Bruce Lear

Iowa is being led off a cliff

Bruce Lear: What once were fringe ideas have become mainstream in the GOP echo chamber.

When I was at Central College in Pella during the mid-1970s, the Lemming Race was born in honor of the furry little rodent that strangely follows its leader right off a cliff.  

Here’s how the race works. A group of costumed racers gather at the library, run to the pond in the center of campus, and jump in. If onlookers get too close to the edge, they’re pulled in too. The race is led by a Grand Lemming, nominated and elected in some mysterious way. It was fun, harmless, and now a Homecoming event going strong for over 40 years.

I was again reminded of that Central tradition when I watched a self-satisfied Governor Kim Reynolds deliver her Condition of the State speech to a chamber packed with legislative lemmings willing to take Iowa off that cliff.

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Words ignited a storm that threatens us all

Bruce Lear: In order to protect democracy, it’s important to study the words of the past, the present, and the future.

They say, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” This child’s rhyme is cute, but wrong.  

Words wound personally, and words were a catalyst for a political lie that morphed into a January 6 storm threatening all future democratic elections.

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The obscene attacks on Iowa's public schools

Bruce Lear reviews how Republican-backed laws have adversely affected Iowa schools.

There’s some real obscenity in Iowa public schools, but it’s not the kind Iowa Senate President Jake Chapman has been ranting about.

Speaking in November at a packed school district meeting in Johnston, Chapman complained about two books and said he is drafting a bill to create a felony offense for distributing what he considers to be obscene material. Never mind that Iowa already has a number of laws about the distribution of real pornography. Chapman sees a need to single out teachers and librarians for making books he doesn’t like available to high school students. 

Like most wannabe book banners, Chapman probably hasn’t read the supposedly offensive books. He is also using public schools (which should unite communities) to further divide us.  

No, the obscenity is not in these books that Chapman doesn’t like. The real obscenity is what Republican legislators have done to Iowa schools. Here are some examples of the attacks on public schools, which are emptying classrooms of dedicated, teachers. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stewart Potter famously said when deciding a pornography case, “I know it when I see it.” Let’s review the GOP’s record toward public schools and teachers.

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The 1776 Pledge is a pledge of division

Bruce Lear: Pretend patriots are afraid to let students understand all of American history so they can make informed judgments.

When a girl or boy joins the Scouts, they pledge to be a part of a troop and a part of the community of scouting. When a college student joins a sorority or fraternity, they make a positive pledge to be a part of something. We pledge allegiance to the flag as a community of Americans.    

But not all pledges are positive. Some drive a wedge between us. The 1776 Pledge isn’t about building a community. It’s more like a tool to mold public schools into a political prop instead of a place of learning.

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Stop bringing a white paper to a knife fight

Bruce Lear: Democratic candidates need to sharpen their messages around education going into the 2022 elections.

During the recent governor’s election in Virginia, Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe told the truth, but it sounded like hell to parents. McAuliffe said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” He was so right, but his Republican opponent made it sound so wrong. It wasn’t the only reason he lost, but it was a big factor.

In a world of one-minute answers, his political opponent Glenn Youngkin was able to pounced on the comment and twist it to say, “McAuliffe believes parents should have no say in their child’s education.” McAuliffe was left trying to explain, “I didn’t mean that.” It was too little, too late.

Why should anyone but political junkies care about an election in Virginia? Because making public education into a wedge issue is now part of the GOP playbook for the next election. In some races, Republicans will flirt enough with Donald Trump to court his base, but won’t go full Trump. In other deep red races, they’ll fully embrace their hero. 

But no matter what race, GOP candidates will try to use public education as a hammer to stun their opponent. So one thing’s for sure: Democrats need to sharpen their messages around education, or they’ll face a red tide that will drown them. 

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Substitute teachers are important members of the education family

Bruce Lear: It’s time schools started making recruiting and retaining substitute teachers a priority instead of an afterthought.

Remember those days in junior high when class is about to start? The bell rings, and in walks a teacher no one knows. It takes only seconds for the junior high mind, which struggled yesterday to add single digits, to calculate if this substitute is one that can be goofed on. You know, things like switching seats, making up fake names, and generally testing classroom boundaries. It’s mostly harmless, but stuff not tried with the “regular teacher.”

That was then—this is now.

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