Nobody likes to have their intelligence called into question. However, when someone does that, it does not bode well from your side to prove them right.
Recently, I got my beats switched around at the paper, and I was assigned to cover school board meetings for Shawano. For those of you not living where I do, the school district passed a 12.4 percent tax increase which basically equals an additional 97 cents for every $1,000 of property you own. Needless to say, a lot of folks were ticked about having to pay more taxes at a time when the price on everything is jumping up, and very few pay increases are being handed out.
The reason for the tax hike is because Wisconsin cut $1.8 million in state aid for the school district, so officials opted to make up the difference via the taxpayers. The proposal drew a lot of folks in the community out to protest, but many of them felt they did not get a chance to speak their mind.
That leads to last night, when many of those folks wanted to be heard. For about 90 minutes, person after person chimed in about how the tax hike was going to hurt people living paycheck to paycheck, retirees who can barely afford food and/or medication, etc. They especially didn’t like the idea that the new budget included a 2 percent pay increase for teachers.
Few can find fault with compensating teachers that do well, but the blanket pay increase set off folks, particularly those who work in the private sector and haven’t seen a raise in years. Good hearted country folk can be generous, but they can also be quick to anger when the takers appear to be robbers.
There were a couple of folks advocating for the schools, with one person pointing out that the state and federal governments have imposed new educational mandates, many of them without the money needed to carry them out. I could see that she was pointing out that the education of today is more than the education of yesterday was, but she made a verbal faux pas that made some folks upset.
The woman said that school used to prepare folks for working with their hands, like in a factory or on the farm. Nowadays, though, education is to prepare our children, she said, to “use their hands and their brains.”
If you take a moment to decipher what she meant, it was that technology is much more advanced today. With computers running pretty much everything, including farm equipment, you have to have the skills to use them, fix them when they break down, and continually shift as new technological wonders come out.
The way it sounded, though, was that the adults of today who were the students of yesterday don’t have any intelligence. In other words, a band of stupid country bumpkins.
That did not go over well with the crowd. They were angry, but then they proved the woman’s point. These same folks who were incensed that they had not been allowed to speak at the meeting where the tax increase was approved were now shouting out that the woman should be silenced and declaring that her time to speak was up, even though very few of them adhered to the three minutes per person limit established at the start of the meeting.
Being angry at injustice is understandable. Money is tight, and the last thing you want to do is lose it to taxes. Still, it was very hypocritical to cry out that their rights were being trampled and then turn around and almost adopt a mob mentality that perpetrates the injustice you rail against. As far as I’m concerned, those folks have a right to be angry at what was said, but to try and silence someone because they say something that does not conform to your values is akin to oppression, and that’s not what America is all about.
What the woman who spoke for the schools said had merit, and so did the folks who opposed the tax increase. The woman used a poor choice of words, and she will have to be accountable for what she said. However, we cannot stifle those we disagree with if we hope to truly be an educated society. When we do that, that is the day liberty dies.