Targeted ads hit Clampitt early

November’s General Election is still months away, but that hasn’t stopped the North Carolina Association of Educators from coming hard after freshman Rep. Mike Clampitt, R-Bryson City. 

No harm in striving to understand each person

By Hannah McLeod • Guest Columnist

Do not decry this generation for pushing the boundaries of respect/understanding/acceptance. 

People today like to deride certain aspects of our generation. They speak sarcastically about how “everyone has to have their own place, everyone is individual and unique, everyone deserves safe spaces.” As if this is somehow inherently wrong or a bogus notion. 

Greens make the grade: Ballot access boosts third parties

This fall, voters in North Carolina will be treated to a new choice at the polls come election day. 

Schools have become political battlegrounds

By John deVille • Guest Columnist

Given all the challenges and unwarranted criticism those of us who work in public education must endure, I am hesitant to publicly chastise a fellow educator. But the positions taken by Haywood County Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Bill Nolte in a recent blog post lead me to take exception.

Dr. Nolte’s post outlined his (and by extension, the entire HCS district) positions concerning the national movement of student walkouts, which are motivated by the lack of legislative response to school shootings which have visited so many campuses since 1999. 

Dr. Nolte characterized the walkouts as a “tool being applied to advance a political agenda,” that an unnamed “political organization” is behind the movement.

The walkouts are certainly are an effective awareness-raising tool and, as they are designed to influence changes in legislation, they are inherently political. What’s so wrong about that? 

I’m unclear as to what unnamed “political organization” Dr. Nolte refers. There are the nearly 200,000 students who have been on a school campus since 1999 and who have been terrorized by a school shooting. There are their parents, the teachers, and citizens who are saying “Enough,” and who have come together to demand responsible gun ownership laws. Are they the sinister organization of which Dr. Nolte writes?

Dr. Nolte’s view of the situation is that this unnamed organization’s mission is to “encourage students to walk out of school.” This is perhaps the most distressing part of the post — the dismissive insinuation that students aren’t moral agents in and of themselves. Dr. Nolte seems to believe that students networking with other students is beyond their ability, that they cannot be inspired by the behavior of other students to confront legislators across the country. 

Students can be inspired to do stupid things by other students; and they can be inspired to take a leadership role where adults have largely failed. While students may not have the right to vote, we certainly try to teach students advocacy skills which need not hibernate until they are 18.  

While I understand Dr. Nolte’s desire to minimize conflict on middle and high school campuses which already face so many challenges, his move to stifle student political speech, specifically to quash a mid-day student walkout focused on creating awareness and political pressure leading to reform in gun legislation, is troubling. 

Dr. Nolte categorically stated that Haywood students are “not interested in political agendas.” 

That assertion stands in glaring contrast to Tuscola High junior Grace Feichter who said:

“After I heard about the shooting at Parkland, I was devastated. We had a discussion about the national walkout and if we would be interested in having one at our school, and everybody said absolutely yes.”  

Dr. Nolte’s statement does not comport with Tuscola student McKenzie Yazan who said: 

“I think that it’s definitely not more guns in schools,” she said. “Personally I think that we need to have more reforms and background checks for people wishing to buy a gun.”

Both students’ statements are overtly political as they must be if any meaningful change is to occur. 

Dr. Nolte laments that schools are becoming “political battlefields” and vows to forestall any such efforts in that direction in Haywood County Schools. That is a most puzzling and unfortunate stance.

Schools are, almost by definition in 2018, “political battlefields.” 

Dr. Nolte may recall the spring of 2016 when the Haywood community marched to raise awareness for the sad closing of Central Elementary, due in part to budget cuts by Raleigh. We all marched — parents, teachers, administrators, board members, myself, and yes, students. No, it wasn’t during the school day, but the school was certainly the battlefield. 

What else can our schools be expected to become in a democracy other than a political battlefield when the lack of responsible gun laws have significantly contributed to our schools becoming war zones? 

A simple act of a walkout, whether sanctioned by the administration or not, is a rather measured and reasonable response to the gun violence and terror which has gripped our campuses. Dr. Nolte’s concerns about student safety during a potential walkout must be relegated to the red herring bin as that activity is no more dangerous than administratively-sanctioned activities Haywood County high school students engage in every day. 

The list of tasks which public school educators are called to fulfill is daunting, and I certainly do not envy Dr. Nolte’s tremendous responsibilities. I have the greatest respect for him and for anyone else who has provided a lifetime of service to educating and mentoring young people into adulthood. While it is certainly less messy to go full hamster ball and try to wall the school campus off from the political tides of the day, perhaps it is time to follow the military admonition to “embrace the suck,” to accept what might be unpleasant but what is unavoidable, especially when this particular political debate so directly impacts the students themselves and when they are proving that they are the most eloquent and forceful voices in the debate. 

(John deVille is a former Macon County Teacher of the Year and has taught social studies at Franklin High School since 1996.) 

Too often, we ignore the calls for help

Doing nothing to enhance school safety is not an option. Thoughtful gun control measures would be helpful and are one tool to help get there, but there are other — perhaps more beneficial — avenues we as a society should pursue.

At a Haywood Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting last week, Waynesville Police Lt. Tyler Trantham’s topic was how to plan for live shooter situations in businesses, churches and schools. It was the second part of his presentation, the first having come on Feb. 7 — exactly one week before the school massacre in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day.

The U.S. has become an oligarchy

By Martin Dyckman • Guest Columnist

Do politicians read their mail? It depends.

A recent New Yorker article on Christopher Steele, the British espionage expert, scored a direct hit on Lindsey Graham, the senior senator from our neighboring state to the south. Steele, you may recall, put his livelihood and perhaps his life at risk in helping to alert our intelligence agencies to Russia’s covert — and continuing — subversion of our election process. Among other things, Steele wrote the memo that raised the question of whether the Kremlin has seriously compromising information regarding Donald Trump’s personal conduct during a visit to Moscow.

Passion, politics intertwine for Haywood tax collector candidates

Outside the Haywood County Justice Center in downtown Waynesville, Haywood County Tax Collector Mike Matthews stands with a slim manila folder in his hands while an attorney nearby reads off a boilerplate legal notice required when the county offers a foreclosed property at auction. 

The pendulum will swing — it has to

Would you turn your back on a long and meaningful friendship because of widening political differences? I won’t do it, and I don’t understand people who would. 

The gun control debate is the perfect example. It’s as polarizing and divisive issue as there is, especially after what happened two weeks ago at a high school in Parkland, Florida. 

Wind on the water, carry me home

When you simply mention the name Graham Nash, a multitude of sounds, images, movements and ideas flood your field-of-vision. You don’t have to say much because his captivating music and whirlwind life is known the world over.

But, in conversation with Nash, what we know as fans and admirers just scratches the surface of this melodic giant that has stood tall amid British and American culture for the better part of the last half-century. 

NRA controls our politicians with blood money

By Martin Dyckman • Guest Columnist

Cars don’t kill. Drivers do.

Remember that? No one does, because although Detroit dragged its feet over the cost of making autos safer, it couldn’t pretend that it wasn’t possible or wouldn’t matter. Thanks to seat belts, air bags and other improvements we now take for granted, along with stricter enforcement of traffic laws, the highway death toll per capita has been cut nearly in half since 1960. That’s with more than three times as many vehicles on the road.

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