In the Times-News of Sunday, Oct. 20, Steve Hartgen wrote his opinion about the Reclaim Idaho movement. Whatever your own personal opinion, or mine, about this effort to improve the state of education in Idaho, I would like to object to the way Hartgen addressed the subject.

Instead of reflecting the spirit of a good statesman, he used labels and innuendo both to demean those who support it and to short-circuit debate about the proposed initiative he focused on. Also, to the uncritical reader, his biases might even be taken as facts in order to support their own points of view. That amounts to offering a diet of intentional ignorance to be swallowed hook, line and sinker. It is dangerous.

Here is what Hartgen said: "not that we need any California advice." He suggests the Reclaim Idaho initiative comes from movers and shakers in California and it is his opinion that, if it does, it can't be trusted. He gives no credit to the Idaho citizens who, regardless their own sources, are interested in providing a better future for Idaho's educational system.

For Hartgen, that wasn't enough. He followed up with terms meant to trigger negative emotions in the reader. Here are a few: liberal, lefty, union-based, Democratic, pro-socialist, soaks-the-rich, class-envy, Warren-ista. Wow! Then he wanted us to understand that this proposed initiative to benefit education would simply be "taking money from your wallets."

I guess he wants us to understand that education is not an investment in our children's future but a drain on our income. Well, as another writer put it, that kind of thinking must have been what put us in 50th place in the nation with respect to education spending and gave us a critical shortage of certified educators. Clearly we need to have a discussion about that.

Using value-loaded terms and snide remarks about other places and the motives of those trying to improve the situation is not healthy. It derails any proper and serious examination of the subject. This is not a satisfactory approach to any proposed legislation for conscientious citizens in a democratic society. A healthy society presumes an honest debate for an informed electorate.

We need honest debate, not value-loaded labels that shut it down just because a certain politician wants to insure that his point of view prevails, in this case, to the detriment of all.

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Rev. Martin Geisel is a resident of Buhl.


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