Sanders’ school reforms don’t address the problems

Newly installed Arkansas Governor Sanders could have picked any number of other issues more critical to the welfare of Arkansas residents than CRT. Her decision to address Critical Race Theory signals her lack of insight or, more likely, her debt to her behind-the-scenes bosses who care nothing for Arkansas citizens—with the exception of manipulating them into voting Republican.

Like her predecessors in the Arkansas state house, Sanders won office with the votes of a minority of eligible voters. Over 1.79 million Arkansans are eligible, but only 50.8% of them voted, meaning that Sanders won office with the votes of only 31.9% of eligible voters. Arkansas ranks last in both voter turnout and registration and has the highest absentee ballot rejection rate in the nation. This parallels other low rankings of the state:

  • 44th in health matters. Measures contributing to Arkansas’s low overall performance include the number of adults who have lost six or more teeth, adults without dental visits, and premature deaths from treatable causes — all measures for which Arkansas is ranked last among states. Other factors include the number of children who are overweight or obese, the number of adults with any mental illness reporting unmet needs, and preventable hospitalizations for adults ages 18–64.[1]
  • 47th in education, based on factors including educational attainment, school quality and achievement gaps between genders and races[2]
  • 43rd in economic activity, economic health, and a state’s innovation potential[3]
  • 4th worst state to live in, with the breakdown as follows:
    • 35th – Homeownership Rate
    • 45th – % of Population in Poverty
    • 18th – Income Growth
    • 29th – % of Insured Population
    • 48th – % of Adults in Fair or Poor Health
    • 42nd – Average Weekly Work Hours[4]
  • 2nd unhappiest state based on employment, leisure activities, mental health, personal finance, personal relationships, physical health, and social policies[5]
  • 3rd highest in pornography use[6]
  • 2nd in teen pregnancy with 27.8 per 1,000 – Sex education is allowed but not required, and local districts largely sidestep the topic. Arkansas schools are not required to offer instruction on HIV or STIs. Further, sex education—in the rare instances it is offered—is hamstrung with multiple restrictions:
    • If sex education is offered, curriculum must stress abstinence.
    • If sex education is offered, curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent.
    • If sex education is offered, curriculum is not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • Arkansas has no standard regarding the ability of parents and guardians to remove their children from sex education instruction.
    • Arkansas has no standard regarding medically accurate sex education instruction. However, instruction on dating violence must be based on scientific research.
  • Children in foster care (2022): 4,127.  Households with grandparents responsible for grandchildren under age 18: 70,290[7]
  • 5th highest incarceration rate of all states, higher than the national rate[8]
  • Poverty rate
    • Extreme poverty 9%
    • Poverty rate 16.2%
    • Working family under 200% of poverty line 39.4%
    • Percent of jobs that are low-wage 30.1%

In a 2014 study, of the total eligible voters in the state, 46% were Republican, 38% Democrat, and 16% non-affiliated. Evangelicals comprise 61% of Republican voters, 29% of Democrat, and 11% of non-affiliated. Predictably, Republican voters are less educated, with 42% with high school or less, 34% with some college, 17% with a college degree, and 6% with post-graduate degree compared to Democratic voters with 52% high school or less, 30% some college, 9% college graduate, and 9% with post graduate degree.[9]

While Sanders states her priority is education improvement, the areas of education which she targeted in her statement are very limited. Aside from banning CRT, she has nominated Jacob Oliva to head the Department of Education. Oliva has previously served that role in Florida, where ‘Don’t Say Gay’ has been one of the guiding mantras of the DeSantis administration; the measure “contains language to prevent the ‘instruction’ or ‘discussion’ of sexual orientation and gender identity at certain grade levels and in an ‘age-appropriate’ way. The vagueness of the law has called into question how teachers could handle teaching history or questions raised in class about sexual orientation.”[10]

Undoubtedly the most destructive education measure touted by Sanders is the voucher option for parents, which Sanders vows to enact. The National Education Association explains why vouchers are not in America’s best interests:

  • No matter how you look at it, vouchers undermine strong public education and student opportunity. They take scarce funding from public schools—which serve 90 percent of students—and give it to private schools—institutions that are not accountable to taxpayers. This means public school students have less access to music instruments and science equipment, modern technology and textbooks, and after-school programs.  Moreover, there is ZERO statistical significance that voucher programs improve overall student success, and some programs have even shown to have a NEGATIVE effect for students receiving a voucher. Furthermore, vouchers have been shown to not support students with disabilities, they fail to protect the human and civil rights of students, and they exacerbate segregation.
  • Vouchers were first created after the Supreme Court banned school segregation with its ruling in Brown v Board of Education. School districts used vouchers to enable white students to attend private schools, which could (and still can) limit admission based on race. As a result, the schools that served those white students were closed, and schools that served black students remained chronically underfunded. The pattern of discrimination continues with vouchers today. Unlike public schools, private schools can (and some do) limit their admission based on race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and any other number of factors. Furthermore, vouchers rarely cover the full tuition, so families who were promised a better education are left footing the bill.  

Many Arkansas parents are strongly evangelical and would prefer religion and prayer be included in their children’s education. But we’ve already been there.

  • The Supreme Court entered the evolution debate in 1968, when it ruled, in Epperson v. Arkansas, that Arkansas could not eliminate from the high school biology curriculum the teaching of “the theory that mankind descended from a lower order of animals.” Arkansas’ exclusion of that aspect of evolutionary theory, the court reasoned, was based on a preference for the account of creation in the book of Genesis and thus violated the state’s constitutional obligation of religious neutrality.

We’ve seen what can occur when religious belief usurps rational education. The Duggar family homeschooled their children in ‘devout Christian beliefs’ including oldest child Josh Duggar who, after molesting his younger sisters and their friends, is serving a twelve-year prison term for ‘receiving’ child pornography. Reports state that Jim Bob Duggar consulted ‘church elders’ who apparently did not urge him to report his son’s abuse to the authorities. Josh’s parents kept it secret until the statute of limitations had expired.

In fact, it was this nest of evangelical excess in Springdale from which sprang the Reverend Ronnie Floyd. The following is excerpted from Wikipedia’s page on Floyd:

  • A strong advocate of evangelism and discipleship, Floyd was a member of the “conservative resurgence” that retook control of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) during the 1980s. In 1989 he was a candidate to become president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, but was defeated by Mike Huckabee.  …On June 10, 2014, Dr. Floyd was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the SBC’s annual gathering held in Baltimore. Upon close of the meeting, he became the 61st president of the SBC, succeeding the Rev. Fred Lute. …In October, 2019, at a conference regarding care for those who have been sexually abused in Christian contexts, Rachael Denhollander referenced abusive treatment of a sexual abuse victim by Dr. Floyd and other leaders at the Executive Committee as an example of why those who are abused are reticent to report.
  • Subsequently, in May, 2021, multiple internal whistle blower reports alleged Dr. Floyd had actively sought to intimidate victims, advocates, and stall progress in the sexual abuse inquiry within the Southern Baptist Convention. …In an unprecedented move following weeks of turmoil over allegations of Floyd’s handling of the sexual abuse crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention, the delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention voted to mandate an independent third party investigation into the Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse cases, victims, and advocates, including an investigation into Dr. Floyd’s actions.
  • …Floyd’s leadership was marked by yet another unprecedented milestone for the Southern Baptist Convention when he and the Executive Committee trustees failed to fully comply with the directive of the Convention’s delegates when, amidst calls for his removal and a tumultuous trustee meeting, Floyd’s resistance to complete transparency and participation in the commissioned abuse task force was supported by the Executive Committee trustees.

Floyd subsequently resigned after the independent investigation revealed that Floyd’s committee members responded to sexual abuse survivors with “resistance, stonewalling and even outright hostility” to nearly two decades of allegations against clergy. According to the report, the group kept a secret, running list of accused Baptist ministers to avoid being sued – even as the committee publicly claimed it didn’t have the authority to create such a list. A LIST OF BAPTIST MINISTERS ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ABUSE!

While multiple sexual abuse scandals within churches is not the topic at hand, hardly a week passes without yet another report of sexual misdeeds by pastors, youth counselors, or other church personnel. To a disinterested bystander, it seems the frantic outrage over drag queens (who, incidentally, are rarely if ever accused of sexual misconduct) would be more appropriately directed toward religious leaders. To assume that children are ‘safer’ or more lovingly educated within the context of parochial schools is yet another example of willful ignorance. Yet Sanders, herself the child of a Baptist minister, is apparently blind to this hypocrisy.

Republicans routinely cultivate a receptive audience of voters by spotlighting hot button issues such as abortion, homosexuality, ‘woke’ culture, and religion, yet there is scant evidence that any of their radical rhetoric or legislation has any positive impact on the troubles Arkansas faces. [Based on the outraged edicts from evangelicals, a casual observer might assume that it’s drag queens abusing all these children rather than religious leaders. Strangely, no record of drag queen abuses is found.] Children still leave their school years without the ability to read or reason, without understanding of how the government works or the scientific method, without the skills necessary to negotiate life in the modern world.

Some of this results from the parents’ inadequacy in time or knowledge, a generational failing in many Arkansas households. But it can be argued that the greater failing is in Arkansas’ penchant for electing more of the same, people like Sanders, who can’t seem to grasp the actual needs of Arkansas children—not banning CRT or saying ‘gay,’ not siphoning tax dollars away from public schools, not school prayer or any of the other worthless ideas promoted by Republicans. What is needed is for government to get its foot off the neck of teachers and offer much higher pay in order to attract skilled instructors who know how to engage students in the love of learning.


[1] https://achi.net/newsroom/arkansas-ranked-44th-among-states-in-health-system-performance-scorecard/

[2] https://www.kark.com/news/state-news/arkansas-among-least-educated-states-study-says/

[3] https://www.thecentersquare.com/arkansas/report-ranks-arkansas-as-one-of-the-ten-worst-economies-in-the-u-s/article_97cf8c72-e679-11ec-8105-8753bf509325.html

[4] https://www.nwahomepage.com/news/report-arkansas-is-2022s-4th-worst-state-to-live-in/

[5] https://www.ozarksfirst.com/news/missouri-news/missouri-arkansas-rank-as-some-of-unhappiest-states-in-us/

[6] https://web.archive.org/web/20160416220848/http://www.cyberpsychology.eu:80/ view.php?cisloclanku=2015120302

[7] https://spotlightonpoverty.org/states/arkansas/

[8] https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/incarceration-rates-by-state

[9] “Party affiliation among adults in Arkansas,” Pew Research Center, https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/religious-landscape-study/state/arkansas/party-affiliation/

The Agenda of Gov. Sarah H. Sanders

Arkansas’ new governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has raised the colors for her term at the helm of the ship of this state. Not that these are ‘her’ colors, per se, but rather edicts scripted for her by her bosses behind the Republican curtain. These are the same entities who put her in front of a microphone to lie for Trump as his press secretary, apparently under the promise that they would support her efforts toward future political office.

Evidence of her bought-and-paid-for status can be found in the immediate issuance of her ban on Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the public schools. The boiler-plate executive order commands, in part, that the Arkansas Department of Education:

“Review the rules, regulations, policies, materials, and communications of the Department of Education to identify any items that may, purposely or otherwise, promote teaching that would indoctrinate students with ideologies, such as CRT, that conflict with the principle of equal protection under the law or encourage students to discriminate against someone based on the individual’s color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law.”

Sanders’ measure is put forth as enforcement of Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241), which was established to ensure equal rights to everyone.

“People of one color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law are inherently superior or inferior to people of another color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law…”

This and similar bans present two absurdities. One, the ban alleges that efforts to reduce and/or eliminate the negative impact of entrenched racism are a form of racism. Two, the ban demonstrates either an utter lack of understanding of CRT or an ingrained denial of systemic racism, either of which would be remedied by a study of CRT. The rightwing furor over CRT is a perfect example of racist thinking and reassures its racist followers that rightwing Republicans will resist any effort to encourage white people to think equitably of their darker-skinned brethren.

Critical Race Theory advances the idea that multiple aspects of American law, institutions, and social structures enshrine racist ideas. Wikipedia describes the tenets of CRT as follows:

“Scholars of CRT say that race is not “biologically grounded and natural”; rather, it is a socially constructed category used to oppress and exploit people of color; and that racism is not an aberration, but a normalized feature of American society. According to CRT, negative stereotypes assigned to members of minority groups benefit white people and increase racial oppression. Individuals can belong to a number of different identity groups…

“Derrick Albert Bell Jr. (1930 – 2011), an American lawyer, professor, and civil rights activist, writes that racial equality is ”impossible and illusory” and that racism in the U.S. is permanent. According to Bell, civil-rights legislation will not on its own bring about progress in race relations; alleged improvements or advantages to people of color “tend to serve the interests of dominant white groups,” in what Bell calls “interest convergence.” These changes do not typically affect—and at times even reinforce—racial hierarchies. This is representative of the shift in the 1970s, in Bell’s re-assessment of his earlier desegregation work as a civil rights lawyer. He was responding to the Supreme Court’s decisions that had resulted in the re-segregation of schools.

“The concept of standpoint theory became particularly relevant to CRT when it was expanded to include a black feminist standpoint by Patricia Hill Collins. First introduced by feminist sociologists in the 1980s, standpoint theory holds that people in marginalized groups, who share similar experiences, can bring a collective wisdom and a unique voice to discussions on decreasing oppression. In this view, insights into racism can be uncovered by examining the nature of the U.S. legal system through the perspective of the everyday lived experiences of people of color.

“According to Encyclopedia Britannica, tenets of CRT have spread beyond academia, and are used to deepen understanding of socio-economic issues such as “poverty, police brutality, and voting rights violations,” that are impacted by the ways in which race and racism are “understood and misunderstood” in the United States.[1]

Conservatives, including Governor Sanders’ managers, look for any advances toward greater social equity as a destructive force to their world view. Or, perhaps more to the point, greater acceptance of social equity would reduce or eliminate race as a hot button issue in driving Republican voters to the ballot box.

“One conservative organization, the Heritage Foundation, recently attributed a whole host of issues to CRT, including the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, LGBTQ clubs in schools, diversity training in federal agencies and organizations, California’s recent ethnic studies model curriculum, the free-speech debate on college campuses, and alternatives to exclusionary discipline—such as the Promise program in Broward County, Fla., that some parents blame for the Parkland school shootings. “When followed to its logical conclusion, CRT is destructive and rejects the fundamental ideas on which our constitutional republic is based,” the organization claimed.”[2]

“[On the other hand,] Leading critical race theory scholars view the GOP-led measures as hijacking the national conversation about racial inequality that gained momentum after the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minnesota. Some say the ways Republicans describe it are unrecognizable to them. Cheryl Harris, a UCLA law professor who teaches a course on the topic, said it’s a myth that critical race theory teaches hatred of white people and is designed to perpetuate divisions in American society. Instead, she said she believes the proposals limiting how racism can be discussed in the classroom have a clear political goal: “to ensure that Republicans can win in 2022.”[3]

Other early signals from oligarchs behind Sanders’ governorship include her push for school vouchers whereby tax dollars can be funneled into religious and private schools who can offer non-scientific theories of human origin and alternative histories while ignoring important preparation for citizenship such as debate and civics. Sanders also has plans to address the state’s shortcomings in prison space, although it is doubtful this will translate into an innovative look at ways to reduce the demand. More likely, her ‘reforms’ will mean spending more of the state’s scarce tax dollars on building more prisons in order to, as she has stated, requiring prisoners to serve out their full terms.

Speaking of tax dollars, Sanders also plans to reduce taxes with the goal of eliminating income tax. Her plan for accomplishing this pipe dream is to find ways for the state to operate more efficiently. Her campaign statement on this topic hints at the real goal:

“When I take office, we will work on responsibly phasing out the state income tax to reward work – NOT government dependency – and let you keep more of your hard-earned money in the failing Biden economy,” Sanders said in a Twitter post.

According to critics, this is simply the latest Republican iteration of their efforts to please their masters: “to wreck the state’s fiscal system so that people of inherited riches or high incomes will never again have to worry about paying much in the way of taxes to support education, health care and law enforcement — i.e. government services for the needy and the commoners, for which a few comfortable people think they should not have to pay.”[4]

With all cannons on deck loaded with her preprogrammed agenda, we can be certain this is only the beginning of pushing Arkansas further into the sea floor. Ironically, argument can be made that the label ‘ideologies’ such as forbidden in the CRT ban could be assigned to religion, i.e. “the beliefs and practices of that religion [which] support powerful groups in society, effectively keeping the existing ruling class, or elites, in power.”[5]


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_race_theory

[2] Sawchuk, Stephen. “What Is Critical Race Theory and Why Is It Under Attack?” Education Week, Ma 18, 2021. Accessed Jan 12, 2023 @  https://www.edweek.org/leadership/what-is-critical-race-theory-and-why-is-it-under-attack/2021/05

[3] “Critical race theory is a flashpoint for conservatives, but what does it mean?” PBS Newshour, Nov 4, 2021. Accessed Jan 12, 2023 @ https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/so-much-buzz-but-what-is-critical-race-theory

[4] https://arktimes.com/columns/ernest-dumas/2022/08/25/a-point-of-no-return-an-end-to-income-tax-in-arkansas-would-be-permanent

[5] https://revisesociology.com/2018/11/09/is-religion-ideological/

Gas, Grass & Ass: Adventures in Rural America, 1973

Seeking a self-sustaining life outside the city and a new start for her marriage, this twenty-five-year old a woman boldly embarked on proprietorship of a full-service gas station along a highway in rural Arkansas. Her hope to live and work at her own place of business soon encountered not only the end of her marriage but also the entrenched conservatism of the rural South. Joyful in recounting her experiences with an endlessly astonishing parade of human nature, Campbell portrays a unique slice of American life at a pivotal time with the fall of Richard Nixon’s presidency and the end of the Vietnam War. Buoyed by a wellspring of support and companionship, Campbell struggles to hang on to her dream of independence.

5-star review: “Gas, Grass, and Ass,” is not just a catchy title. This is a slice of life story straddling time between being a young married college grad to being a young divorcee running a gas station in very small town Arkansas/America. In that way it’s a slice of history of the time, but more so it is a slice of how much and how little has changed about how we treat each other. Assuming that because she was a single (divorced!) woman running a business on the side of the highway made her fair game for sexual advances and gossip, the “locals” decided her business success or failure, rewards and punishments. I think the writing is exceptional because if you’ve ever walked into one of these little gas stations where old men like to congregate and watch the world from their bench, you will find yourself right back in that space again. Well-worth the read.

Paperback $9.95 Amazon

South County

1972. A Yankee learns the Ozarks way and lives to tell his tales. Now almost a native, Denny fondly reminisces about the people and places of his adopted home.

Denny Luke is an adventurer. During his years as a Navy man, he built hot rods with money he made with shipboard loansharking. He returned to his native Ohio where he soon tired of the mechanic’s life. Computers had just started to break the surface in 1966, the perfect attraction to a young man with a sharp mind and plenty of ambition.

Hot cars and Enduro motorcycle racing occupied Denny’s next few years as he helped usher in the computer age in Minneapolis. But another adventure awaited when in 1970 he fell in with a bunch of hippies. By 1972, he had found his way to the Ozarks.

An avid photographer and storyteller, Denny shares the adventures of his life as he recalls the outrageous backwoods tales and colorful characters who populate the southern fringe of Washington County in Northwest Arkansas.

Paperback, $9.95 Amazon

Aquarian Revolution

In the late 1990s, I pursued a project that called to me, which was to interview people of the 60s generation who lived in Northwest Arkansas. Many of these were immigrants to the area, the hippies, the drop-outs, the radicals. They came from New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and bought cheap Arkansas land where they could build lives with meaning. Some of the interviewees were locals, also of the Baby Boom generation who saw, rightly, that “the times, they were a changin’.”

What I found in common among those interviewed was a profound understanding that they and the rest of this cohort were responsible for what the future would become. Each acting passionately in his or her own way in arenas of personal interest, these people brought important changes to the region and the world. Whether protecting the environment, furthering the rights of women or racial minorities, or opening their hearts to so many other problems, these were the engines of social changes that are still being fought in our politics.

Often the topic of heated rhetoric and armchair analysis, those who went ‘back to the land’ are rarely heard in their own voice. Now documented in these breathtakingly honest, personal interviews, their stories reveal the guts, glory, and grief of the 1960s social revolution.

Paperback, $12.95, Amazon

Black Diamond Orchestra

The Black Diamond Orchestra first appeared in Fayetteville’s entertainment venues in 1903. They would continue to enjoy bookings in a wide variety of programs for the next thirty years, one of the longest running local talents in the town’s history. Even more remarkable, this entity rose from the depths of the “Holler,” otherwise known as Tin Cup, where the majority of Fayetteville’s Black population lived.

Engagements for the orchestra over the next several years included private parties and receptions as well as bookings by the Shamrock Club, White Chapel Club, and other civic and university entities. By 1911, the group had become a featured event at gatherings such as a Kappa Sigma fraternity dance and a celebration at Fern Dells, “the handsome country home of Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Stuckey on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of their marriage. Over 300 guests were “allowed perfect liberty of choice in the viands [and] left likewise free to choose the place he was to sit and partake of them while listening to the strains of the Black Diamond Orchestra … After the last guests had been served the orchestra was removed from the basement to the stair landing of the big hall where music was furnished throughout the evening and dancing was indulged in by the young and old…”

In September 1924, the University of Arkansas’ new radio station KFMQ featured the Black Diamonds asking listeners to send postcards if they heard the broadcast. “Weeks later, the Fayetteville Democrat reported that the station received postcards from listeners as far away as Canada, New Mexico, and Washington D.C.”

“Colored programs are becoming quite the thing in Fayetteville, with an aroused interest in negro music and African folk-lore. On Friday night a colored troop of entertainers including a local celebrity, E. Young, formerly end–man with Field’s Minstrels when that company had colored end-men, will give an entertainment at Peabody Hall, University of Arkansas, as joint colored church and white school benefit. The Leverett school PTA is sponsoring the event, featuring Black Diamond Orchestra.”

Much more about the celebrated Black Diamond Orchestra and its personnel in The Music Men of Turn-of-the-Century Fayetteville, available in paperback for $19.95.

Owen Mitchell and Fayetteville’s Jazz Men

Mitchell’s jazz band circa 1930,
the Arkansas Travelers

Owen Mitchell started teaching music when he was seven years old. A neighborhood boy wanted to learn to play so Owen shared what he knew. That was 1892. He would go on to become the first jazz band leader in Fayetteville. … In increasing demand, the Owen Mitchell Orchestra performed for dances across the region to audiences eager to break out of the war years’ gloom and embrace the new styles of music and dance. The band was among the first to be heard on the new University radio station, KFMQ, in 1924. By January 1925, Mitchell’s radio programming split fifty-fifty between fox trots and waltzes.

… In a lengthy 1949 article in the Northwest Arkansas Times, reporter Doug Jones provided an overview of the local music scene.

“…What I’m talking about are the guys that have and are still living in and around Fayetteville that plenty of local citizens have heard about. All in all, there has been a lot of pretty good music produced in this area, homegrown and home-consumed.

“To those who have followed music, there have been trends in this town reflecting the jazz of the whole country. There might be a few raised eyebrows when I say jazz, but that’s what it was and still is. Jazz music is the basic foundation for all native American popular music. Even more important, to those who haven’t heard, jazz is the only original art form this country has produced. Everything else, Europe or China did first. But jazz is ours, and more and more it is becoming recognized by critics as a true art form.”

From Chapter 3, The Music Men of Turn-of-the-Century Fayetteville, available in paperback at Amazon. $19.95

Henry Tovey, A Renaissance Man

Henry Doughty Tovey will always be best known as the composer of the music for the University of Arkansas Alma Mater. For everyone who ever attended school there or came to University events like football games, the melodic strains and rich harmonies of that song evoke deeply-felt memories. Without question, Tovey had tremendous musical talent. But that was only a hint at what this man would give to the university, the town of Fayetteville and yes, even the State of Arkansas over the twenty-seven years of his life here.

…Tovey spent the summer of 1909 with friends in Chicago where he discovered the latest version of the Victor gramophone. He immediately purchased one along with a large number of recordings of standard operas including performances by world-famous tenor Enrico Caruso… The gramophone came to serve a key role in Tovey’s grand scheme to offer music education throughout the entire state. Ultimately, his concept caught fire across the nation and even in other places around the world. … Tovey’s growing reputation regarding this teaching method resulted in an article about him published in The Musician, the national journal of music instructors… “The address by Henry Doughty Tovey of the University of Arkansas, which we give in this issue in part, is highly interesting in the demonstration it makes of the wonderful educational power of the talking machine and because it presents such a practical way of working out results. In his plan there is suggestion for every music teacher, for he can use the talking machine in the home and suggest selection of records, and this will have splendid educational results both on the pupil and the entire home.”

…In April 1917, Tovey received notice from Schirmer’s of New York City that their new book, “Energy of American Crowd Music,” would include a chapter about Tovey and his work. No record of this book has been found, but an article thus entitled stated in the preface that “everything we see hear, feel, experience in any way becomes subject matter for music, poetry, painting and sculpture. The things seen and heard in Kentucky or New England or the Ozarks become material for us…”

Much more about this trailblazer in The Music Men of Turn-of-the-Century Fayetteville. Available in paperback, $19.95.

New Release! The Music Men of Turn-of-the-Century Fayetteville

As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, the world of entertainment experienced a massive shift. The invention of electronic media—radio, recordings, movies—brought music to remote homes and new audiences. Sweeping Fayetteville, Arkansas, and its outlying areas before its new wave, the familiar sounds of minstrels and brass bands soon made room for opera, jazz, and the Roaring Twenties.

Key to these transformations were three men and an innovation in the Black community, each taken singly in these chapters. Frank Barr spanned the days of military brass bands to the innovation of his boys’ band that performed soundtracks for silent movies. Henry Tovey, an import from the conservatories of Illinois, took the University of Arkansas fine arts program to unexpected fame. Owen Mitchell, a musician of unusual talent, embraced jazz and led one of the area’s most popular swing bands. Finally, the Black Diamond Orchestra rose from the heart of Fayetteville’s Black community to popular acclaim across the region.

The world of entertainment enjoyed by so many today grew from these roots, from the talented few who generously shared their knowledge and passion and gave music a future of unexpected and thrilling potential.

Paperback, $19.95. Available at Amazon

Progress or decline?

It should be obvious that everyone in the nation—everyone in the world—benefits when Americans go to college. Americans have earned a reputation for inventiveness and technological advances. Are we ready to give that up?

From James Webb telescope

Back in the day, when the average U.S. worker did just fine with a high school education (or less), the few who went to college were easily subsidized by state taxes up to 80% of the cost. But as the world became increasingly technological, as science became multiple branches of study of everything from our genetic code to the finer points of interstellar rocketry, more and more young people wanted to know more than what high school could teach them.

Few among us want to go back to time when our food supply depended on a plow and a mule and day after day of unrelenting labor, when lights went out with sunset, when one out of every one hundred women died from childbirth. We may feel stressed with the pace of life, but we cannot turn back the tide of progress. The alternative to progress is stagnation, or at worst, destruction.

The United States is slipping behind other nations in the educational achievements of its young people. Rather than analyzing and correcting the reasons behind this decline, our elected leaders succumb to the easy way out which is to facilitate the transfer of tax dollars to private schools and relegate college funding to high-interest loans.

The reluctance, and in many cases the angry protests, of conservatives to support reduction of student loan debt is yet another example of the shortsightedness of this particular slice of our population. These same folks are eager to take advantage of the latest pharmaceuticals, the newest technology in cell phones and digital conveniences/entertainment, as if it all sprang fully formed from the head of Zeus. News flash: These and the many other advancements we enjoy every day are the result of people going to college.

Why would we want to strangle the future our young people can offer?

It could be that there’s a subconscious inclination among conservatives to dig in their heels and not go into that promising future. Maybe the reluctance to facilitate college education is a rejection of modern life and its collection of pros and cons, and instead nostalgia for a long-lost past where completing 8th grade was the biggest accomplishment anyone could expect. That wasn’t so long ago, back when most families lived on a farm and grew most of their own food, when telephones and electricity didn’t exist. But not even the most radical conservative is ready to give up the morning shower, or their cell phone, or the motor vehicle that takes them wherever they want to go.

Progress means finding solutions to problems large and small, problems like Covid 19 (SARS-CoV-2), a virus that so far has left a million Americans dead. In less than a year, our college grads developed a vaccine that provides protection from death and, in most cases, protection from infection, by this virus. Are we ready to give up that kind of science?

The U. S. has to choose whether to continue to lag behind other nations in supporting the education of its young. President Biden and Democrats in general have supported this modest reduction of student loan debt. But over half of student loans will remain to be paid, racking up compound interest that increases the amount owed faster than payments can be made.

It’s a rigged system. Student loans, unlike any other loan, cannot be written off in a bankruptcy, so even when illness or other tragedies of life crash down on a person’s shoulders, those student loans still must be paid. The cost of higher education continues to increase as colleges try to accommodate the loss of state funding while still providing the advanced education students need.

Higher education is the path to future successes for our nation, not only in medicine but in every other aspect of our civilization. Our supply of food and water will increasingly depend on how well we can mitigate the damage caused by climate change. Our health depends on our ability to stave off more exotic viruses. We need to know more about the causes of diseases like cancer, tuberculosis and Alzheimer’s. When we encourage the pursuit of higher education, we not only address future needs for food and medicine, but also provide for an endless advancement of every aspect of human existence.

We need to move our thinking away from the idea that college is ‘extra.’ While we will always need workers skilled in certain trades that are better taught through vocational schools and apprenticeship, increasingly we need people who can program software, refine microchips, and analyze the human genome. And never forget the thousands of college graduates we rely on every day: doctors and dentists, lawyers and judges, engineers and architects, chemists and researchers, managers and accountants, historians and diplomats, psychologists and psychiatrists, and teachers—to name a few.

It is past time for our educational system to provide affordable college education. One way or the other, a student’s cost for college has to return to a reasonable amount—if not free. States need to shoulder more of the burden, as they did before Reaganomics took effect. Lenders for student loans need to be limited to a one-time charge of interest. Colleges need to find ways to reduce costs.

We face a national emergency in education. Public school teachers need much better pay. Taxpayer funds must never be diverted to private schools which don’t have to accommodate special needs students or which promulgate narrow belief systems. As long as our brightest minds are handicapped by the cost of college education, our nation suffers.

The proud image of our nation, which conservatives love to flag-wave about, is not only about those hardworking linemen, farmers, plumbers and other ‘blue-collar’ jobs, but also about the college grads who figured out how to engineer a tractor that can be operated from an air-conditioned cab while pulling a ten-row cultivator, or who calculated the weight and conductivity of wires to carry our power grid, or who invented flex lines and connector glue to replace labor/cost-intensive copper pipe fittings. It takes all of us.