The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 8, 2014

Disagreeing with the experts


The Daily Item

— The risk of engaging in local politics is that you may end up on the opposite side from someone you like and respect. Michael Payne was a friend and colleague of my late father’s, and I consider him a friend, too. In fact, my respect for him is the main reason I have avoided weighing in on the Lewisburg Area High School controversy.

However, having chosen a side I must be its advocate, even at the risk of alienating a friend. Michael’s most recent letter to The Daily Item was to the point, but I disagree with his conclusion.

Experts led us into Iraq, brought us NAFTA and No Child Left Behind. Closer to home, the experts in the Midd-West School District brought that district’s residents a new campus that cost much more than it was supposed to, and continues to accrue unexpected costs. Plus, it seems their head expert maybe wasn’t as much of an expert as the school directors had been led to believe.

The mere testimony of “experts” is not enough to win an argument, for me or many others — we have been disappointed too many times. To be clear: the opponents of LASD’s plans to build a new high school in Kelly Township aren’t a bunch of flat-earthers or anti-intellectuals — we just have a different opinion about the wisdom of that specific educational choice. Ideally we would be able to have an open discussion between equals about different possibilities, but as I previously wrote, this is where I have personal experience with the breakdown in the ideal democratic process — unfortunately, LASD doesn’t seem to be interested in opinions that don’t match its own.

Michael Payne closed his last letter by saying that “Our students deserve better,” but I think the truth is that our students deserve more credit. They have accomplished “one of the highest levels of educational achievement in the country for a district our size” in the current building at its current location. As a retired professor, surely Michael is familiar with the quotation, “Education isn’t a bucket to be filled, but a fire to be lit.” I think the fire is well lit in Lewisburg and is burning brightly in our students. Even though a new school may need to be built, I don’t think that building it out in a field where there’s plenty of room for filling buckets will make the Dragons’ fire burn any brighter. That being the case, “sustainability, transportation (and) town planning” are not “secondary issues,” but are the only issues. Of course, I am only a former student and graduate of LAHS. I wonder what our current students think?

Trey Casimir,

Lewisburg