2013 Okie Funk In Review, Part One

(Okie Funk is running excerpts this week and next week of posts published throughout 2013. Click on the title to read the entire post. It’s difficult for me to believe, but Okie Funk is fast approaching its tenth anniversary in May. Thanks for following this site, and I wish you and yours a happy holiday season.—Kurt Hochenauer)

Oklahoma Students Are Not Ford Pintos, January 3, 2013

Satirical image of Walter Cronkite

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.—from “This Be The Verse” by Philip Larkin

The new A to F grading system for Oklahoma public schools is a concerted conservative effort to defund education, break or weaken teacher unions and shift taxpayers’ money to private schools.

As I’ve argued in the past, Oklahoma Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi and her supporters actually CRAVE so-called “failing” schools so they can close them or “fix” them or parade them proudly in front of the public school executioners as examples of the progressive error. It’s a negative, abusive system designed to demoralize people, including abused children themselves. One of its insidious intentions is to create unnecessary chaos and problems, which shift attention away from teaching and learning.

All this seems so obvious to me and the conservative case on A to F is so disingenuous that it’s difficult to immerse myself in the particulars of the so-called “debate” over whether such a reductionist system has any real-world value or whether those who champion such a system care one bit about public education.

Nonetheless, I find myself compelled to do so because of yet another inane editorial on the topic by The Oklahoman, a newspaper that actually pays people to write opinion pieces that would earn big fat F’s in any decent college freshman composition class in the state. It’s a decent living, I guess, if you’re challenged intellectually and have absolutely no conscience.

The editorial, titled “More creative thinking about Oklahoma's A-F grading system for schools” (Dec. 31, 2012), is a response to a piece published on the Oklahoma Policy Institute site by Oklahoma City University economics professor Jonathan Willner. The professor outlines a cogent argument and runs the numbers on an issue that, to me, seems obvious: The A to F grading system for schools here is affected on a major level by students’ parents, their overall home lives and their socioeconomic status.

Oklahoma House Committee Will Consider Anti-Science Bill, February 18, 2013

Image of Oklahoma State Capitol and church

An Oklahoma bill that would open the door for sustained attacks on the scientific method and the teaching of evolution in the state’s public schools is scheduled to be considered by a House committee Tuesday.

House Bill 1674, sponsored by Gus Blackwell, a Laverne Republican, is modeled after laws recently passed in Tennessee and Louisiana and rejected in other states. The bill claims that teaching topics such as evolution and global warming “can cause controversy” and administrators should “assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies.”

The bill will be considered by the House Common Education Committee at 10:30 a.m. at the Oklahoma State Capitol Building in Room 412-C. Here is more information about the meeting and contact information for the committee members. The National Center for Science Education and Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, among other groups, deeply oppose the legislation, which would result in the dumbing down of our state’s public school students.

Called the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act,” HB 1674 is about anything but education and academic freedom. Topics such as evolution and global warming are absolutely not controversial within the world’s broader scientific community. The intention of the bill, as I've written before, is obviously to discredit prevailing science and allow pseudo-scientific ideas or just plain quackery, such as intelligent design “theory,” to be presented in classrooms as valid subjects.

The “teach the controversy” approach is by now an established right-wing political gesture, one that manufactures a false crisis and then makes that crisis a focal point for ulterior reasons, such as Christian proselytizing.

The teaching of evolution, in particular, has long been attacked in this country by people with right-wing religious views. HB 1674 is simply a continuation of this attack. Evolution theory, in its most simple definition, argues the world changes or evolves through time. Some right-wing religious people see that as a major contradiction of Christian Biblical scripture.

T.W. Shannon: Government Addicts Should Get Married, March 13, 2013

Image of T.W. Shannon

House Speaker T.W. Shannon continues to play to the GOP base here. Doesn’t he have better things to do? Does he feel politically insecure among Republicans?

This session, Shannon, pictured right, has sponsored House Bill 1908, which would use money from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to fund money for a campaign to promote marriage, and House Bill 1909, which would require so-called “able-bodied recipients” of food stamps, with some exceptions, to engage in at least 20 hours of work per week.

In other words, get married and get a job, folks. The problem here, of course, is that marriage is not always a panacea—it can actually be a detriment for many people in an abusive relationship—and not all people can find work right now, even part-time jobs. HB 1909 does make exceptions for people who have children or have disabilities, and it’s limited to people from 18 to 50.

Both bills have passed the House.

Shannon’s bills are just two of several bills this session playing into stereotypes about people who receive public assistance. The stereotype of the “welfare queen,” someone who cheats the system and has it easy while the rest of us work so hard, has been a stable mythology of GOP politics since President Ronald Reagan in 1976. It just isn’t true.