On the Whitewater Schools

Today is the first of a series of posts about the upcoming, contested WUSD board elections.  Three candidates are running for two seats: Kelly Davis, Dan McCrea, and Jim Stewart.  In today’s post, I’ll summarize some of my own views.

(I’ve been direct these last several years; it makes sense to state one’s convictions plainly, so that readers will know my perspective.) 

Each of the candidates responded to an election survey, and my remarks will mostly follow the ten questions the candidates received.  It’s easier to compare everyone’s views if there’s a similar order to their remarks.  (The candidates’ replies may be found online at

One’s Motivation.  Writing is one of many diverse social obligations from which someone may choose.  It is its own thing, neither prelude nor postscript to other activities. 

To write occasionally about education is not to write about it enough; that one spends less time than one might hope on the subject shouldn’t preclude writing as often as one can. 

Philosophy of the School Board’s Role.  It is enough to oversee the daily work of a broader curriculum diligent and fairly.  This can be done without exaggeration, and where the main subjects of discussion are students over adults, teachers over principals, principals over administration, and administration over the board. 

A good rule by which to live: The higher the position, the greater the obligation, and the lower the entitlement.

There is no virtue in ceaselessly announcing oneself.  It’s a vulgar, disgusting habit.

School Board’s Relationship to the Community.  Treat all people as equals.  We are in a community with vast numbers of very sharp people, as is true in any community. 

It’s a proud delusion to believe that only a few are capable.  Delusion makes for poor policy; pride is a sin.

Some people are disadvantaged, and rightly deserve special consideration. Policymakers and commentators are not among them; they’ve no claim to special needs or entitlement.   

Experience with Budgets.  Libertarians (as I am) believe in less spending not as an end in itself, but as a path to smaller government.  We don’t want less for the sake of penny-pinching – we want less government so that there may be more liberty (believing as we do that a large government makes little room for liberty).

It’s individual liberty that matters to us, and to protect it we seek less of government; to seek less of government is to feed it less. 

Some programs, however, are more worthy than others.  To believe in less overall is not to doubt the need for priorities.

In this community, for example, I’d rather see money for schools than a single dime for some dishonest WEDC white-collar program.   (We’re wasting hundreds of thousands – millions in total – on those projects, as we did on the East Gate project, or any number of other unneeded schemes.)

That’s not our choice, now: these education cuts are statewide in scope.  It’s not if,  but how.  

A consistent philosophy shapes budgets, and assures fidelity to fundamental principles. The fragile deserve protection over the robust, and leaders should take less before workers take less.  I’ll advance particular suggestions when the district budget team issues its proposals.

Attracting Teachers.  It’s a market economy – one will have to stay at the market rate.  That sounds trite, but it’s anything but: no one in this community can counteract the broad competitive forces that draw teachers to one place over another.  Prospective employees are not children – they’ll take their best opportunities. 

(I would never have curtailed public-sector unionization, by the way – anyone should be able to organize peacefully against government.  To the extent that Act 10 has made employees less satisfied, we’ve reduced freedom of association, burdened public employers with a less motivated workforce, and made ourselves less attractive compared to public employers in other states.)

Conflict Resolution.  Whitewater’s key problem isn’t conflict, but rather an imposed, mediocre consensus.   Our forebears did not found this beautiful republic so that we might become a country of quivering mice. 

No one wants a brawl; everyone deserves more than a mediocre go-along-nice-and-quietly consensus.  We should be as talented as the country in which we happily live. 

Most Important Issue.  The budget looms largest, but we should be honest with ourselves that we are not an affluent community.  There are many struggling families with children in Whitewater.  We simply can’t budget the way that Cedarburg does, for example.  We have more children in need by percentage in Whitewater than an affluent community would.

Losing sight of this plain truth would be wrong. 

One’s Strengths.  It’s enough to work hard each day, assessing where improvement can and should be made.  One should be one’s hardest critic.  There’s no time for selling oneself. 

Common Core.  I’ve mentioned a need to discuss the curriculum, but that’s not a criticism of Common Core.  I’ve no objections to it; it seems plain to me that teaching is more than adopting Common Core or an alternative. 

Keep Common Core (by whatever name), but recognize that a set of standards is only useful if embraced with relish, with a taste and commitment and excitement.   Learning’s not a syllabus, nor even a book.  It’s the teaching of the book, so to speak, with understanding and excitement. 

The obsession with testing and measuring every last part of teaching does not impress.  It’s an ignorant person’s idea of being learned, by substituting crude measurement for deeper comprehension.

Be clear, though: there’s every reason to be critical of the flacking of scores, such as ACT scores, for political or economic gain.  A properly-educated person does not owe others their manipulations, exaggerations, or schemes for political advantage.  Funny, that it might happen concerning a school system, a place that should advance the honest use of data.

Education is more than a shabby PR scheme.  Those who take that course deserve not deference, but a rigorous critique.

An agenda, a set of testing standards, even a book is a poor substitute for being well-read, for being properly educated. 

Our Charter School. I’m a strong supporter of our charter school, and charter schools generally.  An inquiry school, for example, can offer a good education for children. 

There we are.

Tomorrow: On School Board Candidate Kelly Davis.    

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