The Kansas state Board of Education is embroiled in an internal squabble over the use of the word “progressive” in the board’s slogan. According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, the board’s seemingly uncontroversial plan to send postcards to state legislators celebrating public education has erupted in turmoil as conservative board members insisted that word is too “politically loaded” for use in official communications.
Board member Jim McNiece — developer of the postcard program — told the board Wednesday morning that the postcard program could be a valuable tool in removing barriers to communicating with the state government about education.
“This is meant to be a positive voice for Kansas education,” he said. “There are a lot of people out there saying things. This could be an echo in a hollow cannon, or it could help inform.”
The cards, however, would bear the state Board of Education’s slogan, “Proud, Positive and Progressive,” which conservative members of the board say goes too far. Board member Steve Roberts objected to the term, which McNiece found baffling.
Growing heated, Roberts took aim at McNiece, “Seriously, Jim? You have no idea where I’m coming from when I say progressive is a politically loaded word right now?”
McNiece replied that any word can be misconstrued.
“I value that the state of Kansas has progressive education leadership,” he said. “I’m proud of what we’ve done and where we’re going.”
Some members of the board echoed Roberts’ concerns, but the majority voted to send the cards out to legislators once a week for 12 weeks. Each card will bear a message promoting and celebrating public education in the state.
“Progressive” is a term whose meaning has evolved over time in U.S. politics. Currently it indicates a person who holds liberal points of view and wants government to intervene between a rapacious capitalist system and the citizens it exploits and impoverishes.
Right-wing commentator Glenn Beck has made the word a favorite cudgel to use against any person or politician he believes is not adhering closely enough to an anti-government, libertarian orthodoxy. In recent months, Beck has declared that in addition to Democratic voters and politicians, the ranks of progressives have been swelled by anyone who called for military intervention in Syria, including Arizona Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ), as well as South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsay Graham (R).
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