Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Support the Puyallup Schools levy

Letter to the Editor
Puyallup Herald
February 10, 2010

I want to briefly explain why I will support the February 9 Puyallup School District replacement levy. Puyallup is an education community. I am the son, grandson, and great grandson of Puyallup teachers, and I was blessed to attend Karshner Elementary, Aylen Junior High, and graduate from Puyallup High School.

Puyallup is famous for its first-class teaching staff, its exceptional athletic programs, and its tradition of community support. In this time of economic hardship, we must not raise taxes, and this levy will not increase taxes. Many areas of government spending should be cut, but cutting over 20% of the Puyallup School District budget would be too much to bear.

Please join me in voting yes for the Puyallup Schools levy.

Hans Zeiger

Three Great Education Statesmen from Puyallup

Three Great Education Statesmen from Puyallup
By Hans Zeiger
South Hill Sunrisers Kiwanis
February 10, 2010

My family’s story in the Puyallup area starts back in 1952, when young Ed Zeiger showed up in town and started teaching at Maplewood Elementary and eventually populated a good part of the town with his own kids and grandkids, of which I am one. My mom took her first job teaching fourth grade at Wildwood Park Elementary School 31 years ago. Ed Zeiger was the principal there, and before long he had played matchmaker for Miss Nisker and his third son Walt. I am the son, grandson, and great grandson of Puyallup teachers. I am a proud graduate of Puyallup High School. So when it comes to public schools, as you might guess, I’m against them (Just kidding).

This morning I want to talk about three great education statesmen in our community’s history. They came from different points of view, but they shared one thing in common, and that was their advocacy for our public schools. One was a conservative Republican, one was a liberal Democrat, and one was a Populist. All three of them have schools named after them.

The first education statesman was John Rogers. John Rogers was born in Brunswick, Maine in 1838 and became a professional wanderer who worked at various times as a farmer, teacher, pharmacist, drugstore manager, newspaper editor, and political organizer in the states of Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Illinois, and Kansas. He was an endlessly curious and restless man who could never stay put. It was late in life when he finally found what he had been searching for all those years. He found a place and a calling. The place was Puyallup, and the calling was the leader of the Populist movement in Washington State. He had been the editor of a Populist newspaper in Kansas, and his son had moved up to the Northwest and started a newspaper of his own in Puyallup. So the elder Rogers went up to join his son. They worked on the Populist newspaper just as the People’s Party and the national movement for free silver and land reform was picking up steam. He was a tireless writer of pamphlets and books. And within a couple years, Rogers had been elected to the State Senate from the Puyallup area.

He is best remembered because he is the man who first took the words of the State Constitution seriously in working to implement them. Our Constitution says that education is the “paramount duty of the state.” That was based on an old tradition in America. One of the four organic documents of our nation’s founding was the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which set out the purposes for the new territories, and the Congress zoned the territory to have townships where a certain area would be set aside for schools. And in that Northwest Ordinance, they wrote this, “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of instruction shall be encouraged in these territories.” And so education spread from coast to coast. And Washington Territory took education very seriously; our first territorial governor Isaac Stevens said that every child should have the equal opportunity to receive an education.

So State Senator Rogers introduced what has become known as the Barefoot Schoolboy Bill in 1893. It proposed that there should be adequate funding for the Basic Education of every child in the state. And that was a radical thing, because it meant that if you lived in the Valley and went to Maplewood School you had just the same right to a basic education as if you lived in the Woodland area and went to Woodland School. And it was to say that all of us together have an interest in the education of the young, even the Barefoot Schoolboys and Schoolgirls. And that was actually a hard sell with the big cities at the time, because that meant they would have to pay more taxes to cover the poorer rural areas. So Rogers lost his first attempt to get that bill in the Senate. But he was a persistent man. He introduced the bill again, and it failed, and then again. His persistence paid off, because he was also a persuasive man. And in the very final days of the 1893 session, the Rogers Barefoot Schoolboy Bill passed.

Guess how much the per pupil state cost of basic education was for one year? $6.

There was a reward for Rogers’s persistence, and it isn’t just that they named a school in Puyallup after him. People in this state have always loved education, and if you are a champion of it, you can become a hero. Rogers suddenly became a sensation, and in the 1896 election, he was elected governor.

Of course, Rogers had his critics. Some accused him of being the political agent of Ezra Meeker, who the editor of the Olympia Standard John Murphy referred to as “the antiquated fraud.” Murphy had a nickname for Rogers also: “His accidency.” Murphy and others suspected that Rogers was trying to move the state capitol to the so-called “hop yard” known as Puyallup. And Rogers ended up vetoing a bill on his desk to finance the completion of a state capitol, though he suggested moving into the Thurston County courthouse as an alternative. Rogers was known for his vetoes and threats of vetoes which kept spending to a minimum in a time of economic difficulty. In fact, the state budget was $3 million in the biennium before Rogers took office, and as a result of Rogers’s veto power and influence, he was able to get the budget down to about $1.2 million for the 1897-1899 biennium. He died shortly after leaving the governor’s mansion.

And by the way, John Rogers is the only former governor in the history of our state to have a statue in his honor. It stands outside the State Education Building in Olympia, where one of the other three men I’ll talk about would eventually work.

The second Puyallup education statesman was Dr. Warner Karshner, who has become one of my personal heroes, and not just because I attended Karshner Elementary as a kid. Karshner was born in Ohio in 1880 and came out here from the Midwest to study medicine at the University of Washington. After graduating, he and his wife Ella settled in Puyallup where he began his medical practice. He delivered hundreds of Puyallup babies, performed major surgeries with great skill, and conducted the first successful stomach cancer surgery in Pierce County. He was a poet, an author, a newspaper columnist, a world traveler, a public philosopher, a scientist, and a civic booster. Everytime there was an event in town where some group needed a speaker, Karshner was the go-to man, because he always had something brilliant and insightful to say. He was the commencement speaker at Puyallup High School year after year. He served on the School Board and advocated a modern high school building in the early 1900s. Then he was elected to the State Senate as a Republican in 1916, beating William Chamberlain who was one of the Fair founders by a vote of 4,544 to 2,845.

After he won the Puyallup Valley Tribune wrote that he was “a man of courage, ability, and unswerving integrity. There will be few men in the next legislature so highly trained in mind and by habits of industry. He is at once a student and a thinker; alert, active, purposeful. He delves for the facts himself. If the truth is there he finds it … He can’t be led or fooled.”

Well Dr. Karshner was the leading conservative Republican of the State Senate in his time. He was so conservative on social issues that he not only wanted Prohibition but he wanted Prohibition on communion wine. And he was a limited government conservative. The News Tribune once wrote, “Senator Karshner … has from the very first fought for a program of economy, even to the point of raising the ire of other legislators by his determined stand for lower taxes.” He was frequently calling for tax cuts and spending cuts. Just 20 years after John Rogers was dealing with $1 million to $3 million budgets, the general budget had risen to $50 million. And that was too much for Karshner, who sat on the Appropriations Committee. “Out of a general budget of something like $50,000,000, less than half is of special interest to the general taxpayer.” Dr. Karshner was outspokenly opposed to the public power lobby. Karshner voted against funding for the Centralia Normal School, the Spokane Women’s Clinic, the Northwest Tourist Fund, an Orthopedic program, and others. He said that these were “measures which I feel have no standing in law.” And when the economy was tough around the time of World War I, Senator Karshner said that it would be wrong to raise taxes.

There’s a cartoon of Dr. Karshner standing in front of a patient on the operating table and he’s raising a giant cleaver above his head. The patient has a name tag which says, “Appropriations.”

Karshner was a limited government conservative, but that wasn’t because he was opposed to worthy community efforts. He just happened to believe that there ought to be a wide sphere for private philanthropy in any community, and it’s best if the state can create policies to encourage that rather than trying to do what caring people in a community can do just as well themselves. And Karshner practiced what he preached. Good Samaritan Hospital is one of Karshner’s legacies. He led the fundraising drive for the Puyallup Valley Hospital in the early 1920s, and the money for the hospital was raised within the community. So Karshner called on people in Puyallup to give generously to the work of building Puyallup Valley Hospital at 4th and Meridian. They raised $150,000 for the building and equipment.

It wouldn’t surprise you that Kiwanis was heavily involved in that. In fact, when the hospital opened in 1922, Kiwanis sponsored a pie eating contest to see who could be the first patient in the new hospital. I propose that you should repeat that when the new building opens next year.

In addition to his work in health care, Karshner appreciated the value of education. As I said, he was the default commencement speaker at the high school, and in his commencement speech of 1915 he told the graduates that there was something expected of them in exchange for the public investment that was made for their school years. And that was that they were to “make good.” “Don’t hide your light under a bushel,” he told them. And this man was a great orator. You can just imagine Puyallup’s doctor there in that beautiful auditorium warning the graduates to “select their course ere the undertow of life drags them away from their moorings to perish in some Sargasso sea, or into some vortex strewn with human derelicts. Life is short … and there is much to do. The graduates were standing on the threshold of the world, with material to build a bridgeway to the stars, and he hoped none of them would be content to close their career by digging a dugout. All nature speaks to them, calling them to study and learn—to come up higher. ‘Will you come; will you come,’ impressively concluded the speaker.”

Dr. Karshner may have been for limited government, but that doesn’t mean that he was opposed to funding education. In the tradition of that other budget-cutter John Rogers, Senator Karshner believed that education was a public priority. The state’s number one tax cutter and spending limiter was also its biggest proponent for school funding. He once called for “a state tax sufficient to cover the educational load.” He was a proponent for levy equalization, and he thought that the state should fully fund basic education.

Of course, not only is a school named after Dr. Karshner, but he also donated thousands of items from his travels to the Puyallup School District in honor of his son who was a Puyallup High School student when he died in 1927. So the Karshner legacy lives on.

The third great education statesman from Puyallup was Frank Brouillet, who was born the year that Ezra Meeker died, 1928. Soon after he was born a lady saw him in his carriage and said that he was a cute little buster, so he became known as Buster. He was in the PHS class of 1946, captain of the football, basketball, and track teams, involved in student government and debate. He earned his BA from UPS and his Master’s from the University of Montana, served in Army Counter-intelligence, and came home in 1955 to take a teaching job at Puyallup High School. The next year he went doorbelling across the 25th District and won a seat in the State House of Representatives. He served there for sixteen years, chairing the Education Committee and rising to become Democratic Caucus Chair. He continued to teach and earned an Ed.D in education in 1965. And so he really specialized in education there and became the go-to man on that issue.

I’ve learned more about politics in this community from reading Buster Brouillet’s oral history in the state archives than I have from any political operative who claims to know how politics works. Buster understood this community and made it a better place through his advocacy in Olympia. He understood the importance of human relationships, and that getting to know people is the best way to build a coalition. He built a coalition for Puyallup in the legislature with Leonard Sawyer when he was Speaker of the House, and then he mentored a new generation of young Democrats, all in their 20s, Marc Gaspard, Dan Grimm, and George Walk, which formed a coalition that lasted for the next 20 years as those three rose into leadership. With Brouillet moving on to be State Superintendent in 1972, people started referring to the 25th District legislative delegation as the Puyallup Mafia. So Puyallup had a great influence in Olympia because of Buster Brouillet.

He served four terms as State Superintendent. And there were a few major things that Buster Brouillet accomplished for education in this state. He was asked about his biggest accomplishments, and he listed three things. One is that he really raised the standard for school funding, which we can argue about how well those dollars are spent, but Washington State has had a fairly strong level of overall funding for our schools. Second, Brouillet invested a lot of resources into educating people with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, and immigrant students. He said his goal was to bring them into the mainstream no matter what their background. And then third, something that he was particularly proud of, he began an exchange program with China, and he really raised the state’s consciousness about our place in the world and especially on the Pacific Rim.

He came home after that and launched Pierce College Puyallup, and then he headed up the education program at the University of Washington Tacoma before his death in 2001. And of course, the Brouillet family remains active both in education and in local politics. Marc Brouillet was my student government advisor at Puyallup High School and then went on to be principal at Ed Zeiger Elementary.

There are other Puyallup education statesmen and women who we could mention: Paul Hanawalt, Eileen Kalles, Vitt Ferrucci, Judith Billings. So we could go on, but I guess the moral of the story is that this is an education community, and that when it comes to education as a public priority, it needs to be #1. John Rogers, Warner Karshner, Buster Brouillet—three different political parties, three different backgrounds, three different personalities and ways of living, three different perspectives, but these three great men had one thing in common—I guess two things: they loved Puyallup, and they loved our schools. And I guess I’ll close by saying that I hope as a young person to whom much has been given that we can continue their legacy for generations to come.

And I should thank all of you for everything you’ve done to make that dream a reality. Thanks.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

100 Years of Scouting in Washington State

Washington has benefited from a century of Scouting
Hans Zeiger
The Seattle Times, February 9, 2010

THE Pacific Northwest was a great place to be a Boy Scout. It meant summer camp on the Olympic Peninsula, ocean camp at Ocean Shores, treks through the North Cascades, Olympic National Park and the Wonderland Trail.

We had annual outings to Millsylvania State Park near Olympia for canoeing, and Meeker Lakes in the Cascades for junior Scouts to learn how to hike. We also made occasional trips to places like Yellowstone, the Tetons and Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico for variety, but we could have gotten by just fine sticking around home. The scenery and terrain around here are sufficient for a lifetime of adventures.

Any kid who thought "Scouts" was showing up at 7:30 on Monday night for the weekly meeting of 6-square and rank advancement was missing out. Most of what we did in Puyallup's Troop 174 was only indirectly related to moving through the ranks (Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle). The substance of Scouting was to be found out in the woods. That's where we had most of our fun, developed close friendships, made mistakes, witnessed some beautiful sights, and learned a few things about what it would take to be men.

It was at Camp Hahobas on Hood Canal that I learned to be a confident swimmer, to handle fire, and to be away from home for an entire week. A few years later, as my troop's co-senior patrol leader at Hahobas, I learned to lead by delegation. And it was during a snow-caving expedition to Mount Rainier that the Scout motto of "be prepared" first sank in for me. Let's just say I figured out the importance of having extra warm and dry clothing.

The Boy Scouts of America turns 100 years old this week, and the organization deserves a lot of credit for making this region a better place to live. Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts have contributed hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours improving Washington's forest trails and city parks, installing picnic tables and church pews, painting public buildings and cleaning up environmental hazards. In response to current state and local budget shortfalls, government officials might consider turning to Eagle Scouts for free labor when projects need to get done.

Among our state's luminaries who have attained the distinguished Eagle Scout rank are former Govs. Gary Locke and Dan Evans, Attorney General Rob McKenna, former U.S. House Speaker Tom Foley, business leaders Howard Lincoln, John Creighton and Jimmy Collins, and civic leader William Gates Sr.

Washington state is also distinguished for having the longest-operating Boy Scout camp west of the Mississippi, the 440-acre Camp Parsons on Hood Canal (since 1919).

Through its various programs — Cub Scouts, Venturing, Explorers, Scoutreach, Learning for Life, and traditional Boy Scouts for boys under 18 years old — scouting teaches the values that make our communities strong.

Anybody who wants to live a decent life would do well to repeat the Scout Oath every day. "On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight." Contained within that statement are all the basics for governing ourselves in a free society. Personal responsibility — the foundation for our freedoms — is unmistakably contained in the Scout Oath.

Will Rogers remarked that the problem with the Boy Scouts is that there aren't enough of them. I have talked to a number of people who regret not having been Boy Scouts. I always tell them that it's not too late: The Scouts need adult leaders. And even if one didn't participate in scouting as a child, moms and dads can get as much out of the program as their kids.

As always, the Boy Scouts of our community needs members and financial supporters. What better way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of scouting than to contact your local Scout unit or council and find out how you can give back to Scouting?

Hans Zeiger is an Eagle Scout and assistant Scoutmaster in Puyallup's Troop 174. He is a senior fellow of the American Civil Rights Union and author of a 2005 book about Scouting.