Gerald Ott

Posts 24 Comments 152

Immigration extremists rule red states

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

Well, well. The 2024 State of the Union is behind us. As I expected, President Joe Biden was ready and roaring to enter the fray. He tackled his opponent in the proverbial end zone and brushed aside MAGA supporters as if they were linebackers on a junior high school squad. As expected, the southern border was center stage, amidst a gazillion other gigantic topics.

Given that most Americans thought Biden would slump into a stupor while standing behind the podium, they must have been astounded that exactly the opposite happened. Vice President Kamala Harris seemed thrilled, smiling and clapping like a cheerleader at a National Championship Game. U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson looked puzzled and confused, turning from glum to dispirited to angry with each tick of the clock.

Continue Reading...

No malarkey! The State of the Union is this Thursday

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

Mark your calendars for the State of the Union this Thursday, March 7. Get your TVs tuned up. Gather the kids. Sit back. See Marjorie Taylor Greene swallow her tongue. Watch Speaker Mike Johnson break his gavel. See Vice President Kamala Harris spank Jim Jordan’s Freedom Caucus. It’ll be wild.

President Joe Biden will say the state of the union is good. He’ll be right. In fact, on many fronts, the state of the union is great. The trouble is, too few voters believe that, and many are swayed by former President Donald Trump’s preposterous claims or the hypnotic trance he’s placed them in.

Continue Reading...

The word “groomer” has become a slur

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

Want to be called a “groomer”? Try reading a library book like Teach Her a Lesson, a new thriller by attorney Kate Flora. Flora “peels back the horror of a teacher being falsely accused by a student of initiating a long-standing sexual relationship.” So says reviewer Frank O Smith. It would seem a book only for teachers and parents, but it’s not. It could easily and appropriately find its way into a school library (excerpt). I hope it does.

Or try recommending The Passing Playbook on a public Facebook page. It’s a new young adult novel by Isaac Fitzsimmons (excerpt). Book reviewer Alaina Leary says Fitzsimmons explores privilege, identity, the complicated relationships we create through family and friends, and discovering the potential our voices have with charm and passion. 

“Teens everywhere will love this one,” says one review. Meaning Moms for Liberty would likely hate it. Says Leary, “It’s about fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris, a proud nerd, an awesome big brother, and a David Beckham (British soccer champion) in training. He’s also transgender.”

Hands down, the term “groomer” has become a slur, as foul as the “N” word or “f*g.” Its frequent use, as an insult, is often meant to imply teachers are potential sex offenders. Ironically, House File 2056 would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work unsupervised in child care centers while caring for children under age 5.

Continue Reading...

Biden's message: “Democracy will be on the ballot!”

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

“Today, we’re here to answer the most important of questions,” President Joe Biden said in Valley Forge on January 5. “Is democracy still America’s sacred cause? I mean it.”

There is that feeling I can get, maybe like a quiver, not something in my head, but in my whole body, when I hear words so striking, so uplifting, so clear in their articulation of truth, that I know I’ve heard greatness and grace at the same time. That’s how I felt watching the president deliver his speech last week.

I hope every American heard the president’s speech at Valley Forge. “This is not rhetorical, academic, or hypothetical,” he said. “Whether democracy is still America’s sacred cause is the most urgent question of our time, and it’s what the 2024 election is all about.”

Continue Reading...

Is our governor dismantling Iowa?

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

Marilynne Robinson has been called “America’s greatest living writer.” When she calls out Iowa’s governor over our state’s new education policies, we need to pay heed.

Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson, Ph.D., is professor emeritus in the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop (1991-2016). She continues to live in Iowa City where she writes, plans her lectures, and attends to worship at the Congregational United Church of Christ

She is the author of the Pulitzer-winning novel Gilead (2004) and four other novels, all my favorites, plus hundreds of essays, lectures, and collections. Her four novels in the Gilead series were selected as a set for Oprah’s Book Club in 2021.

Continue Reading...

Iowa political reaction to the crisis in Israel and Gaza

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association. Laura Belin contributed some reporting to this article.

Like all Iowans of good will, I was painfully alerted to the Hamas invasion of Israel on October 7. Many have compared the events to the 9/11 al-Qaeda terrorist attack, in both its surprise and savagery. The scale of deaths and human loss is enormous; Israel’s total population is around 9 million.

The United States and European Union have designated Hamas a terrorist organization because of its armed resistance against Israel. Hamas has sponsored years of suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israel, claiming Jewish presence in Palestine is illegitimate, which is counter-historical and denied by the United States.

Continue Reading...

Ron Reagan's message would surprise Linn County Republicans

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

The image at the top of this post comes from the Linn County Republicans’ graphic promoting their upcoming October fundraiser. The event is billed as a Reagan Breakfast starting at 7:00 AM. We all know Reagan won’t be there. The former president, never one to get up that early, has been dead for nearly 20 years. 

A Reagan impersonator, the self-described MAGA presidential candidate Larry Elder, is the guest speaker. 

Continue Reading...

When are Iowa students old enough to read books?

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association. Top photo of Ta-Nehisi Coates speaking at Oregon State University on February 2, 2017 is by Theresa Hogue, available via Wikimedia Commons.

Steve Corbin made a solid point his latest column (published in Bleeding Heartland and later in the Cedar Rapids Gazette): “Many of today’s GOP-oriented governors and legislators, far rightwing groups, conservative media and Republican presidential candidates have either passed or supported book banning, anti-LGBTQIA and laws prohibiting teaching about racism.” 

“It’s a blatant attack on … the rights of students, parents, teachers, general public and book authors,” wrote Corbin. 

Corbin’s point is well-taken, and others have said the same, but action or litigation to blunt the attack is nonexistent. Where are the fair-minded parents, politicians, students, teachers, et al whose outrage could demand instructional integrity and curtail naive book bans? 

Continue Reading...

They’re not coming for our kids, Governor

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

Michael Stahr of Boone recently asked in a letter to the Des Moines Register, “Why won’t teachers cooperate with parents?” Aside from assuming facts not in evidence, his question is worthy of comment.

Stahr was responding to a guest column by public school educator Matt Pries, entitled “Educators should be in schools’ driver’s seat.” Stahr counters with, “A teaching certificate doesn’t mean that kids are the teacher’s. Nor are they the community’s. They are the parent’s.”

Stahr is not alone in harboring the “who owns kids” nonsense. The best answer is that a child belongs to him/herself or their selves. Parents are their kid’s first teachers, but youngsters get guidance along the way from friends and every other person they meet, especially teachers.

Unfortunately, Governor Kim Reynolds used the scary phrase “They’re coming for our kids” in her speech to Moms for Liberty last February. She wasn’t referring to the yellow buses that pick up kids each morning.

Continue Reading...

Stay WOKE to America

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

Before critical race theory (CRT) was named and studied in universities and used to frame legal arguments (and fell into disrepute among Republicans), I learned enough to qualify me as WOKE, at least on a scale with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds—a low bar, I admit. 

It’s a bold claim, one based mainly on the fortuitous experiences of my youth, all before Iowa’s governor was born. 

As we know, Reynolds was born and reared in Iowa. She graduated from I-35 High School in 1977, and entered a typical middle-class life of occasional college classes, marriage, children, parenthood, jobs, and local politics beginning in the Clarke County treasurer’s office during the 1990s. She was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2008.

Continue Reading...

Iowa parents, wake up and save your schools!

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

The headline of the May 27 Bleeding Heartland post was jarring and depressing. 

When Laura Belin wrote, “Iowa schools may never recover from the 2023 legislative session,” she predicted a bleak future for Iowa and its youngsters. Devastatingly so, because these same youngsters, mostly public school students, will soon sit on school boards and in the Capitol chambers or governor’s office being charged with carrying forward the state’s business into the second half of the 21st century.

Initially, Laura takes her readers back to the glory days of Governor Robert Ray (in office 1969-1983) when refugees were welcomed and progressive legislation for public schools, students, and their teachers not only seemed possible, but actually passed. 

Continue Reading...

Is there a “red line”?

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

FOX News canned Tucker Carlson last month. I didn’t watch his TV show, but I’ve seen enough segments to recognize his face and, eight of ten times, recall his name. The New Republic provided a sampler of what it described as his “fascist” commentary. Not pretty.

As soon as I heard the news, I started asking myself if Carlson had ever appeared in Iowa. I assumed he had.

Carlson was in Des Moines as recently as July 2022. I found a 26-photo gallery in the Des Moines Register chronicling his appearance at the FAMiLY Leadership Summit, hosted by The FAMiLY Leader and its founder/president-for-life Bob Vander Plaats. How I missed that story, I’ll never know. Every Republican of note is pictured, with Governor Kim Reynolds speaking and looking on, her face frozen in an expression of fond admiration.

Continue Reading...

New education bill is a Frankenstein monster

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

What started as Governor Kim Reynolds’ bad idea has become worse. Her “parents’ rights” bill, passed by Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate, is back to the Senate because the versions differ. A committee of both may take up the bills—keeping the worst, I’m sure.

Des Moines Register reporter Katie Akin correctly characterized the House-approved version of Senate File 496 as “a Frankenstein-like education bill.” It’s like saying a giraffe has a long neck, a pig has a full stomach, or a shark has sharp teeth.

This monster has bite, and it chews an arm and leg off public education, educators, and each local school’s historic purposes and practices.

Continue Reading...

What the stamen said to the pistil

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

I read in the Cedar Rapids Gazette that Iowa Senate Education Committee chair Ken Rozenboom told his colleagues, “We want everyone to be clear about the role that parents have in their child’s education.”

Rozenboom was floor managing Senate File 496, the wide-ranging education bill that originally came from the governor’s office. The Senate approved the bill March 22 on a party-line vote of 34 to sixteen. It’s now pending in the House Education Committee.

Among many provisions, the bill bans books that include a sex act (emphasis added). Erin Murphy reported for the Gazette,

Continue Reading...

Trump's got no education (policy)

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

Former President Donald Trump came to Iowa on March 13 and was supposed to give a talk on education policy. That proved to be false advertising. 

A glowing Governor Kim Reynolds was there to do the welcome. When the man finally appeared from behind the curtain, he looked a bit like a grizzly bear just coming out of hibernation. The governor was rewarded with a hug and a smooch, quite a trick for a 76-year-old orange hulk—one who’s waving his hand, trying to appear athletic and still stay erect. Give the man credit where due.

I listened to his whole (and I mean 90-minutes whole) speech on C-SPAN, waiting to hear how he’d make every kid an Einstein, but with no luck. Not even close — except (as per all red states) to put education in the hands of parents and ban any sexual, race-based or political content from being taught in schools. 

Continue Reading...

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. 

Continue Reading...

The caveman syndrome

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

My favorite memoir is Tara Westover’s EDUCATED: A memoir (2018). Apparently, I wasn’t alone. The book was number one on the New York Times best sellers list for over a year, and voted to the Times’ Ten Best Books for 2018. 

As Westover tells it, her parents, especially her father, were survivalists living off the grid at the base of a mountain in a Mormon pocket of southeastern Idaho. She didn’t have a birth certificate until she was nine. Her father’s distrust and disdain for government was so ferocious he barred his seven children from going to public school.

Continue Reading...

Public schools are a guarantor of democracy

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

A staff editorial in the Sunday Des Moines Register offers a hard-hitting rebuke of the governor’s pet “choice” project, aptly illustrated with a unicorn. Ironically, in some circles a unicorn represents unity, the inclusion of the “other” in the circle of family, friendship, and democracy, an important purpose of public education.

Continue Reading...

Keeping schools safe from racial abuse

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

Earlier this month, the Kansas City Star’s editors wrote about White Kansas City-area high school students who were racially taunting Black players on an opposing basketball team.

In the same week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights levied serious changes against the Ottumwa, Iowa school district (as per numerous newspaper accounts). Following release of the OCR’s report, the Ottumwa Courier’s editors took the superintendent to task, saying he has “skirted the harsh realities of what happened.” The realities of racial abuse are clearly enumerated in the OCR report, which is online (and reproduced at the bottom of this post).

The agency’s findings are grave and require the school district to take extensive steps of remediation.

Continue Reading...

Memorializing the African Holocaust

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

In my years, I have visited many American historical sites. When I was seven, my parents took me to the Alamo. It was 1950. My dad was a newly appointed chaplain at Lackland Air Force base near San Antonio.

If my folks knew the real history, they didn’t say. I doubt they did. We were from the North. So, the story we were told, the Alamo myth (as I now know), became the story we believed to be true.

Continue Reading...

New film puts new definition on “Woke”

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

I saw the trailer for Will Smith’s new film “Emancipation.” Smith’s character Peter is the enslaved man whose terribly scarred back was photographed in 1863 and viewed by millions during the Civil War era and beyond.

I immediately thought of Governor Ron DeSantis saying, “Florida is the state where WOKE goes to die.” He was speaking, wife and kids at his side, just after the November election where he was re-elected with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

Continue Reading...

How democracy and public education could be threatened

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

If Governor Kim Reynolds is re-elected and Republicans keep control of the Iowa legislature, Reynolds will push for a school voucher plan that would please the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Religious fundamentalists strive for a state-funded Bible school flourishing in every Christian church basement in Iowa. Since the June primary, Reynolds has been relatively quiet about “school choice,” relying instead on wedge issues to leverage her re-election.

One exception was a speech she gave to the Faith and Freedom Coalition in September.

Continue Reading...

Dangerous gun amendment on Iowa's November ballot

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

On June 15, as many as a dozen Kansas City area schools shut down summer classes when a generalized threat was posted on Snapchat. A 19-year-old suspect has been charged with making a terrorist threat.

The Kansas City Star’s editorial board commented, “If lawmakers won’t do what most Americans want and pass some real, effective and warranted restrictions on gun access, then we are left with drilling children on how to react when a gunman comes into their school.”

That’s just where Governor Kim Reynolds wants Iowa schools to be — battened down, armed, drilled, quivering, guarded, and under desks.

Continue Reading...

School "transparency" is a cruel hoax

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

The Kansas City Star’s editorial board warned its readers on June 2 that “the arch conservative Liberty Alliance has created a Woke Heat Map.” The website is an interactive map of Missouri with dots representing “hot spots” where, as the Alliance claims, “the Woke Agenda … is permeating.” 

The Alliance is a faction of ultra-right zealots who use a website to undermine democracy—and raise money from an easily duped clientele. The Springfield (MO) News-Leader reports one hotspot in its area, and six in St. Louis, three in Kansas City, and one in Columbia with alleged “woke agendas” — “where toddlers are groomed with sexually explicit books.” This was in the first week.

It’s fraud. In nearly all cases, the New-Leader says, the documentation used to designate a “woke” hotspot is based on a tweet, column, or article from a conservative leader or platform.

Continue Reading...