Mainstream the politicians

August 02, 2000

Mainstream the politicians

Does she, or doesn't she? Is it live, or is it Memorex? Is the superintendent being evasive or perjurious?

Oh the fine lines and sticky questions we weave.

Washington County Schools Superintendent Herman Bartlett recently was called into Circuit Court to testify about the future of the Job Development Center, a school that serves "older, special needs students."

My PC dictionary hasn't been updated in several months, so I'm not entirely certain what "special needs" means. Usually where students are concerned, the more glowing the name, the worse-off the kid.

Job Development Center seems pretty middle of the road, so I guess those who are sent there still have a chance in life, given proper help.


But there are rumors the Job Development Center might be closing, since the educational flavor of the week is called "Mainstreaming," meaning that poor students are folded in with good students in the hope that results level out.

I remember they did some mainstreaming when I was in high school with students who weren't necessarily slow, but were necessarily dangerous. And it worked, too. They sprinkled some bad kids in with the good kids and we learned from each other and pretty soon we were all smoking cigarettes and carrying knives. We were the first chapter of the National Honor Society to dissolve our charter and sign up with the Cripps.

But even though it worked for us, Washington County Circuit Judge John McDowell seems to believe that mainstreaming isn't always the answer, and the county needs a school for those who need more help than they can get in the traditional classroom.

While adjudicating the case of a functionally illiterate boy charged with calling 911 with false alarms, he listened to Superintendent Bartlett, who testified the county has no plans to close the Job Development Center.

It was a pitch that Judge McDowell, to put it mildly, didn't buy. "The Board of Education is trying to deceive this court," he said, adding that Bartlett's comments were "At best ... evasive, at worst perjurious."

Oh please, please, please, let's hope for the worst. Ken Starr isn't doing anything that I know of right now, and this seems right up his alley, although without the sex.

How cool would it be to have a special prosecutor come to Washington County and spend $150 million to determine whether a public figure has committed perjury? What a great media drama:

Bartlett: (Wagging his finger at the camera) "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

Reporter: "That's nice, but my question was whether you intended to close the Job Development Center."

This got me thinking, wouldn't it be interesting if, instead of taking an oath of office, public officials just took an oath? Like in court?

For whatever their time in office, they would agree to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth for the duration of their terms. Any public comment would be the sworn truth, and if we found out otherwise we bust them on a perjury rap.

I'm thinking Al Gore is going to be a lot slower to claim credit for inventing the Internet if he knows it could land him in the calaboose. And when he claimed in the campaign that he was too young to serve in World War II, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett wouldn't have gone to the House, he'd have gone to the Big House.

Now that would be a real test of mainstreaming. Put educated politicians in prison with a bunch of uneducated felons, let them associate freely and maybe, just maybe, the politicians would improve.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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