be taught in science classes. Smith likewise rejected creationism in classrooms, saying creationism was a religious explanation for humanity’s emergence, and therefore best taught at home.

And one other candidate responded:

Blatnick said, “I can’t believe this is still a question.”

That’s all there is to the story. We don’t know when election day is, and we don’t know if we’ll ever learn of the results, but we thought you might enjoy a glimpse into what goes on out there.

It’s messy, but that’s the system we’ve got. It’s surprising how well it seems to work, much of the time. We prefer it to having a centralized education system, because that too can become the target for ideologues, and were they to seize control, the whole country would be messed up at the same time. Decentralization is preferable, even when the results are sometimes laughable.

Addendum: That same newspaper has this later story, Bayfield school board candidate disqualified, telling us that Ross — the creationist abstinence advocate — is no longer in the race. He doesn’t live in the district.

Election results: School Board Elections Update — 06 Nov 2013.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

15 responses to “School Board Election in Durango, Colorado

  1. Retired Prof

    Interesting that a candidate who home schools her kids advocates her favored curriculum for public school students. Shouldn’t she try to persuade like-minded parents to homeschool their own offspring, rather than try to refit the public schools to their world view.

    We home schooled our children until they reached high school. I shudder to think how hard our neighbors would have come down on us if we had insisted that the school district should adopt our wide-ranging, challenging, but totally secular curriculum.

  2. Spady, who home-schools her children, said though she reads the Bible daily, she felt evolution and creationism should be taught in schools. Hillyer, Phelps, Cox and Ross agreed.”

    I wish I could bring back the Scopes-era creationists to hear that. They would say “Are you crazy? We’re trying to ban the teaching of evolution, and you want to give it equal time?!” They’d be even more irate at the Discoveroids, who don’t want creationism (they mean literal Genesis) or ID (they mean the “irreducible complexity = design” stuff) taught, but only a (bogus) “critical analysis” of evolution.

    So as much as I disagree with their desire to ban evolution, I have infinitely more respect for the Scopes-era creationists than for todays scam artists and their trained parrots. If the multiple lines of evidence converged on one of the mutually-contradictory Genesis accounts I too would be saying “teach that and not evolution.” The very fact that today’s scam artists are “settling” ought to make it perfectly clear that they, if not their trained parrots, know that they have something to hide.

  3. I have to disagree on the value of a centralized education system. I think it’s more likely that a centralized system could devise a decent educational system, than that thousands of local units might. Mark Twain nailed it when he said, “God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board.”

  4. Having a widely-shared core curriculum provides many of the benefits of a centralized school system, while still retaining local control. The advantage of a shared core curriculum becomes apparent when you consider the mobility of today’s families. A student moving to a new school system and entering sixth grade, say, can pick up right where he or she left off.

    Local school boards should be concerned with matters such as staffing levels, salaries, new construction, and choosing the top administrator(s), and leave the curriculum matters to the education professionals.

    If parents want their children to be taught bible stories, they are free to do that in their home or take the kids to Sunday School to be indoctrinated in the religious belief of their choice (The parents’ choice, that is. I’m afraid the kids don’t get a vote.) All parents should insist that the schools stick to teaching science in science classes, not religion.

  5. retiredsciguy: “All parents should insist that the schools stick to teaching science in science classes, not religion.”

    Unfortunately most parents, including most who accept evolution, just don’t know what is science and what is religion. Most would agree that teaching Bible stories is religion, but are unaware that the bogus “critical analysis” of evolution, which makes no mention of scriptural origins accounts or the existence of a Creator or designer, was determined to be a religious view. That was at Dover, where Judge Jones (a Christian and Republican, no less) was astute enough to extend his decision beyond the ID that was on trial, to the “replacement scam” that was in the works. Yet most people are still completely unaware of Dover, and still think of the 1925 “monkey trial” as “the” court case about teaching evolution.

    Teaching Bible stories in religious schools, where many students take them allegorically, is one thing. But bearing false witness about evolution, and censoring the refutations of those misrepresentations, is extremely immoral in any class, whether or not legal. In other words it’s much worse than what most people consider a “religious view.”

    My 2c on public education: I have been on the fence about it for years. But what most amazes me is how the scam artists and their trained parrots admit that they homeschool their own children (or send them to religious schools), yet seem more interested in influencing others’ children. Why don’t they just object to public school altogether (which I’m sure many do in private)? The answer is simple. They want a captive audience that they can influence at others’ expense. In other words they want handouts.

  6. I despise the home school parents who sit on public boards. It’s obvious they don’t care. They got there church or special interest group to elect them so they can enforce there agenda.
    They can screw things up and they never have to deal with the consequences.

  7. Frank J states, “My 2c on public education: I have been on the fence about it for years.

    Please keep in mind that much of the bad press we read and hear about public education is being driven by those who wish to promote vouchers. Some of the pro-voucher advocates want to get at the billions of public dollars by opening their own private academies; others are driven by a religious, anti-evolution agenda.

    Unfortunately, the record of inner-city public schools makes their propaganda easy to write, and we hear a steady drum-beat of “how horrible our public schools are.” The truth of the matter is different, however. In schools where students are held to high expectations, the students excel. A prime example is Massachusetts. I don’t have time at the moment to dig up the links, but their success was just in the news lately.

  8. I’ve been reading some of the things on voucher academies. A large portion of them have ratings below the local public schools not making them much a better choice.

  9. @Spector567

    A large portion of them have ratings below the local public schools

    Part of the reason is that in most states there is no accountability required of private schools. They don’t require licensed teachers or background checks and aren’t subject to the state’s graduation standards or open records law. The problems are compounded in religious schools. Since many states include religious schools in their voucher systems, the problem arises that the state will become entangled in the curriculum of religious schools. Until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of vouchers and religious schools, states will continue to be on their own. And until states require private schools to be accountable in the way that public schools are, private schools can pretty much do whatever they want. (And don’t get me started on homeschooling.)

  10. I just added this addendum to the original post: That same newspaper has this later story, Bayfield school board candidate disqualified, telling us that Ross — the creationist abstinence advocate — is no longer in the race. He doesn’t live in the district.

  11. I never said that I “insisted that the school district should adopt our wide-ranging, challenging, but totally secular curriculum.” Perhaps you should find out more about the viewpoints of the candidates instead of writing such garbage.

  12. Calm down, Judy. No one quoted you as saying that. Retired Prof made a comment that mentioned his own curriculum.

  13. I am quite calm and quite confident in my position on this. 🙂

    The implied message of your article (and the comment by Retired Prof) makes it sound like I am trying to push my ‘religious’ beliefs in our schools when that is, clearly, not the case.

  14. Judy, I quoted the Durango Herald, which said: “Spady, who home-schools her children, said though she reads the Bible daily, she felt evolution and creationism should be taught in schools.”

    That’s all I said about you, other than the fact that you’re running for a school board seat. If the newspaper prints a retraction, and if I learn about it, then I’ll make a retraction.

  15. Judy, why are you harping on about what Retired Prof wrote? I think you need to reread his/her comment with somewhat more focussed attention because it looks like you’ve misread or misunderstood the meaning, especially of that comment’s second paragraph.