Bob Thomas: Commentators need to offer solutions, not just complaints

This morning while perusing the Appeal, I analyzed Ann Bednarski’s column, “State’s education needs to return to its former Glory.”

What former glory? I served on the Carson City School Board from 1976-80 and I don’t remember glory days then or since. I do remember some outstanding teachers and administrators, specifically Grace Bordewich, Muriel Gamble, Marion Arkell, Ross Price, Morse Burley, Milan Tresnit, Mel Cowperthwaite, Ken Beaton and Bea Lippold, and Superintendent John Hawkins.

Ms. Bednarski’s columns on education raise many excellent points, especially in calling attention to deficiencies. And though she hasn’t lived in Nevada long enough to be christened an honorary native, she is correct in assuming that our education system used to be much more effective.

I’m not picking on Ms. Bednarski, but her column reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to address for a long time. I’m talking about the proliferation of commentators, especially academics, who do research amassing facts for addressing society’s local and worldwide problems, but offer zero solutions.

It’s impossible for me to see how commentators can raise valid questions about problems without having some idea of how they would solve them. Syndicated columnists are no different. They fear being wrong or being laughed at. Or perhaps political correctness enters the picture and they fear being considered mean-spirited if they propose unpopular solutions. I wish I had a $100 bill for every time I’ve heard a commentator say, “We’ve just got to do something about that.”

Well, you can’t say that about my columns. If I raise a question, I almost always offer my solution. It might be the wrong one or the least popular, but my mission is to get you thinking, and then perhaps we can establish a genuine dialogue. We shouldn’t bring problems to public attention if we’re unwilling to offer our own ideas.

I believe that our education system began to deteriorate when Dr. Eugene Paslov took over as superintendent of public instruction. Paslov is a progressive, and we had zero progressive programs here — with the exception of one experimental year-round grade school — prior to his arrival. If our governor will now be appointing the schools superintendent, maybe we can hire a more traditional educator instead of another progressive technocrat. Hey, Gov. Sandoval, how about choosing somebody with a few years of teaching experience?

The teacher’s union is another impediment to excellence in education. It has been far more concerned with teacher power, pay, benefits and working conditions than with excellence. It should spend some of its fat dues money lobbying for laws immunizing teachers from frivolous lawsuits and legally reinforcing absolute teacher authority in their classrooms.

It’s also time Nevada school boards live up to the mandate given them by law and govern. This is a right-to-work state, so teachers can’t strike. Oh, they can raise hell and act like Teamsters, but if school boards will hold fast to what must be done to make ours a first-class system, treated fairly, teachers will do the right thing.

Finally, education is a privilege, not a right. Our system should return to expelling or suspending troublemakers. Keeping them in school is selling our souls for the almighty dollar.

Bob Thomas is an author and a retired high-tech industrialist who served on the Carson City School Board, the Nevada Welfare Board and the Carson City Airport Authority and as a three-term state assemblyman. His website is


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