Daily Bread for 3.25.23: The Whitewater School Board Election (4)

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be snowy with a high of 39. Sunrise is 6:47 AM and sunset 7:13 PM for 12h 25m 35s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 17.3% of its visible disk illuminated.

 On this day in 1995, WikiWikiWeb, the world’s first wiki, and part of the Portland Pattern Repository, is made public by Ward Cunningham.

There’s a concern in the Whitewater Unified School District of twenty thousand that only dozens of voices are heard. That concern appeared as a question at the March 11th school board candidates’ forum:

Question 1, 19:31: Are you committed to a yearly survey of families, students, graduates, community residents, faculty and staff about what they see as major strengths or shortcomings of the district and its schools. And are you committed to publicly sharing the results?

It’s true that a survey would have to be prepared professionally, with questions crafted plainly and without ambiguity. A serious survey requires serious design and distribution, and neither the school board nor Whitewater’s superintendent & administrators are skilled in the task. If there are to be annual surveys, and that’s a good idea, then they should be designed and disseminated with a professional standard of care. Whitewater can find the money for the work as she’s found (wasted, truly) money for less important work

Let’s assume, then, that they’ll be able to check the cushions at the district’s Central Office and scrape together what a proper survey requires. 

Question 1 of the candidates’ forum will then lead to something like Question 1A: How will the district treat the results of its properly-crafted survey? 

There is a difference between an accurate gauge of residents’ sentiments and receiving those sentiments as a mandate. If families, students, graduates, community residents, faculty, and staff demand action, must the district comply? 

The populists are one’s legitimate concern here. First, they habitually claim a majority position where it does not exist, so a poorly worded survey will allow them to exaggerate support for their positions. Second, they are intemperate by disposition, and see what they want to see. Along these lines, see Defining Populism and Extreme Populism Presents as Trolling. 

When the populists falsely insist that they are a majority, or when they demand action against viewpoints they dislike even if they are a majority, how will officials in this community respond? 

These aren’t simply educational questions. They are questions of law and political philosophy. 

Should the two center-right candidates (Stephanie Hicks and Christy Linse) in this race prevail (and they’ve a solid chance), then they will be under enormous pressure to go much further in action than any statements they, themselves, have made. The populist candidate (Chuck Mills) in this race has already made clear what he wants. 

A bit here about expression from principle: the positions that this libertarian blogger takes publicly are the positions that I hold privately. It might have seemed easier to some over the years to trim my sails to accommodate others. No, and no again. It would not have been easier. If every other of fourteen thousand in the city, or twenty thousand in the district, held contrary views, still I would hold fast if deliberation and reflection led me to opposition. It would be impossible for me to sleep well otherwise. There’s nothing special about my view on holding fast. All people who take political positions should decide for themselves how far they will go, yet no further. 

It weighs on my mind that others in this city, individuals expressing their natures (however different from mine), may see their rights under law swept away at the hands of an insatiable populism. This city is beautiful yet troubled, this district is beautiful yet troubled. The populists will make these troubles seem slight as against the actions they will demand against vulnerable individuals in the name (falsely invoked) of majoritarianism. 

Another question from the candidates’ forum makes this risk plain. That’s a subject all its own, for tomorrow.

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