Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Feb. 8, 2016
Anger's effect on voters
Sometimes it feels really good to get angry.
It's a perfectly natural emotion that can be healthy when used appropriately. Even the best people get angry. Jesus got mad and threw the moneychangers and dove sellers out of the temple. And there was another time, when he was hungry, that he cursed a a fig tree for being barren. Poor thing immediately withered, and became a symbol of the efficacy of prayer.
When anger provides the impetus to correct an injustice, it's a very good thing indeed. When someone is doing something wrong and deserves a righteous telling-off, it's sometimes the duty of a good person to provide it.
But it goes without saying that anger can be dangerous. You don't want to jump too ugly with the person who shares your bed or cuts your paycheck. Anger is a solvent on your common sense and decent upbringing. Angry people are susceptible to taking regrettable actions. There are a lot of things you shouldn't do while angry. Doctors say we shouldn't eat when we're in a heightened state of emotions because our bodies perceive that we're in a flight-or-fight situation where digestion is the least of our problems. We shouldn't drive because anger puts us in attack mode, which could lead us to take unnecessary chances. We shouldn't go near social media, for obvious reasons.
We shouldn't vote angry either.
There's a lot of talk out there about how American voters are angry, and maybe some of it is true. In her response to the State of the Union message last month, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley allowed that "(d)uring anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation."
If you pay attention to things like Donald Trump rallies, you hear lots of spite and bile, a lot of free-floating anxiety being converted into resentment of vague groups and institutions--"Washington," ''Hollywood," ''the one percent" — and other candidates. And while we don't mean to pick on Mr. Trump, sometimes it seems as though his campaign exists to exploit the discontent of Americans, to distill their disappointment into something that feels a lot like hate.
Mr. Trump isn't the only one willing to take advantage of the "anger" of Americans — there's some pretty harsh sniping going back and between supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. (At 74, Mr. Sanders remains the embodiment of a certain angry young man who believes he's the only honest soul in town. And while passion isn't all bad, you simply can't govern without friends. He's a social Democrat, after all, not a would-be emperor.)
The sometimes ugly Twitter wars and stump-speech broadsides of the candidates are just what is expected; it's how this game that isn't bean bag has been played. Let the ladies and gentlemen putting on the show get as angry as they want. It's lively. It's good television.
But prospective voters are charged with being adults here. Understand that when candidates call for voters to get mad, they're really trying to manipulate voters into suspending their powers of rational observation.
They're asking for more than support — they're asking for fealty. And they aren't entitled to that.
Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Feb. 9, 2016
The gored ox
Have you ever heard a couple discussing where they should go out to eat and the discussion starts with one spouse saying "Oh, I don't care. You pick."
"OK, how about we go over to Herman's?"
"No, there was a Razorback game today and it's bound to have a line."
"OK, let's scoot over to the Marketplace Grill."
"I just ate there for lunch the other day."
"Fine, where do you want to go?"
"Oh, anywhere's fine."
"Why not Fred's Hickory Inn? There is always something good there."
"I don't want to go that far tonight."
And finally, the other spouse gives up. "Well, I'll just get the bread and peanut butter out and we'll stay in."
Sometimes it's hard for someone to form an opinion about a subject in the abstract, but put a specific idea in front of him and he'll know whether he likes it or not.
That appears to be the scenario surrounding the Bentonville School Board's recent discussion over a proposed calendar for the 2016-17 school year. School calendars define which days kids and teachers will be in class, which days will be set aside for teacher training, and when school breaks will be.
In Bentonville, the school board has already made a major decision regarding future school-year calendars: All schools will operate on the same calendar. That hasn't been true for years, as two elementary schools have operated on extended-year calendars that provided more short breaks during the school year, but shortened the summer break.
Elementary school principals, however, led the charge over the last year to convert all schools to a single calendar as one method of more efficiently dealing with overcrowding at some schools. By putting all elementary schools on the same schedule, they argued, the school district would gain flexibility in assigning students and be able to bring more stability to school attendance assignments.
The question isn't finished, however. With the one-calendar decision made, the next decision is which calendar to adopt. The district got more than 5,000 responses back from a survey of parents, teachers, students and others. That's an impressive number for any request for feedback. At a recent meeting, the school district administration put forth a proposal, and the discussion sounded a lot like that couple looking for a restaurant.
It's not that the proposal was terrible. It just provided a starting point.
But it also looked a lot like the traditional calendar on which most schools in the district have operated. The school board, some members said, had expected more of an effort to develop a hybrid of the two previous calendar models. Board member Joe Quinn went so far as to suggest the board, if it adopted the administration's proposal, would be violating a public trust with the parents of students at Elm Tree and Baker elementaries. Those are the two schools that have operated on an extended-year schedule, one obviously popular with the students who chose to attend there.
The proposal looked like a kick in the teeth to the populations served by those schools, but as noted above, every discussion has to start somewhere. The bigger question is what administrators and the school board come back with next.
A major sticking point was the length of an October vacation. The administration looked at survey results showing 21.72 percent favored no October vacation at all. That compares to 30.23 percent that wanted a five-day break. That only tells part of the story, though. Another 36 percent said they favored an October vacation of three days or less.
The administration proposal went with a three-day break in October. The proposal would keep the two-week winter break and a weeklong break at Thanksgiving and Spring Break. Any days off added has an impact on either the start date or end date of the school year.
The administration's proposal made it seem the whole process had primarily been about eliminating the nontraditional school calendars and very little about creating a true hybrid. But, as we said, every proposal has to start somewhere.
"I never promised anything to anybody," board President Travis Riggs told his colleagues. Implicit in running for the office however, is a promise to listen to staff, school patrons, students and others affected by school board decisions. That's precisely what's needed in this scenario.
Our prediction: This calendar discussion will fade fairly quickly from view as the school board turns its attention to redesigning the attendance zones for the district's schools. Superintendent Michael Poore and other school district leaders held a forum last week to discussion a proposal that, they stressed, was just a starting point for discussion.
Hmm, sounds a lot like the calendar proposal.
All of these decisions send ripples throughout the pond known at the Bentonville School District, and reaching a conclusion takes time and considering of many conflicting albeit desirable options. Dena Ross, the district's chief operating officer, warned at the meeting about attendance zones that a change might be a positive for one family but create a negative for another.
School board members and the patrons of the district will need extra doses of patience amid the negotiations that must accompany such changes. In a growing district, these kinds of decisions cannot be avoided.
But that's better than being in a district that's dying on the vine, as many communities in Arkansas have witnessed.
As they say, these are good problems to have.
Camden News, Feb. 2, 2016
Camden has hard workers
he strong words of Camden Mayor Marie Trisollini about Camden youth and work ethics were recently reported and we, in large part, do not disagree.
It is true that some young people in our community have not received good examples of positive work ethics or inspirations to possess such admirable qualities. She is definitely correct in her assertion that the lack of such traits can hamper the work to bring new or expanded businesses and industries to the Camden area.
But we offer a different perspective in how to help businesses or industries seeking to hire new employees in our community.
If we know of a company that is hiring, we can help out with a little assistance of our own. Do you know a Scout leader, a teacher, a coach, volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club, church youth leader or a local retailer who employs high school students?
These are just a few examples, but you get the idea of those in our community who are well-equipped to recommend young people who have recently been under their guidance. Providing prospective hirers with a list of recommended potential employees could go a long way in projecting the positive image of our working community.
And, of course, Southern Arkansas University Tech is a great place for employers to find qualified prospects.
Some might say this is an over-simplistic approach, but we believe it is one way to call attention to the fact that we have plenty of talented young individuals in Camden and Ouachita County.
While there will always be those who prefer to avoid work, we dare say that the number of young adults who are entering the work force after having contact with adults in the areas we mentioned above far outnumber those who are not interested in being productive members of society.