Legislature's leaders promote polarization when times demand conciliation

Published June 9, 2022

By Capitol Broadcasting Company

Why deal with questions and concerns about classroom materials and resources in a calm and direct way when it can be distorted, exploited and exaggerated in hopes of partisan political gain?

Why – because the leaders of North Carolina’s General Assembly – specifically state House Speaker Tim Moore and state Senate leader Phil Berger clearly don’t care about anything other than charging up the extremes in their partisan political base.

When questions arose over the use of some flashcards in Wake County’s Ballentine Elementary School with illustrations of families of diverse races, ages, sexualities, ages, genders and abilities to identify colors, some acted in a responsible way – contacting the appropriate school officials, looking into the situation, getting the facts and dealing with the matter

Speaker Tim Moore’s impulse – fire out a news release to rev-up the controversy. Why? No matter the consequences, excite the partisan base. What gain would there have been in a news release that’s theme was about school officials acting effectively?  Why won’t our legislative leaders find an opportunity to complement public schools?

 Local police officers were called to the campus Monday, amid parents’ concerns about their children’s safety after all the heated response and incendiary rhetoric following the reports about the flash cards. The teacher connected with use of the flash cards resigned.

At a time when the nation and the world are focused on the violent deaths of school kids shot in their classroom and shoppers gunned down at a neighborhood grocery, North Carolina’s leaders are fanning flames of divisiveness and endangering children.

The facts – lost in the closing paragraphs of the news release and the over-heated news coverage that Moore and Berger obviously hoped for – was that even before issuing the statement school officials had been informed about the use of the questionable resources and acted swiftly and appropriately to address the matter. The material had been taken out of the classroom and the school’s principal was looking into how materials ended got there. There were no complaints – actually some praise – for how the school officials responded.

A parent, with a child in the classroom who talked with news reporters about the situation, praised the teacher at the center of the matter. She described the controversy for what it was – a publicity stunt.

“They wanted to get people riled up at the expense of the safety of our children. My special-needs child is being used as a prop,” the parent told The News & Observer. “This is not supporting our children, not supporting our teachers, not supporting our schools. It’s catering to the loudest hate-filled voices in the community that don’t represent the Ballentine community.”

When a constituent made state Rep. Erin Pare aware of concerns about the flash cards, she was right to contact the principal with the concerns of a constituent. Pare said the principal acted appropriately and quickly. Little did the principal know that good work would become lost in a scheme to make some partisan political hay – that would require police protection at the school.

The selfish work to inflame partisan passions, particularly as the nation is focused on seeking ways to keep our children safe, was misdirected.

Voters should see the actions of Moore and Berger for what they really are – a naked ploy to further polarize North Carolinians rather than look for opportunities to find common ground and constructive dialogue.

For now, we’re just lucky their exploitive efforts haven’t taken a deadly toll.