If it sounds too good to be true...

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to Iowa’s public schools for 38 years. He taught for eleven years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association regional director for 27 years until retiring. Bruce took the photo above, of a Branson attraction that’s not what it seems.

We’d been driving a few hours. The warning signs were flashing, backs aching, bladders full. Time to stop. We were on an anniversary trip to Branson, Missouri. Branson is the Las Vegas of the Ozarks. But think Vegas sans gambling, and with an added “heapin helpin” of southern, family, values.

Just before Branson, we saw a huge sign screaming “Discount Show Tickets Here.” My wife craves discounts, and those warning signs persisted. We stopped.

Little did we know as we stepped from the car to the building, we were entering THE TIME-SHARE ZONE. In the time-share zone, nothing is what it seems, and everything is too good to be true. 

A smiling man met us with an iPad. He casually asked us where we were from and our names. In a few taps, he must have found we weren’t complete paupers. He gave us a list of possible shows to choose.

A light bulb flashed in my head, “What’s the catch? This isn’t a time-share, is it? 

In too good to be true fashion, he never answered. Instead, he described the hottest shows. After some prodding, he admitted we could only have the discounts if we’d agree to listen to vacation opportunities. We sure didn’t have to buy. Just listen. No mention of time-shares, dirty words in the zone.

After an hour we escaped with our bribes and a promise to be held captive for a 90-minute presentation the next morning.

The next morning, I skipped breakfast to make myself captivity mean. The first salesperson was a nice guy from Kingsley, Iowa. Was it a coincidence? They denied we’d been matched. We knew.

He was cordial and laid out the points. We then heard a group presentation laced with jokes and beautiful photos of beautiful places. All within our reach. If an audience member frowned or looked bored, he called you out by name by asking a question. We were both called out.

From there, we went back and met the Kingsley guy’s harder edged manager. By then, I’d had enough bad coffee to kick start my negotiator mode. I showed my impatience by checking my phone to see how long was left and to make it clear we wouldn’t spend a minute longer. I asked, “Why are there hundreds of groups dedicated to helping people escape from time-shares?”    

It was like farting in Sunday school.

With a growl in his voice, he scowled and assured, “That was the old-style plan.”

We started edging out with five minutes to go. The last guy offered us one final chance for multiple beautiful vacations, and when I said no, his demeanor morphed from sunny salesman to a demeanor akin to a Trump/DeSantis blend.

Being held captive in the time-share zone reminded me of Iowa politics. Governor Kim Reynolds and her legislative minions are selling something too good to be true, and like a couple of naive travelers, Iowa seems ready to believe. 

Here are questions to break out of political captivity.

  • There’s a reason the word “Community” is in most public school districts’ names. Do we really want to destroy public schools, by chronic underfunding and with a governor and state director of education who worships at the private school altar?
  • Everyone believes parents should be an integral part of their children’s education. But do we really want parents dictating the day-to-day curriculum decisions and running the school based on their own political ideology? Which parents should be in charge?
  • We want to protect all kids. But doesn’t parental choice include parents of LGBTQ kids? Having “know-it-all politicians” instead of doctors and parents making critical medical decisions is dangerous and bigoted. 
  • Parents should be able to monitor the books their kids read. But do we really want parents to make decisions about what books all children should read? Moms for Liberty should be more concerned about the real pornography on kids’ parent funded cell phones rather than pretend there’s pornography in school libraries and classrooms.
  • School choice sounds great. But should public tax dollars be used for private schools when most rural parents have no choice within driving distance, there’s no fiscal accountability with a private company handling the process, and no one knows what this new entitlement will really cost?
  • We all want school boards to represent the community. But do we really want school board meetings devolving into partisan wars over books and how to treat vulnerable LQBTQ kids instead of discussing real issues?

Reynolds and her followers have become carnival barkers for the culture wars instead of leaders solving real problems. They’ve gone so far to the right; they can’t see the middle. Just like in the time-share zone, they can’t tell the truth, because the truth will cause Iowans to run from captivity no matter how good the pitch sounds.

How do we escape? We ask tough questions, and if we don’t get straight answers, we escape by using our common sense and our vote.

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