To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Monday, April 22, 2024

Observercast

Clear Choices In Stillwater

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BY BOB DARCY

On Tuesday, April 2, voters in the Stillwater school district will elect a school board member. There are two candidates, Dr. Shelia Means and Dr. Gay Washington. Each has excellent character, is hard-working, has effectively held positions of responsibility, and is sincerely centered on what is best for pupils. But their campaign presentations have been anodyne. Hot button topics have been avoided.

Schools offer more than the rural 19th Century Three Rs – Reading, Ritin’ and ‘Rithmatic. Civic education has expanded beyond patriotism. Good citizenship now includes tolerance, understanding and appreciation of diversity. Why?

Consider: Oklahoma is 9th in the nation in percent of a single mother households with children; 2nd in the nation in divorce rate. Same sex marriage is legal. About 3.8% of Oklahomans identify as LGBTQ, 38% of these are with children. Many teens identify as nonbinary or trans.

Life for these teens is difficult. A trans Owasso High School student, Nex Benidict, experienced bullying all term. After recent bathroom violence Benedict died by suicide. Gender affirmation shows nonbinary teenagers they are accepted and supported. Nonbinary children and those from single-mother, divorced or gay families are in our public schools.

Fisticuffs, hazing, harmless cruelty, clever pranks, ethnic and sexual slurs were part of my 1940s-1950s school experience. In older movies a father will show his son how to stand up for himself – go right up to the bully and smash a fist into his face. In the ‘40s and ‘50s, that was accepted. Today not.

Can Oklahoma rely on parents to teach sexuality? Not always. Oklahoma has the nation’s 4th highest teen pregnancy rate. Pregnancy in high school is difficult. Our schools teach human sexuality because too many teens have poor understanding of their powerful drives.

What schools can do and not do is governed by fiscal reality, state and federal law, court decisions, professional standards, and agency mandates.

Gay Washington is a retired Stillwater teacher and school administrator.  Washington, having long worked within these limitations, is skilled at navigating them. If the state requires a Ten Commandments poster in classrooms, there will be no trouble from her. If a parent or citizen complains about the absence or presence of such a poster, I anticipate Washington will meet with the parent and lay out the relevant regulations. The parent’s problem may be with the Legislature or courts. Further, I anticipate Washington is prepared to quietly discuss why schools do as they do, that while Catholic schools are free to mandate a portrait of the Pope in classrooms, for example, public schools are not. Compromise and accommodation within the possible will be her approach. She seems to have the patience and intelligence to explain education policy to a parent.

Shelia Means, to my mind, is a change agent. For me the 2020 Oklahoma Republican Party platform encapsulates her views. Christianity is basic to our nation’s founding, our Constitution and our principles. That we are a Christian nation must be taught in public schools. Biblical creation and intelligent design must receive equal funding, class time, and materials with biological evolution.  The Bible can be brought into classrooms as history and or literature. “The traditional family unit, consisting of a [husband] man, [wife] woman, and child[ren] is the foundation of our social structure … [schools] should uphold and teach this definition.”

As regard human sexuality we read: “… parents must maintain the right and responsibility to educate their children regarding sexuality and sexual conduct …  sexual abstinence is the only safe way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, and pregnancy …  the portrayal of homosexual or promiscuous behavior in a positive light in public schools [is opposed] … [along with] any non-chromosomal gender re-education and the teaching of LGBTQ lifestyle, history, and demonstration in public schools.” The public has a duty to monitor books and instruction to ensure compliance. The platform opposes “the designation of public schools as “gun free zones.” Dr. Means has the patience and intelligence to explain these policies to a parent.

So, voters have a real choice.

Bob Darcy is a retired Oklahoma State University political science and statistics professor.

Mark Krawczyk
Mark Krawczyk
March 9, 2023
Exceptional reporting about goings on in my home state as well as informative opinion pieces that makes people think about issues of the day...........get a SUBSCRIPTION FOLKS!!!!!!!
Brette Pruitt
Brette Pruitt
September 5, 2022
The Observer carries on the "give 'em hell" tradition of its founder, the late Frosty Troy. I read it from cover to cover. A progressive wouldn't be able to live in a red state without it.