Dabakis goes off deep end with education paraphrase


Utah Democrats rang in the New Year with an editorial in The Salt Lake Tribune excoriating Utah Republicans for making a mess of public education. Jim Dabakis, the new chairman of the Democratic Party in Utah, writes that Utah is ranked 50th among the 50 states in education funding and “that this tragic lack of funding is driving the Utah school bus off a cliff!”[pullquote]What if we paraphrased great words from great leaders…[/pullquote]

Dabakis’ rant is about on a fifth-grade level, so it’s really not necessary to deconstruct it line-by-line. What caught my eye was this line in his editorial: “To paraphrase the LDS Church leader David O. McKay, No other success can compensate for failure in education.”

It’s a curious exercise whenever people wrest the words of LDS Church leaders. I was especially entertained when Korihor did it in The Book of Mormon

But Dabakis’s paraphrasing got me thinking. What if we paraphrased great words from great leaders, such as the LDS Church’s First Article of Faith: “We believe in Zeus, the Eternal Father, and in His son Apollo, and in Heracles?” Or this: “Ask not what your left foot can do for you, ask what you can do for your left foot.” Or this one: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this basketball court, a new sneaker, conceived by Nike, and dedicated to the proposition that all players should jump equally.”

Paraphrasing can be done intelligently or ridiculously. The paraphrase “No other success can compensate for failure in education” is ridiculous. President McKay, as president of the LDS Church, stated “no other success can compensate for failure in the home” precisely because he understood that family is the fundamental unit of society and, as an educator, he understood that parental involvement is the primary reason for academic success in a child’s life. Money is hardly a factor in a good education (as any home school family could testify to).

Money is important to the government employees within the public school system – but education (as opposed to schooling) has very little to do with where Utah ranks nationally in per-student spending.

With leadership such as Dabakis’, the two-party system in Utah will continue to suffer, unfortunately.

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  • Diane

    I think the real question is where Utah ranks in education in test score or something measurable. We lived in New York on Long Island for a while. Taxes for schools were exceedingly high. New York is one of the states that spends the most on education. But most of that money is being pocketed by criminals. For example my friend who lived there sent two children on a band trip to Washington D.C. (a five hour drive from where we lived on Long Island). The cost was $1,500 a student. 10 years later, my friend had moved to Kansas City and sent a younger child on a band trip to D.C. (about a 3 hour flight)The cost for that trip was $800 per student. The hotels and restaurants were very similar. Where did the extra money go? And this is only one example. Utah spends less in education not because Utahns are getting worse educations, but because Utahns are more honest.

    We have had our children in schools in three different states. From what we can tell, Utah tends to push reading more and is about a year behind in math. Computers labs and facilities are very similar. More money isn’t going to change that.

  • JBT

    The truth hurts, doesn’t it Paul. I note that you chose a rather cowardly approach in your response by not arguing point by point the facts given by Jim Dabakis in his excellent editorial but by creating a “straw man” out of his paraphrased comment and attacking that.

    In the context of his piece his paraphrased comment meant this. “In terms of the future of the state of Utah no other success can compensate for the failure to properly educate our children. That is hardly a ridiculous statement. It is a truism. The economy, social well being, standard of living, ability to attract and keep new businesses—all depend upon success in Utah’s education system.

    The ridiculous statements are these:

    “. . .education (as opposed to schooling) has very little to do with where Utah ranks nationally in per-student spending.”

    Lower test scores when compared to states with similar demographics, and declining graduation rates prove this statement to be nonsense.

    “Money is hardly a factor in a good education (as any home school family could testify to).”

    This is comparison is ridiculous on its face. Estimate the cost to give each student in a public classroom setting the one-on-one attention through out the day that a home school parent can provide. Add to that the cost of materials and equipment to provide learning provided by science labs, participation in athletics, participation in the arts, participation in technical sciences, etc., etc. Then get back to me about how “Money is hardly a factor.”

    What is hurting education in the state of Utah are those who are constantly fighting (against public opinion I might add) to siphon dollars away from public schools to fund private for profit schools. Also hurting the adequate funding of Utah’s public schools are those who espouse having a “quiver full of children”, but refuse to pay their own way by paying their fair share of income taxes to pay for the education of their offspring.

    Dabakis hit the nail on the head in his editorial and the truth must have struck a nerve as evidenced by this juvenile knee jerk response from Mr. Mero.

    • Paul Mero

      JBT…I didn’t feel the need to deconstruct his op-ed…1) because he argues with himself quite sufficiently, 2) he only makes one argument (incessantly) and 3) his one argument is wrong.

      The point of my blog post is simply to object to his poor use of paraphrasing…and why it’s a poor use.

      Your paraphrase is actually a paraphrase…though it, too, is both ridiculous and not a truism.

  • JBT

    Geez Paul, I thought you were brighter than that. Please offer your proof that these statements by Jim Dabakis are wrong.

    1. “For the last 26 years of Republican governors and Republican legislatures, the legacy they have left us is to have the lowest expenditures per student in the United States.”

    2. “Having our children at the bottom has been the norm so long now that Utah Republicans just accept failure as the baseline.”

    3. “Utah is so low, that the 49th state spends almost $1,000 per student more than Utah.”

    4. “Two of the last three years, Republicans have not even funded growth.”

    5. “A first step in the long-term solution to our educational morass is to get a two-party system back in Utah.”

    These are the facts Paul.

    The last time Utah did not rank in the bottom position was in 1987, when Utah ranked 50th, outspending only Mississippi by $65 per pupil. Utah ranked 46th in 1980, 40th in 1970, and 37th in 1960.

    Prior to the 1962 election which brought Republicans to power, Utah Democrats controlled the Utah Senate (14-11), and the Utah House (36-28). After the election, the balance of power sifted to Utah Republicans who controlled the State Senate (13-12), and the State House (33-31). The Republicans have had an ever increasing grip on power in the Utah Legislature ever since.

    Even home schooled folks are smart enough to see a pattern here. Just saying something is not true does not make it so PTM. I am amused at how you keep skirting to real issue here which is that the conservative Republicans in our state continue to refuse to adequately fund public education.

  • Duane

    JBT, you are the one skirting the issue. Over the two decades from approximately 1985 to 2005 Utah more than doubled spending on public education in inflation-adjusted terms. Fiat dollar spending almost tripled. Performance of students improved scarcely at all. There is more to the issue than spending. In fact, as Diane pointed out above, much of the money spent in other states does not go into actually educating the students.

    Kansas City is another example of gargantuan education budgets that produce no improvement in actual education. Do your research and look at results, not money spent.

    Money is the straw man. Results are what is important.

  • Duane

    By the way, my kids are who will be paying the payroll taxes in the Ponzi Scheme known as Social Security that you will expect to collect in a few years if you’re not already. You probably have not contributed enough workers to the future work force to justify the drain you will place on the system.

    As a home-school dad, I did pay for several of my kids education for years at the same time as I was forced to pay for the education of other people’s kids and for fancy, over-built schools and district offices. You undoubtedly won’t be paying for your own Social Security. If it did any good, I would reimburse the state for my kids education if you declined your Social Security. But it won’t do me any good because you won’t do that and neither will millions of others.

  • Duane

    You have your head in the sand if you don’t realize that you NEED lots of kids who will pay enough in payroll taxes so you get your SS checks.

  • Bus

    Public Ed in Utah has been able to limp along because we are a right to work state so the union has limited power to screw up the efforts of the educators and because the family unit has been traditionally strong so that students come to school with fewer problems than other areas. Also parents are generally happy with their schools in Utah so the push for charters and vouchers is being done by groups or individuals who want to make a little money from the education budget rather than people wanting to greatly improve the program.
    There are some people in the Legislature that wants to bleed education by 1,000 cuts until they can show the system needs to be turned over to the business community but while waiting for the bleeding to have its desired effect the public schools are being hurt and in turn the education of the students is suffering. My challenge to the anti-education legislatures is to come out from behind the curtian and state your position. If you want to transfer it all to private hands then do it without sacrificing a couple of decades of students to prove your point.
    In the movie “Waiting for Superman” it continually talked about the idea that money wouldn’t solve the problems in education, then highlighted schools where students paid above $20,000/year for tuition. In Utah we don’t know if money will help the problems because we have never tried it.
    By the way I’m a pro-capitalist educator and work both in the public system and at a for profit UniversityI’m OK with shifing the education responsibility, but it needs to be done cleanly rather than covertly.