9/28 Sunday Post: The Introduction of Reality – A Rebuttal to John Newkirk’s Myth Making


(note:  This rebuttal was posted Saturday in the comment section of the Newkirk editorial.  This version has been modified slightly to better fit our blog format.)

In Friday’s Denver Post, John Newkirk published an editorial, giving his, Ken Witt’s, and Julie Williams view of the week that made the majority of JeffCo parents very proud of their kids. Needless to say, since it is their proposed “Curriculum Review Committee” that sparked the protests, Mr. Newkirk’s portrayal is not flattering. That is to be expected.

What is not to be expected, or at least SHOULD not be expected is how fast and loose Mr. Newkirk seems to have played with the truth. Through careful excision of facts, overly broad generalizations, logical fallacies, and baseless emotional appeals, Mr. Newkirk is making his attempt at doing locally what Ms. Williams proposal would do nationally – re-writing history to suit them.

Since Mr. Newkirk felt duty bound to remind us of the “mantle of responsibility” that we as parents are aware of, our sense of that responsibility compels us to go over his editorial and point out where he did less than his most honest best.

Below is the text of his editorial, in quotes. After each paragraph are our comments.

Crowds of high school students have carried signs and gathered along busy streets during what should have been normal school days in Jefferson County. Our community members who witnessed or heard about these protests deserve to know the rest of the story.”

Of course the ‘rest of the story’ phrase is meant to harken back to Paul Harvey, a much beloved radio announcer who started broadcasting in World War II. It is meant to imply that there is more to things than meets the eye and he, John Newkirk, is about to tell you some deep, dark secrets.

This is a very old tactic. Pretend that you are going to ‘lift the veil’ so as to better hide what you don’t want seen.

After all, few things kindle more passion in a parent’s heart than the education and well-being of our children. This is a good thing. It’s a sign that we, as parents, understand society’s mantle of responsibility will all too soon be passed to the next generation — and we want them to be ready.”

This is a platitude, uttered to try and get you emotionally lined up with him before he even tells you something of substance.

As a new Jeffco School Board member, it’s surreal for me to walk the halls of the schools I attended decades ago. While my memories of those years are fading, the faces in the schools are fresh and there’s an energy, eagerness, and passion to learn that I find inspiring.”

Another platitude. We are three paragraphs into the 12 paragraph editorial and he has said nothing of substance yet. Instead, he has devoted the first 25% of it to working on your emotions.

“Regrettably, however, not every Jeffco student is getting what he or she needs to succeed in today’s global environment. Recent achievement data indicate that fewer than 60 percent of our graduates are college- and career-ready in math and science. Only a third are proficient in writing, and nearly 30 percent of our graduates need remedial work before they enter college. While there are many Jeffco students who fall outside these disturbing trends — and they have earned our applause — far too many are left behind. This reality has to change.”

Okay, here is the first actual data. He spouts off a bunch of numbers…without giving you the context in which to place them. Context is vital when it comes to changing data into knowledge. If you took out a loan that charged you $100 of interest a year, it might seem reasonable…until you found out that the loan was for just $10. Your reaction, now that the data has been placed in context, is very different. If the loan had been for $100,000 then your reaction would be different again.

So Newkirk is giving you raw data without a context to give it meaning. He is not telling you that JeffCo is above the state average in most of those rankings, nor that JeffCo has a greater percentage of its high schools making the U.S. News & World Report Top High School list than any other group or district in the state.

That being said, should the District work on improving those numbers? Absolutely! But that is not really in dispute. It’s sort of like us Coloradans saying to each other, “Boy, I sure hope the snow pack is better this year than it was last year!” We applaud the sentiment, but it is hardly in dispute.

Finally, he misuses the words “trends”. He used it in such a manner as to imply that things are getting worse. This is the exact opposite from what is really happening. Key JeffCo test scores improved in the last year. Do we want them to improve more? Yes! We also want the Broncos to do better in the playoffs against the Seahawks this year. He is pretending there is opposition to improving things when in fact there is none. We ALL want things to improve.

My physics teacher taught me that for every action, there is a reaction. How little I realized the degree to which this applies to public policy. The reaction to a new board majority of non-union candidates has been loud and prolonged. This is, I suppose, largely due to fear of the unknown and change in the status quo.”

Now we start getting to the real thrust of his writing. Note, he said a “board majority of non-union candidates”. This is a deliberate misrepresentation of facts. He is implying that the previous boards were dominated by union members. Nothing could be further from the truth. His logic, no doubt, was that since the previous Boards actually worked with JCEA (which is actually not a union) instead of trying to get out of its Collective Bargaining Agreement with them, those boards must have been dominated by ‘union’ board members.  Mr. Newkirk seems to dismiss out of hand that the District might find working with highly trained professionals in pursuit of commonly held goals is not possible.

Logical or not, it is a statement designed to lead you to a false conclusion. He then goes on to say that the reason for the growing opposition to him and the rest of WNM+Williams agenda is because the opposition is comfortable and is cowardly.

This is a straw man tactic, a logical fallacy (check it out in Wikipedia). He defines for you what the opposition is, using deliberate misleading statements. The follow-up to it will be a dismantling of this opponent made from his straws, and then he declares that he has won.

First year high school debaters recognize this trick.

“The situation has erupted in the past week, first with a teacher sickout at two high schools, then student walkouts at several others. While the board and our district leaders value the voices of students, cutting class to make a political statement is a different matter, especially when union-led teachers have misinformed those students rather than encouraged them to exercise critical thinking skills.”

There are three separate exclusion of facts, one serious downplaying of events, one outright falsehood, and one concluding gross misrepresentation in that paragraph.

He did not say that the sick out was after he, Williams, and Witt unilaterally, with no consultation with the teachers, no public comment, and no in-depth financial analysis, unilaterally imposed a radical new compensation plan on the teachers, and tied it to an evaluation system their own ‘fact finder’ found to be so inconsistent and inaccurate as to be of no value.

He did not say that the sick out was also after Julie Williams made her proposal for the “Curriculum Review Committee” that, contrary to the agenda title, was not to review Common Core, PARCC, and AP U.S. History, but to review ALL JeffCo curriculum for their version of political and scientific correctness. “Theories should be distinguished from fact. Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.” AP U.S. History was simply the first subject to be targeted, with 5th Grade Health Sciences being the second (can you say “sex education”?).

He did not say that the first student walk-outs were on the same day the of the teacher sick-out and that it was in support of their high school teachers and in opposition to the proposed “Curriculum Review Committee”.

He downplayed the extent of the walk-outs, not mentioning that it happened over six school days, in 16 of 17 high schools, and that it concluded with students of all grades attending class as persons from American history who caused ‘civil disorder, social strife, or disregard of the law’ and by doing so, made us into a better nation and people!

He alleges that the students were misled by their teachers…and offers no proof other than his assertion. On the other side, if you go to the various FaceBook pages the students put together to coordinate their walkouts, you will find over and over again that this was student conceived, organized, and executed. Anyone who saw Lakewood High School’s winning Katy Perry lip-dub video last fall KNOWS these are highly capable young men and women.

Finally, to say the high school students of JeffCo did not use critical-thinking skills simply because they did use them…and concluded your position is wrong and dangerous, is at best Aesop’s Sour Grapes, and at worst a deliberate belittling of our kids.

We will concede that Mr. Newkirk, or his PR writer knows how to pack a lot of distortion into a small paragraph.

For example, the revised AP U.S. History framework has been widely criticized for leaving out key parts of our nation’s underlying story, yet when board member Julie Williams suggested engaging the community in this discussion via a curriculum review committee (hardly a new practice), she and the board were instantly accused of “censorship.” No action has been taken on either the committee or the curriculum, but that didn’t stop opponents of the board majority from exploiting these flash protests to overshadow the truly positive stories.”

In this paragraph, Mr. Newkirk is slipping. He only managed to squeeze in one misleading factual exclusion, one gross misrepresentation, one self-contradiction while trying for an uninformative hyperbole, and one deliberate misrepresentation, all in a longer paragraph.

Only the right wing has been critical, with Texas being the most extreme…until Julie Williams proposal, which actually goes further than the Texas one.

This committee, per her proposal would not represent the community. Instead, it would have been made up of people that Witt, Newkirk, and Williams selected (since they would outvote Dahlkemper and Fellman). In short, it would represent WNW, not JeffCo.

Also there are already two review committees made up of parents, teachers, and

District staff, as well as formal process for a parent to use when they object to the use of a particular textbook.

The phrase “exploiting these flash protests’ is interesting. Newkirk was strongly hinting in the previous paragraph, and his confederates, Witt and Williams, have outright said that the protests were JCEA led. Yet here, Newkirk says they were ‘flash protests’, which implies they were sudden (instead of planned) and unexpected (instead of led). Which way is it, Mr. Newkirk? Finally, he tries to get you to believe that this proposal is genuinely a ‘good thing’ by saying it’s virtues were ‘overshadow’ed.

He implies the Board really took no action. He does not say that is because their own attorney, Brad Miller, told them they could not proceed since the original title was misleading! Even then, Ken Witt tabled the motion to a later date. This has not gone away. WNW is simply waiting for a better time.

Effectively, in this paragraph, Newkirk realizes he has a loser if the real content and purpose of the proposal is known. So he tries to hide 95% of the poison, and disguise the remaining 5% as a harmless substance.

To cite just a few examples, for the first time in years this board has taken steps to equalize charter student funding and increase teacher pay. We’ve upped entry-level salaries by up to 13 percent and approved significant raises for all our effective teachers.

“In contrast, in 2011, the prior board cut compensation by 3 percent. There were no teacher sickouts then. In 2012 and 2013, the board froze salaries and, once again, there were no sickouts or protests.”

Now we are back to the citing statistics without context (actually a VERY good way to mislead people).

Of course the previous boards cut the teachers pay in 2011 and then froze it in 2012 and 2013. Those boards actually worked with JCEA in this because the Recession had cut school district funds so drastically. Note, that Newkirk also left out the that the District then made an explicit promise for a return to step pay increases (which their comp plan does not do) as soon as revenues recovered. Unfortunately for the teachers, that did not happen before WNW took over. And WNW does not think that they are bound by any commitment given in the District’s name.

For the third ear in a row now, our two veteran board members have not approved a teacher pay raise, but curiously the protests are directed only at the three new board members. It makes no sense until you put it in the political context of a new era in Jefferson County, an era in which the teachers union no longer controls the Board of Education.”

A regurgitation of the misrepresentation in the fourth paragraph plus the failure to provide context in the previous paragraph, all wrapped up in a overly broad and unsubstantiated concluding sentence. In short, re-heated leftovers that were not any good the first time.

Shortly before signing the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln admonished Congress that “as our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

Here is the taken out of context historical quote that Newkirk loves pulling up. Lincoln was, of course, talking about the first step in freeing black Americans from slavery – an action that in large part got started because of the civil disobedience, willingness to cause social strife, and disregard for the law of many, many people who sheltered runaway slaves as part of the Underground Railroad. This is a far cry from trying to blame public reaction to their effort to censor American history on teachers. Mr. Newkirk might want to be careful if he ever visits the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. The sheer effrontery of him using this quote might cause the building to quake.

It’s time to disenthrall ourselves with policies of the past that are leaving far too many students behind. Only then will we embrace what can be a very bright future for our children and thus, for our nation.”

His empty summary that actually says nothing about why JeffCo students chose to protest him and his cohorts. He even does not perceive the irony of him defending a highly edited past, while telling us we must leave the past behind.

We would also advise him to ‘disenthrall’ himself from the use of ‘disenthrall’.  Even if he knows the true meaning, it is pretty pretentious, not to mention repetitious.

Our Final Comments:  As we said before, the real sad part of this editorial is the fact that we are not surprised by it. It is entirely in keeping with Witt, Newkirk, Williams, and Miller wanting to keep their dark doings dark, all while not being troubled with small things, such as honesty, respect, or integrity.



8 thoughts on “9/28 Sunday Post: The Introduction of Reality – A Rebuttal to John Newkirk’s Myth Making

  1. I apologize for saying that Mr. Newkirk’s opinion is the on validating the SOEs perspective…THE ERROR is my own based upon my reading of the above paragraph.

    If the mediator would delete my comment in toto, I would be most grateful and will post a better version.

    Thank you and I apologize for my grievous error.

    Mike Jardine

  2. Well done! I appreciate your efforts to point out all the errors and misrepresentations they are spewing. May the truth prevail!

  3. Dear JeffCo Community Members,

    As I stated before, the error here is on YOU. You voted, as a community, to let these people be on your BOE.

    You should have known then that which you surely know now, that, because you voted for them, you have bought their agenda, lock, stock and barrel.

    Whatever did you EXPECT, from people who got their money from Americans for Prosperity, a Koch Brothers funded PAC?

    Shame on you on for electing them…shame on you all for trying to do the education of your children on the cheap which is the REAL reason you elected them in the first, place, right? They promised to balance the budget, yet, they were not concerned with just that issue when they got into office, were they?

    Their motivations, considering the source of their funding and the endorsement of AFP, should have told you what they were truly about.

    Did you all just completely ignore what happened in DougCo? Sweet Baby Jeebus! Are you all BLIND or willfully ignorant?

    Now that they are in office and you all have a serious case of buyer’s remorse. What is this? Not even a year into their first, of what the WORLD hopes will be their LAST term in office forever, and your community is already clamoring for a recall vote.

    Now this also sounds to me a lot like “Aesop’s Sour Grapes,” doesn’t it?

    I am really sorry to speak to you as candidly like this, but, frankly, I am sort of tired of hearing about your problems in the news and I will tell you why.

    YOU, JeffCo, have the solution to all your problems in your hands and you always HAVE.

    Make up a Recall Election notice. Get the language approved by the State Authorities. Get the Petition out to the People and have them SIGN it! Stop wasting your time going after each other in the media. You are not helping yourselves and you are not doing enough damage to the other side yet.

    They are not afraid of you. They have plenty of money and access to more should they need it and they are in office, so their views are legitimatized just by virtue of WHAT they are, not by any facts…which they do, admittedly, lack. That is their Weakness and you need to stop pussy footing around in the media with these back-and-forth opinions and rebuttals. By themselves, they are not likely to work to effect change.

    You want to effect change and get your KIDS out of the middle of this thing? Start going for the jugular…today. Right now.

    These people are your Enemy. You might not think they are just loving, misguided and truly are doing what they believe is Right and Proper. But they are not.

    They are ideologues bought and paid for by AFP to sell and set an agenda that will, if not stopped, destroy the education of your children and indoctrinate them with the philosophies of AFP’s paymasters, the Koch Brothers.

    This is not just about your children. This is about EVERYONE’S children, all over the nation. Even now, the Koch Brother’s AFP is putting its heavily moneyed thumb on the scale in other school districts across the nation, and before 2016, it will be going to other places to do what it is doing to JeffCo right now.

    Your fight there will probably become my fight HERE before too long and it is a fight I am more than prepared to take on. Are you ready?

    As hinted earlier, your kids, out of some sense of loyalty to their teachers, concern for their education and deeply (and admirably, I might add) infused with a sense of social responsibility and civil disobedience, have put themselves into the middle of this thing. After all, it does concern them, too, right? I am not going to weigh in on what I believe to be Right about THEIR motivations for throwing themselves into the fray.

    I want to talk to you about YOUR indifference, apathy or laziness (as a community, mind you, not as individuals) that has allowed this thing to morph into an issue that would get them to take to the streets themselves, which, though admirable, hurts and not helps them today.

    Our job, our DUTY, as parents, is to keep our kids from having to do such things. Do not mistake me, you should be PROUD of your students but be ashamed of yourselves.

    First, they would not be in the streets protesting if you had not voted the Koch Brothers controlled candidates into office.

    Second, when Reason, Logic and a whole lot of community input did nothing, substantially, to change the dialogue or effect any meaningful changes to the BOEs agenda, you FAILED to act by immediately Recalling those Board Members who have sold your kid’s education out for money, power and a firm belief that they can rewrite history to their liking.

    That said, I CAN tell you is that if your kids, in any way, shape or form believe that they MUST do such a things as walk-out of class to be heard, then YOU as parents, on both sides of THIS issue, have FAILED them.

    This is not, strictly speaking, their battle to fight. It should not be up to them to clean up the mess that YOU, as the VOTERS, made when you elected AFP controlled ideologues to the BOE.

    YOU are the adults in the room and you have allowed this thing to become a complete and total distraction to their educational process.

    They should only be worried about their homework, whether they are going to try out for basketball, working on their young minds and bodies, maybe even who is going to ask them to the Christmas Dance!

    They should not be walking the streets during a school day in a Quixotic Effort to change what they, of themselves, have no ability to change, but YOU, because you vote, CAN. YOU are voters, they are not! Do something substantial right now.

    Put your KIDS first, get up on YOUR feet and off the Social Media and make the changes that needs to happen right now.

    Start a Recall petition today!

    Recall these AFP funded and controlled robots you have elected to your Board of Education. So strong is my belief in this, that if had a pile of money, I’d hire you an attorney to do it for you. Surely, somebody in JeffCo that is on your side, has some money to get this party started?

    Maybe, when there is, actually, a political gun (in the form of a Recall Petition, not an actual weapon) pointed at their virtual heads, these people will see the error of their ways?

    As it stands now, there is merely rhetoric coming from both sides and they have no real fear of you. It is time that ends, don’t you think? To me, the views of the Three Musketeers of School Board, and Mr. Newkirk’s substantial and scathing rebuttal of them, should be proof enough of that. The gloves should come off today. Right this very minute.

    When is JeffCo going to begin to realize that with this issue, it has become involved in a back alley knife fight in the dark? If it wants to retain its current curriculum, it had better wake up and see the knife coming and do something about it.

    Now, stop listening to me…listen to your kids. See what they were, are willing to sacrifice for change to happen and be their champions! Be their heroes and get out there and rid yourselves of these lying, sanctimonious, self-righteous and arrogant people who have high-jacked your school system to insert an indoctrination program based upon the principles of AFP.

    • In the 1930’s there were the same people attacking Jews, gays, different religions, gipsies, races and ”non patriots.” These same types also sanitized history to justify their removal of democracy. We are faced with potentially a true evil, the perpetuators themselves don’t see it yet but they know they are right and their god supports them..
      Gas chambers are more efficient than knives. Left to their own devices, the end conclusion will be the same. – obey authority.
      These people ‘conservatives,” are looking for a strong leader and as in Germany, Russia, Iraq and many other countries, they will in due course find their strong emblem and be themselves engulfed.
      They already have their followers.

      • Our contention from the beginning is that WNW are not true conservatives. They are not trying to ‘conserve’ anything. They are radical extremists who are trying to make over country (starting with our school district) into their own mythical utopia.

        JeffCo School Board Watch has Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Liberals, Libertarians, Conservatives, Moderates, and others. We all agree, WNW+Miller are not real conservatives.

  4. Thank you! Again, I humbly apologize if I come off mean to the community…it just upsets me so much when I read about how this happened to you guys out there and what you have to do to fix it…

    And I am quite beside myself for my error.

    Thank you again.

    Mike Jardine

  5. Mike, that was a GREAT response! Why ISN’T there a recall going yet?

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