You can’t legislate courage under fire


Tom Dunn - Contributing Columnist



I recently received a letter from a member of the Ohio House of Representatives in which I was asked for my input on education reform. Since I am not exactly a favorite of many folks in Columbus because of my rather pointed criticisms of their pathetic efforts to control education, I can only assume that this was a form letter that many other educators also received. Nonetheless, I was more than happy to tell him what I thought.

But, I wasn’t going to waste money on an envelope, stamp, and paper to provide feedback that I knew legislators really don’t care about, so I decided to email it instead. I used to take their “we care what you think” claims seriously, but I’ve been rebuffed enough by the same people asking for input to know they don’t really care what I think.

But, you know what I learned? State lawmakers, you know, those folks who brag about their belief in transparency and their interest in what their constituents believe? Those folks have an email system that restricts the number of words that can be submitted. So, apparently they are interested in what you believe as long as it can be distilled to a few hundred words or less. This ensures that any give and take will lack any meaningful depth, which is standard fare in legislative discussions.

But, not to be deterred, I emailed my response, duly chopped up into eight different emails, making it nearly impossible to construct and just as impossible, I’m sure, to read. But, a response he received.

The letter assured me that the Ohio House “has passed many policies to aid both you (the educator) and your students.” I’ve racked my brain trying to think of a single policy that has aided educators or those being educated, but I can’t come up with a single one. The letter also contained a very short description of five additional bills that were going to further improve the lives of teachers and students.

This is ironic, given the supposed interest by our legislative friends of deregulating public education. Apparently, they are deregulating it through more regulations, which seems a bit odd. But, that’s okay, because I never believed that deregulation garbage anyway.

But, I digress.

The five bills to which the legislator referred in his letter were the typical kinds of bills that educators have come to know and (not) love. One bill’s goal is to change the absolutely ridiculous current law mandating that every high school student must take and pass Algebra 2. This new bill will give students options of taking some other courses specified by the legislature instead of Algebra 2.

In other words, we’re supposed to trust that the same people who came up with the first stupid law have seen the light and have fixed it for us. They have performed this same “we’ll fix what we previously screwed up” charade more times than I can count over the years. Now, THERE’S a recipe for success.

Another of the bills highlighted in the letter will require certain public employees to undergo training in youth suicide awareness and prevention. This is approximately the four millionth mandate dictating that teachers and administrators must be trained on one topic or another. While one would be hard pressed to criticize any of the topics in which training is required, the number of hours in a day do not allow educators to become experts in all the areas now required in addition to trying to actually teach students. It can’t be done. But, that doesn’t stop our legislative friends from forging ahead with new training requirements.

But, the bill that caught my attention as much as any is the one that will “help to ensure only qualified, dedicated individuals can serve as resource officers (SRO’s; i.e., armed guards), by establishing training qualifications and requirements for SRO’s to work in school systems.”

You may remember there was an armed SRO on duty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February of this year when seventeen people were killed by a deranged gunman. The SRO remained outside the building while the carnage was unfolding inside. That SRO was a sheriff’s deputy, so one would have to assume he was adequately trained, (i.e., qualified), yet he failed to act during a horrific crisis.

At the same time, there were unarmed staff members inside the building who gave their lives trying to protect the lives of the young people they were charged with teaching. In fact, in nearly every school shooting in this country, educators have put their students’ lives ahead of their own, and it is probably safe to assume that none of them had attended training like this Ohio bill will require. You see, you can’t legislate courage under fire.

So, this whole notion that the way to solve every problem society encounters is for the government to create some skillfully worded legislation telling us what we have to do is just not true.

But, it sure sounds nice, doesn’t it?

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Tom Dunn

Contributing Columnist

Tom Dunn is the former superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.

Tom Dunn is the former superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.