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Morning Sun
  • EDITORIAL: Remember education debate as politics ramp up

  • These days, politics has become just as much about celebrity as it is about the issues. With the paparazzi-like attention devoted to the national political process, it’s hard to separate what is rhetoric from aides and supporters from what is the true position of the candidate.

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  • These days, politics has become just as much about celebrity as it is about the issues. With the paparazzi-like attention devoted to the national political process, it’s hard to separate what is rhetoric from aides and supporters from what is the true position of the candidate.
    With a celebrity-like entourage of highly paid “spin doctors” or “message consultants,” depending on one’s ideology, the message itself is often blurred past the point of recognition.
    Even the debates in which major politicians meet up are so finely polished and presented that debate on the merits of policies and positions rarely happen.
    Therefore, when mistakes happen — such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s forgetfulness about the third government agency he would cut — it stands out even more.
    So when leaders from the Kansas Policy Institute and USD 250 joined to debate topics of education finance, test scores and more, it was somewhat refreshing.
    Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute, did not have to come down to Pittsburg. He didn’t have to defend an advertisement in The Morning Sun that has drawn the ire of both public education officials and supporters. Trabert especially didn’t have to take on a debate in which he was on his opponent’s home turf.
    Destry Brown, USD 250 superintendent, didn’t have to invite Trabert to a debate, let alone speak at all. He could have just let the furor over the ad die down. He didn’t have to give this person he disagreed with a microphone and an audience.
    But instead, both men were brave enough to meet, in a public setting, to make their voices heard. We won’t declare a winner, because just by having the debate, both organizations won. Both sides care about education and how it is funded, taught and assessed.
    This debate wasn’t about celebrity and it wasn’t about perfection. But it was a simple, direct conversation about one particular issue — education. It was a “red meat” debate in a world where similar debates rarely happen. It was a throwback to the Lincoln-Douglas debates of more than 150 years ago.
    Perhaps the secret lied in the fact that neither man was particularly running for elected office, although that is unlikely. This sort of naked, but respectful, discourse is rare in the modern arena, although it shouldn’t be.
    Come this fall (or even this summer), it will be hard to see the policies through the fog of spin, hard to find positions through the veil of celebrity, and hard to discover the truth behind the “truthiness.” We will soon fall back into the realm of politics as a game, as a science, as a war.
    Which is why it will be important to remember debates such as Thursday’s later this year. It was just two people, in front of the public, talking about the issues. This was, at its core, a pure debate. This was, on a small scale, what politics once was on a grand scale.
    Page 2 of 2 - This debate should be an example for what we need this fall, on a national, state and local scale. The higher up one goes, the less likely it is to see genuine policy debates of this sort, with each side matching statistics and examples, descriptions and stories.
    While Thursday’s debate wasn’t necessarily a political event, it was a perfect example of what politics can and should be. Remember this event and ask for more like it on every level this fall.
    — The Morning Sun

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