EDITORIALS

What has W.Va. gained by ousting Marple?

This week, state school board members Priscilla Haden and Jenny Phillips made good on their mid-November threat to resign over board president Wade Linger’s clumsy ousting of respected schools chief Jorea Marple.

It’s a shame for the state board to have lost two hard-working, conscientious board members – and for what? Linger now has installed a personal favorite of his – Jim Phares, formerly schools chief in Marion County, where Linger lives, and the same man he’d wanted to put into the job just hours after firing Marple without warning – but Linger says the state board now will conduct a national search for a superintendent to lead West Virginia through these trying times.

Craziness.

Why put the state’s schoolchildren and thousands of workers through months of uncertainty and upheaval? If a national search was Linger’s ultimate goal, why didn’t the board keep Marple in place and simply begin searching for her replacement?

Why blindside a qualified, caring superintendent who was making progress after just 18 months on the job in order to create a mess? Marple had gotten a positive job evaluation, and a raise, just three months before she was sacked by Linger & Co.

As badly as Marple’s been treated, Linger’s actions spell an even bigger disaster for our young people. Because of Linger’s desire to throw over Marple in favor of Phares, West Virginia’s school system now cannot appear in any way inviting to any serious national candidates. What kind of innovator would want to come work for a board with such murky motivations?

It’s clear Linger and the board members following his lead are in no way operating with the best interest of school workers or students or the public in mind.

A little less conversation

Before MTV would begin to air its new television program, “Buckwild,” — ostensibly a show about Appalachian young people the way “Jersey Shore” was a show about Garden State guido culture — West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin was quick to fire off a letter imploring the network to pull the plug on the program lest it do damage to West Virginia’s fragile collective ego.

A few weeks later, Manchin was again in the news when he announced his support for a national commission to address the issue of violence in the United States in the wake of the horrific shooting of 20 schoolchildren and six others in Newtown, Conn., last month. An op-ed piece Manchin penned that calls for the creation of such a commission is on this page.

In the accompanying piece and in his public comments, Manchin voices his support for both the National Rifle Association and for the Second Amendment to a degree that is noticeably lacking in his letter to MTV President Stephen Friedman regarding the First Amendment. It’s a curious logic that enables firearms to escape blame for Americans’ fascination with violence, while laying it firmly at the feet of the entertainment industry for viewers’ interest in televised stupidity.

To his credit, Manchin acknowledges that each entity that might play a role in addressing gun violence — the entertainment industry, the gun rights community and the mental health establishment — should have a seat “at the table,” but he appears too ready to revive that old and discredited bugaboo about the media and entertainment industry’s role in fostering violence in our society, if for no other reason than to deflect whatever admonishments might be in the works for gun rights supporters if Congress were to decide finally to reauthorize a ban on assault weapons. Indeed, the media and violent video games are squarely in the sights of NRA top dog Wayne LaPierre, whose call for armed officers at public schools is less of an unheard of idea that an outraged media greeted it as last week.

While President Obama has promised legislation this year, we fear the longer a conversation on the matter can be drawn out with most entities telling us much of what we already know, the likelihood Congress will take any meaningful action will surely diminish. By then it could take another mass shooting in the not-too-distant future for us to recall the since-dissipated outrage we stoked briefly in honor of the 26 sacrificed at the altar of America’s unwillingness to do something substantive about gun violence.

As Manchin knows, the best way to get the results you want to address the problem you want solved is to fire off a letter — and a public one at that — to the source of the problem. LaPierre is surely not waiting eagerly at his mail slot.

Over there, and over here too

We met with disappointment the news last week that a bill before Congress authorizing a commission to discuss the 100th anniversary of World War I was stripped of the name of Frank Buckles.

Buckles, America’s last doughboy, sought in his final years to bring to the nation’s capital a memorial that honored the servicemen and women who served in that war, the first great and terrible conflict of the 20th century.

But a bill fastracked by Missouri lawmakers Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt removed Buckles’ name as part of an effort to prepare for the centennial celebration of the War to End All Wars will almost certainly result in the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City being named the national shrine to WWI’s 4.7 million veterans, of which Buckles, who died in 2011, was the last.

To be sure, Missouri’s Liberty memorial is a fitting tribute to the nation’s WWI veterans, and Missouri holds the distinction as the birthplace of  the war’s top commander, Gen. John J. Pershing and the war’s last surviving veteran, Buckles, himself.

His effort to secure a location for a memorial on the National Mall, where there are memorials already for veterans of other major American conflicts, were proper and right, however, and we should be grateful for it.

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