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Thoughts Of A 'Radical Moderate'

Writing On The Wall


My mailbox lately has been flooded with campaign mail. A few days ago, there was one I found particularly offensive so I tore it up and threw it in the garbage, mumbling incoherently about all the trees being needlessly slaughtered for such an ignoble purpose. As the pieces fell into the trash something caught my eye. I fished it out of the coffee grounds only to confirm that there was a glaring omission. Under Election November 8, in bright red letters was the phrase Early Going On Now. I assume that the word voting was left out by accident. Pretty sloppy proofreading.

Also on the same flyer was the statement that the candidate would fight the Radical Left so we can have good schools, lower taxes, and higher paying jobs. The logical fallacy is, of course, that the radical left has rendered the state of Arkansas illiterate and destitute, and this person is here to save us. I won’t argue the poverty part of this statement because it is true.

Families struggle every day due to low-paying jobs, and many rely government assistance such as SNAP benefits even while working for one of the largest corporations in the world. One would think that a budget surplus of $1.6 billion might help to alleviate that problem.

Evidently there is no political will to tackle such a thing because there are some folks who feel entitled to lower tax rates.

But I digress.

What is this mythical beast known as the Radical Left? An evil communist monster coming to take your stuff? Has it been spotted in Arkansas, or is it a figment of some overactive imagination in Washington DC? So much hyperbole gives me a headache.

I’m sure there are some far-left zealots in this state. Have they ever been in the majority and therefore set in motion this alleged radical agenda that leads us to the brink of the abyss? Never. Any Democratic leadership in these parts has been pragmatic and moderate. The current Republican leadership for the past eight years is also fairly moderate compared to much of the legislative majority. And where are these teachers who supposedly indoctrinate students? I have never met one, but I do know thousands who would love to convince kids to bring a pencil to class. Educators who brainwash children with subversive agendas and inappropriate content do not exist in this state. There might be some libraries with books that some find objectionable, and that is a valid discussion to have at the local level. However, please consider this pro tip: check your child’s phone. Your concerns about a few books in a library are dwarfed by what they can see on the internet, especially social media. My teaching career spanned a long period of time. The pre-cell phone years were very different from those after they appeared.

Anything parents find offensive on a book shelf is nothing compared to what is on those glowing screens their children stare at day and night. Nobody wants to believe their child would look up words and images that they’ve heard about, but they do. Some of the playground conversations I have heard in recent years were shocking, but had nothing to do with a library book.

As the admin of a Facebook group with over 20,000 members, comprised primarily of educators, I am acutely aware of everyone’s distaste for politics. It’s a murky, unpleasant business. Group members complain regularly that we are too political and they just want to teach. I couldn’t agree more, but it is imperative that we wade into these waters. Almost every single minute of our day in public schools is regulated by those we elect.

The commissioner of education is appointed and confirmed by those we elect. State funding for schools and the salary and benefits for those who educate our kids are decided by those we elect. Someone once raged against allowing a discussion about candidates. A comment was made that I have never forgotten. If you don’t do politics, politics will do you.

It is my sincere hope, and I don’t mind repeating some previously published points, that we reject hyper-partisanship and over-used phrases. For those critical races here in our home state, we must ask who has the best qualifications for office.

Think of their campaign style as their job interview. Do they try to pick a fight? What is on their resume? Do they want you to vote out of anger or fear? Do they have a plan to actually work with and include all of us? Will their policies cause closure of small schools?

I am a radical moderate and plan to vote accordingly.


Shelley Smith is a retired school teacher living in rural Stone County. Write to her at shelleywritingonthewall@gmail.com.

Published 11-9-22

Stone County Leader, Shelley Smith


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