Get ready to march. It’s that bad, folks!

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association.

Yes, brace yourself. Governor Kim Reynolds has given every indication she wants on the national stage. Anything to get out of Iowa before public schools are shuttered, hog sh*t clogs the Raccoon, drinking water costs more than gas, and the last of the state’s topsoil flows into the sea.

Give Reynolds credit. She’s ridden unbridled ambition, a particle of intellect, a nod from her predecessor Terry Branstad, MAGA hysteria, the Iowa State Fair, and Herculean bullheadedness into Terrace Hill. And she’s stayed there by pushing the red-state agenda that plagues all of America, and has seemingly put ordinary people into a deep stupor. 

Too bad COVID-19 spores were so tiny. If they’d have hopped around like fleas, ordinary people would have made Doc Fauci king of Iowa, masked up, got vaxxed (five times), and stayed home or whatever without being asked. The problem is the damn buggers were invisible to the naked eye, so ordinary people were sucked in by Reynolds’ increasing defiance of science.

And, the governor blamed “liberals” when the pandemic kept ordinary people’s kids at home under foot, and not corralled in classrooms learning their ABCs. Even then, COVID deaths in the USA totaled well over a million. The death toll has surpassed 10,000 in Iowa. But as things turned out, it was a win-win for Reynolds and the decades-old movement to undermine public schools.

Anya Kamenetz’ fine piece in The New York Times points to this unanticipated impact of COVID on pubic schooling. As she tells it, the original mission of public schools—to be for everyone where children of different class backgrounds learn together—is under particular threat. Extended school closures during the pandemic, Kamenetz says, effectively “broke the social compact of universal, compulsory schooling.” (Kamenetz is the author of The Stolen Year: How Covid Changed Children’s Lives, and Where We Go Now.)

Reynolds then moved quickly beyond masks and vaccines. First, she revived her long-sought school “choice” plan. Then, like other red state governors, she called for a counterproductive, euphemistically entitled, “parents’ rights” plan. And finally, she landed haymakers on young adult library books, especially those chronicling the life experiences of LBGTQ youth.

All this hysteria is reminiscent of the infamous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, where science teacher John Thomas Scopes defended his teaching of evolution. That controversy is long dead except in the minds of radical right-wingers, like U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who said she does not “believe in evolution,” adding, “I don’t believe in that type of so-called science.” Apparently, neither does Reynolds.

When ordinary people are finally WOKE to the bamboozle, it will be with a snarl. And MAGA hats will be a dime a dozen. 

Yes, it’s taken way too long. But Fox News fortifies its fabrications with a daily dose of hypnotic buzz. You would have thought the museum of Trump revelations would have jolted ordinary people back to reality, but they’ve (we’ve) partied on — healthcare, education, and the environment be damned.

Anyway, Reynolds is making noise for 2024. She’ll have to compete with the big dogs in her party, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. (“Where WOKE goes to die.”) She seems to be putting all her nuts in one basket, especially the evangelicals who hate lessons in diversity, America’s history, Blacks or gays and books about them.

Even after the election—and right up to this year’s Condition of the State—the media saw her peddling a small package of “school choice,” one for a few thousand under-privileged children of the poor who were, in reality, unlikely candidates for Iowa’s costly private schools. Smoke and mirrors.

Big noise in 2024, however, can’t come from a puny “choice” plan. She found that out over the past two years. Then, her plan left out country kids, her rural allies said. Other red states were going big—Arizona the most recent, with vouchers for any parent willing to pull her kid out of a public school.

If big bucks are to go to parents (Reynolds no doubt thought), it should be to those who already send their kids to private (mostly religious) schools. That’s a really Big Bang, shifting millions from public schools to her supporters’ pockets. Instead of driving the family van to Florida, these parents can use the extra cash to fly to Cancun for spring break.

A big move like this gets Reynolds noticed, even if it puts Iowans in peril (read Kamenetz’s book). The public schools of yore would be no more. If you care about public education but are waiting to fight back … just don’t.

Think instead about a non-violent rebuke of Reynolds to curb her malevolent vision. Both MLK (“I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness”) and John Lewis (“good trouble”) would endorse an ordinary people’s MARCH FOR KNOWLEDGE — one that started simultaneously in Keokuk and Dubuque and Sioux City and Council Bluffs — and landed in Des Moines, maybe at Terrace Hill just as Reynolds is sitting down with a copy of “In Trump’s Shadow: The Battle for 2024 and the Future of the GOP.”

Or, it could be a caravan of cars that grows in each town it passed through. I could see 10,000 Honking and Hooting for Justice. Remember 75,000 fans go to a college football game on Saturdays, and 90 percent of Iowa kids attend public schools. Think ordinary people would like their Friday night high school games cancelled because the community has lost its school?

A caravan would be fun. It would make a statement about the GOP’s anti-education, anti-ordinary people agenda—and that Reynolds is a whippersnapper. Just do it.

Top image by Clarence Alford from Pixabay.

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected to remove a reference to the governor potentially drinking wine. The author and Bleeding Heartland did not intend to imply that Kim Reynolds occasionally consumes alcohol.

About the Author(s)

Gerald Ott