Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Feb. 18, 2021.

Editorial: : Resource guide, Black history project good signs of growth in inclusivity

Sometimes it’s not a question of what resources are available, but whether those in need of the services know about them. In Dubuque, how businesses and organizations are meeting the needs of a diverse community has been something of a well-kept secret.

A new edition of the Dubuque Community Resource Guide now lists local places meeting diverse needs. Published through a partnership between Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque and Greater Dubuque Development Corp. and funded through John Deere Foundation, the guide can be found in English and Spanish at https://bit.ly/2OeHqXQ. Plans to add a version in Marshallese make it even more appealing.

The guide contains listings of community organizations, grocery options, hair and cosmetic businesses, health services and other resources for people from diverse backgrounds.

That’s a great idea because equity and inclusion mean helping connect people and resources so Dubuque isn’t just a place where you have to know somebody to get the assistance you need.

A pat on the back to the collaborators who are bringing this effort to life. A tangible guide to help diverse populations navigate the community is a great step toward inclusivity.

What better time than Black History Month to redouble efforts to tell the stories of the Black community from its earliest roots in the Dubuque area. A project that the Dubuque Historic Preservation Commission plans to take on would do just that.

The African American Reconnaissance Survey would examine and catalog the history and influence of African American residents in neighborhoods in Dubuque.

Dubuque history has largely been told through the lens of White people. We know a great deal about fur traders and lead miners and not all that much about what it was like to grow up as a person of color in Dubuque decades ago. How fascinating it would be to learn about the influence that African Americans have had on local neighborhoods and how their experiences here led to increases and decreases of the Black population in Dubuque.

Preserving local history means more than just caring for buildings and landmarks. Kudos to commission members for recognizing that and embarking on an effort to better understand Dubuque’s racial history.

The future keeps getting brighter at University of Wisconsin-Platteville, which will become home to a $3.4 million solar array capable of producing 17% of the campus’s electrical needs.

The 2.4-megawatt solar array will be constructed in Memorial Park and will make the university the sixth-highest on-site producer of renewable energy among higher education institutions in the nation.

That’s an exciting endeavor for a school that has stepped up its commitment to being a leader in sustainability and renewable energy use.

What’s even better? It’s a project driven by students. In 2018, more than 300 UW-P students signed a petition asking the university to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030. A year later, in a student referendum, more than 82% of students agreed with moving toward this goal. This array is one of several projects the university is advancing in response to this student demand.

That it will save taxpayer dollars and impact Platteville for years to come is an added bonus. Congratulations to Chancellor Dennis Shields and the UW-P community for bringing about this innovation.

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Des Moines Register. Feb. 19, 2021.

Editorial: Iowa Republicans should share a vision for the state’s future and leave behind the pettiness. How about shoring up public health agencies during a pandemic instead of micromanaging school restrooms?

The idea of a biennial Iowa Legislature has never been more appealing.

If state lawmakers convened every two years, instead of every year, perhaps they would be more thoughtful about the legislation they introduce. Perhaps there would be fewer knee-jerk bills that respond to imagined problems.

Elected officials might spend more time cultivating a bigger-picture vision of what they want Iowa to look like in the future and pursue measures intended to move the state toward realizing that vision.

Instead, here we are again, in the middle of another February wondering what, if any, vision the GOP-controlled Iowa Legislature has.

Iowa is a solidly red state now. Republicans control the Statehouse. They control the governor’s office. They have succeeded in shaping a more conservative Iowa Supreme Court. And there appear to be no immediate threats to this overarching power. They can do pretty much anything they want.

So what do they want Iowa to look like in five or 10 years?

Because many of us are stumped.

This state’s Legislature is looking more and more like a place where shortsighted ideas go to flourish. Instead of focusing on serious endeavors like shoring up state services, cleaning up waterways or making sure every child can read, members of the majority party are pushing petty and divisive bills that help no one.

While Iowans continue to die from COVID-19, Republicans direct their energies to moving forward legislation that targets transgender youth by imposing restrictions on restroom use in schools.

While thousands of Iowans have lost jobs, Republicans are fixated on banning tenure for college professors and siphoning money from public schools.

While Republicans refuse to raise sales tax a fraction of a penny to fund the environment and recreational trails, a lawmaker introduced a bill requiring bicyclists on some Iowa roads to don clothing and equipment with “at least 144 square inches of high-visibility or reflective material.”

Republicans won’t make anyone wear a mask during an infectious disease pandemic, but they want to make people wear fluorescent shirts.

Republicans fell all over themselves in the earliest days of the session to push ahead constitutional amendments to shore up access to guns and set the table to outlaw more abortions.

Talk about being out of touch with the real needs of their constituents.

Right about now, you might be trying to schedule a vaccine for your elderly mother. Your GOP lawmaker is trying to bring back the death penalty.

You are worried about your Black son being pulled over by law enforcement. Your GOP lawmaker is preoccupied with banning public schools from using a project that teaches about slavery.

An editorial writer, in the matter of a couple of hours Wednesday afternoon, monitored hearings on bills that would cut unemployment benefits, make voting harder and dictate to gas stations how much biodiesel to sell.

During the past few years, Republicans busted unions, created obstacles to voting — they’re back at that again — defunded women’s health clinics and passed abortion bans that got tied up in court.

Now they’re narrowing their focus to marginalize specific groups of people, exact revenge on specific school districts and further specific fringe ideas.

It’s painful to watch. It’s embarrassing.

When challenged, legislators frequently point out that Iowa voters have responded to their agenda by expanding their majorities at the Statehouse. But did that agenda resonate because constituents liked their promises of robust economic growth and limited government regulation? Or because voters were fixated on specifying which bathroom students should use?

It is no real service to those supporters to, say, feed the false premise that “election integrity” is a crisis in Iowa or the nation.

Republicans should pass a state budget and go home. Then they should spend the next 10 months considering how they can use their power to truly make Iowa a better place to live and work.

Because what they’ve been doing this legislative session isn’t helping.

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Quad-City Times. Feb. 14, 2021.

Editorial: Leave history to the historians

For some reason Skyler Wheeler thinks he knows what Quad-City kids should be taught.

Or, more appropriately, what they shouldn’t be taught.

Wheeler is a Republican state representative from Orange City in northwest Iowa. He’s the one who is working on his pals in the legislature to try to stop local teachers from using the New York Times’ 1619 Project in their classrooms.

Last week, a subcommittee in the Iowa House passed a measure that would impose financial penalties on school districts if they dare oppose his view of American history. The bill also seeks to stop colleges from using the project.

The 1619 Project is a work of journalism that was produced by the New York Times and led by Waterloo native Nikole Hannah-Jones. The project “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”

The series was published a year and a half ago, and the newspaper also developed curriculum that could be used in the classroom.

Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary, and the project has been highly praised in some quarters. But it’s also been controversial. Conservatives and some historians have argued it is an inaccurate portrayal of U.S. history. And lately Republican legislators in several states are trying to stop kids from learning about it. Legislators in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi and South Dakota have filed such bills in the last month, according to an article in USA Today.

This is wrong. We believe American students need to better understand the contributions Black Americans have made to this country. For much of our history, their vital role has been minimized or ignored.

We understand the controversy surrounding the project. It has its flaws, but we found wisdom in the words of Leslie M. Harris, a history professor at Northwestern University, who was a consultant on the project. Harris was critical of some aspects of the report but said overall it is a “much-needed corrective to the blindly celebratory histories that once dominated our understanding of the past….”

This view resonates with us. History doesn’t stand still. It is in constant need of reassessment.

Just as importantly, we think the people who are best equipped to decide whether to use the project, and how to use it, are professional educators, overseen by principals and local school boards that are responsive to their constituents — not self-interested politicians, most of whom don’t live here.

In the year and a half since publication of the 1619 Project, some of us on this board have examined the work and followed the critique of it – and it has been fascinating. The project, as well as the commentary, has educated us about corners of our history we didn’t know existed or hadn’t adequately considered. And isn’t that the point? We would commend our readers to lose themselves in this topic, through the project and the critique. You won’t regret it. And neither would your children.

Unfortunately, people like Skyler Wheeler and his pals at the Legislature want to make sure your children don’t get to hear this part of our history. Instead, Wheeler would seemingly rather you learn only the history he and the like-minded will sanction.

At a meeting last week, Wheeler had high praise for the report by the 1776 Commission, which was appointed last September by former President Trump as a response to the New York Times project. The commission issued a report last month, which was roundly panned by historians. The American Historical Association called it hastily written and its portrayal of the country’s founders as “simplistic”.

Much of the legislative debate over education this session has centered on the idea of “choice.” Mostly, the belief that families ought to have the “choice” to take taxpayer money and use it to pay for private schools. But, apparently, this “choice” doesn’t extend to what your child is taught when it comes to American history. Instead, Skyler Wheeler and his pals believe they are the ones who get to make this choice for you and your child.

We agree there are basic standards all schools must adhere to, but politicians shouldn’t be able to just pluck a book or article they don’t like and wall it off from discussion — even if they do control the purse strings. To do so is not oversight; it’s abuse.

The teaching of American history is fraught with complexity and, yes, controversy. Teaching it with fidelity to truth to a student body that is racially, ideologically and otherwise diverse, is a delicate task. It is one best left to well-trained educators who exercise judgment in how they use the resources at their disposal – not to politicians who are trying to impose their own ideological brand of history on every student in the state.

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