Tough love draws sharp reactions

On Jan. 23, Chancellor Rogers gave a “state of the system” speech, and some residents were taken aback at the verbiage:

“I have been critical of the Governor for not supporting adequate funding of education. I have been critical of the Legislature for the same reason. But folks, they have not put us into our present education dilemma. The state of K-16 education in Nevada is where the public—that is, you out there—has allowed it to sink. Your only relationship with the education system is to ship your unprepared kids to school, not with the expectation of success, but with the demand that an education system, inadequately funded, develop and/or repair children that you as a parent did not prepare for school … If you want a competent and productive education system, tell your governor and legislators to fund it. … you have to take part in your child’s education. Your responsibility does not stop as they walk out the door to catch the bus.”

The strong language drew very different reactions from different groups. Conservatives attacked Rogers: “Jim Rogers owes every caring parent in the state a public apology,” said a joint statement from Assemblymember Ed Goedhart and Nevada GOP chair Sue Lowden. A spokesperson for the Nevada Policy Research Institute called it “an outstanding example of what happens when Nevada’s public officials choose to engage in finger-pointing at the expense of taking responsibility or offering innovative solutions to our fiscal challenges.”

Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Geoff Schumacher said Rogers need not apologize because “Nevada has an unusually large pool of parents who don’t care about their children’s education, whose kids do poorly in school, drop out and get into trouble or struggle to find satisfying work because they don’t have the skills to land a good job, let alone a career. Ask any teacher, and he or she will recite a litany of horror stories, ranging from apathetic parents to overbearing ones who blame anybody but themselves for kids who act up or can’t make the grade.”

Rogers’ comments went nationwide, reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, debated on the Free Republic message board and editorialized on in the Waterbury, Conn., newspaper: “Now, shame on Mr. Rogers for not giving politicians and unionized ‘educators’ their due for the many manifest failures of public schools … But shame, too, on Nevada Republican Chairwoman Sue Lowden—‘For Chancellor Rogers to blame the failure of the government-run education system on parents is nothing short of outrageous’—and others in the Party of Personal Responsibility for not also holding negligent parents’ feet to the fire.”