Bruce Lear

Learning from baseball

Bruce Lear: “Swinging for the bleacher seats every time will often leave a player sitting in the dugout with a sore back. The same is true for candidates.” -promoted by Laura Belin

I love baseball. It’s a game of chess with four bases on a field instead of knights and rooks on a board. The object is to defend against runs and advance your runners around the bases. An easy game? No!

It has no clock, so the game isn’t lost until the final out at the plate or in the field. It’s slow. It’s methodical. It’s a game of statistics. The season is 162 games, so there are times of utter despair and utter joy.

James Earl Jones sums it up best in the now 30-year-old Iowa epic Field of Dreams:

“The one constant throughout the years, Ray has been baseball. America has rolled like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.”

For me, baseball is a lot like politics. Winning is based on a strategy about finding that sweet spot in a very long season. It’s slow. It’s methodical. It’s based on statistics we call polls.

This year’s crop of Democratic candidates could perhaps learn from baseball hitters through the ages. Remember, Babe Ruth led the league in home runs but also in strike outs. In politics when there is a binary choice between candidates, too many times waving or watching a fast ball or curve might get you a gig on CNN or Fox instead of the Presidency.

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Frustrated joy

Bruce Lear interviewed experienced public school teachers about their favorite parts of the job and their biggest frustrations. -promoted by Laura Belin

Have you ever spent hours putting together a large puzzle, only to find the very last piece missing? Being an educator in public education is a lot like that. It’s “frustrated joy.”

There is joy in working the puzzle; fitting the pieces and solving the problem. But there is sheer frustration when there is one missing piece that would make it whole. For educators, that one missing piece is a political system that truly partners to complete the picture.

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Dear Iowans: Teacher patience is running out

Bruce Lear worries despairing teachers may resort to illegal strikes if Iowans don’t recognize “public schools are a precious resource worth the fight.” -promoted by Laura Belin

I thought about just writing politicians, but frankly, this is too important to leave for political gamesmanship. I’m writing this open letter to sound the alarm. To put you on notice. I’m writing as a public service so we can all avoid what is coming.

It’s a storm warning.

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Three words

Bruce Lear helped negotiate educator contracts for 27 years as a regional director for the Iowa State Education Association. -promoted by Laura Belin

After February 16, 2017, I heard three words across the bargaining table that sent chills up my spine and tears to my eyes.

We were bargaining at a community college. The college had made an initial proposal to eliminate all provisions of the Master Contract except the base wage. We pushed to hear why. After all, those provisions had been in place for over 30 years, and they worked for both parties.

We didn’t get an answer. We pushed harder and a little louder. Still, there was silence from the other side. Finally, forgetting about everything except getting an answer, I used my undiplomatic voice and shouted, “We expect an answer, and we expect it now!”

The outburst was met with eye averted silence. Finally, in a voice barely above a whisper, the human resource director said, “Because we can.”

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When being fair isn't an Iowa value

Bruce Lear: Lately, I am struck with how Iowa values are eroding before our eyes. -promoted by Laura Belin

Three college guys decided to head to my hometown of Shellsburg, Iowa for a weekend. We threw three bags of dirty laundry in the trunk for my unsuspecting Mom, and we left Pella in Carl’s very used Toyota. In 1977, Toyotas in Iowa were about as rare as a Democrat in Pella. There were some, but they were hard to spot.

Things went fine, until it died. It was not a prolonged death with symptoms. It was sudden. We were three guys with a dead car on a county road outside of Kellogg, Iowa. We knew a lot. After all, we were sophomores in college. Unfortunately, our sophomore smarts didn’t extend to fixing dead Toyotas.

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It's a symbol

Bruce Lear reflects on the federal government shutdown, drawing on 30-plus years of experience negotiating educator contracts. -promoted by Laura Belin

For some, symbols are more important than solutions. Sound bites outrank substance, and winning will trump a wall any day.

This fight isn’t about a wall. It’s about a symbol to gin a gullible base. In President Donald Trump’s mind, it’s win-win. If he doesn’t get his wall, he has the symbol of the wall. If he does, he can brag, “Look at that big beautiful wall I built for you.” It’s a narcissist’s dream. It’s the public’s nightmare.

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