Thank you, Utah, for leading the way

  • Jane Goetze


Utah's Legislature has an undeserved reputation for being reactionary. Yet state Sen. Chris Buttars of West Jordan, Utah, was definitely onto something when he proposed dropping 12th grade in order to alleviate the state's budget crunch and reduce the cost of public education.

Buttars' proposal, combined with the Utah Senate's recently passed bill to exempt guns manufactured and sold in Utah from federal firearms regulations, and with last year's resolution urging the governor to withdraw from the Western Climate Initiative to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, establishes Utah as the leader in recession-proof jobs.

By dumbing down the workforce and resisting sustainable alternatives to coal and natural gas, Buttars and his fellow conservatives in the Utah Legislature are paving the way for rapid economic recovery. Utah, with the highest birth rate in the nation, could capitalize on its abundant supply of labor willing to work for low wages and compete with the Chinese for jobs that could withstand a global depression as devastating as the Great Depression.

Why ship jobs overseas when you can exploit your fellow Americans at home? Even Walmart shareholders would recognize the benefits of cutting transportation costs and reinvesting in America's manufacturing sector.

California legislators, are you listening? With one courageous stroke of the pen, you could fix your budget mess. Wyoming legislators could reverse the exodus of young talent and keep their grown children at home, where they would be less likely to get into trouble. If we band together, we could render China irrelevant. In Utah, our overly supervised young adults are so bored they will happily work seven days a week like the Chinese do, which makes it easier to recruit ideal employers.

We have nothing to fear in the American West but our attachment to outmoded ways of thinking. Tea Party-leaning Republicans don't get enough credit. Some of the most creative ideas in this region are coming from the so-called Neanderthal wing of the Republican Party. If Chris Buttars and his like-minded colleagues in the Utah Legislature deserve any criticism at all, it is for being too cautious.

Why eliminate only 12th grade? Why waste dwindling state revenues on secondary education at all?  If we gave high school diplomas to seventh-graders, we would not only slash public education costs, we could also dispense with the more onerous aspects of the No Child Left Behind Act. Think of the savings in infrastructure, paper consumption for standardized tests and faculty salaries and benefits. By acknowledging the genius of Chris Buttars' modest proposal, we could provide corporate America with a workforce unable to read the fine print in mandatory non-union contracts, such as, "If you injure yourself on the job, you forfeit your right to unemployment and disability insurance."

For this revolutionary job recovery plan to succeed, however, state legislatures would have to do their part and ban federal inspections for health and safety violations in the workplace.

With little competition in the foreseeable future for the coal and natural gas industries, Utah's notorious winter smog -- the worst in the United States -- will cause even more illness and increased mortality. This will reduce the costs of health care, Social Security and Medicare over the long haul.

As life expectancy averages decline, the collective wisdom that comes with maturity and experience will no longer stand in the way of minimum-wage job creation, and corporations will lose their incentive to funnel millions into political campaigns that distract voters' attention from the consequences of global warming, lack of access to affordable health care, and widespread consumer debt and bankruptcy.

As life expectancy averages decline, the collective wisdom that comes with maturity and experience will no longer stand in the way of minimum-wage job creation, and corporations will lose their incentive to funnel millions into political campaigns that distract voters' attention from the consequences of global warming, lack of access to affordable health care, and widespread consumer debt and bankruptcy.

Exxon Mobil, Citigroup and Aetna could then spend more of their profits on bigger bonuses instead of public relations campaigns disguised as the consensus of Nobel Prize-winning scientists, or on the re-election bids of sympathetic politicians.

With fewer educated voters, who will have a lot less time to become informed and involved, the propaganda of multinational oil, Wall Street and big insurance will be easily accepted as fact. Thank you, state Sen. Buttars, for making Utah the envy of the rest of the nation.

Jane Goetze is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News ( in Paonia, Colorado. She lives in Logan, Utah.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at

What About The Children
Feb 23, 2010 02:19 PM
Well I for one completely disagree with Sen. Chris Buttars suggestion to cut the 12th grade. A much better idea would be get rid of pre-school and kindergarden and have those children work in the fields to stem the use of illegal migrant workers. That way you would be cutting two grades out of the budget and increasing national security by reducing the number of illegal aliens working to feed Americans.
Shut it, fake progressive
You Have Been Owned
You Have Been Owned
Feb 23, 2010 05:15 PM
This woman's column has all the hallmarks of lazy fake "progressive" (actually elitist) outrage and coastal rhetoric parrotting that mark a someone whose whole identity and day to day relationship with the world is based on having been "behind the red state curtain" for a long time. She's gotten used to making fun of the Utah hick majority without ever having to be effective or actually change anything, and it shows.

"Why waste dwindling state revenues on secondary education at all?" A d@mn fine question if you ask me. It's not like the schools are paragons of excellence cranking out young einsteins these days. More like holding centers to delay entry into a workforce that doesn't have enough good jobs to accomodate them, in a government-tit economy that misallocates capital away from productive labor and towards artificial paper financial instruments and other boondoggles. If you liberated the schools you might actually liberate some creativity and ingenuity, instead of destroying it with the only thing the schools do teach: mindless conformity, bootlicking, fear, memorization and regurgitation, bureaucratic thought and work ethic, etc.

You have no idea, lady, how many kids in Utah want nothing more than to get the hell out of your miserable state, not entirely because there is anything inherently wrong with Utah, but because they are stuck in a more immediate quandary: a mandatory educational structure that delays the rights and responsibilities of adulthood and then doesn't pay off in the end (value of an undergraduate degree these days = questionable), supported by a fascist war production economy that excludes them from participating as anything other than service slaves. Sure, everywhere in the U.S. has that problem, but once a kid makes the decision to break away, they're not particularly worried that the policy is the same wherever they wind up, because they've summoned the mental fortitude to buck the system - a courage you obviously lack. Utah's not the big city, but it is an error of reasoning to suggest it could ever become as attractive as a big city to a young person looking to bust out if it EXPANDED the present repressive and regressive educational and governmental system as you propose.

You also rag on China but China and Asia generally are obviously Exhibit A in my favor. Do you think all the Chinese and other Asian entreprenuers wasted their youth sitting in high school classrooms waiting extra years to go to college, spray painting overpasses on Friday nights after another boring as fark football game in Nowheresville? No. They were kicking down the doors of the universities at 15 and 16 lying about their age as soon as they could bribe some corrupt hack to fake up some internal passport documents and hitch a ride out of their village. They weren't stuck in a retread progressive mindset that Gaia gave us K-12 and if we just give the war economy government more money and keep enough people in the system long enough there will be enough jobs and rainbows and unicorns for everyone in Dullsville, Utah.

And then at the end, you patronize your fellow humans like a saggy Berkeley painted lady, since I probably can't refer to you with the more appropriate "w" word. OH, THE POOR PEOPLE! THEY'RE GOING TO BE FOOLED BY ALL THE CORPORATE MONEY! With all of your alleged education, you FAIL history. The rich and poor have always teamed up to blast the middle class. It's not like the solution is terribly difficult: DON'T VOTE FOR THE PERSON WHO TAKES MONEY. Repeat: DON'T VOTE FOR THE PERSON WHO TAKES MONEY. And if more people still vote for the person who takes money, that's called democracy you elitist witch and you either call out your private army to exterminate the peasants and have a revolution or you shut up and effing deal!

Subject Verb Object
Feb 23, 2010 08:35 PM
Say what you will abut her politics, you were the only one calling anyone a hick. Then again there is your very "progressive" view of education versus her ability to construct a sentence: subject + verb + object.
Feb 24, 2010 07:26 AM
So you generally agree with the column, aside from the sarcastic tone...and the first sentence.
legitimate idea
Ray Ring
Ray Ring
Feb 23, 2010 06:40 PM
Actually it's not a wacky redneck idea. There's a thread in the education-reform movement that calls for the elimination of senior year of high school. For instance, Google "Senior Year: A Teenage Wasteland" and you'll find links to a 2007 Teacher Magazine story on legitimate reformers and researchers. When my kids were in senior year in good high schools in Montana and New Hampshire, at times they were bored and ready to move on to college. The reformers think many kids are ready for college after junior year and many high schools are not set up to keep the high-performing or independent/mature students interested in senior year.
an old dog
Feb 24, 2010 07:11 AM
Nationwide groups have raised questions about the 11 and 12 grade. Unfortunately Chris Butttars ideas, no matter what, are preceded by his reputation. He is an old dog, readily and easily, portrayed as a walking showcase for the pitfalls of education cuts. New tricks seem tough for Buttars, mostly I feel sorry for him, it must be tough to be in the spotlight with lousy academic preparation.
Buttars did, however, made a smart move when he elected to shelve the education proposal until next fall. I imagine a new proposal will emerge, modeled on recent measures in other states to allow graduation after the 10th grade. In the race to the bottom Utah, believe it or not, is not winning. Furthermore, copying the work of other legislators is much easier than drafting your own plan from scratch, isn't it Chris?
Overall the Utah legislature is responding to unprecedented situations with some rather ***cough*** creative? ***cough*** solutions. Many interesting, if not bizarre, stories are brewing.
Get your facts right...
Feb 26, 2010 01:41 PM
The author claims the Legislature's "rejection of federal stimulus funds for green technologies deemed a threat to the fossil-fuel industry" and "last year's far-sighted anti-sustainable energy bill" makes Utah look dumb. Perhaps she do a little more studying of her own before placing judgment. I'm the administrator of a state run, federally funded program who received every dime of stimulus dollars (~$47 million) to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies in the state. The Legislature has approved every dollar we are going to spend without having any issues. And there was no such thing as an anti-sustainable energy bill last year or this year (any year). If you look at the energy policy from just last year, the Legislature passed a renewable energy development incentive and created a renewable energy transmission authority, which compaired to many Western states in ahead of the curve. The author's characterization of the Utah Legislature along with misinformed information only makes her look like the ones she criticizes; making knee-jerk assumptions without really knowing the facts. This is what makes the hard efforts of Utah's progress go unnoticed. Go to and look under Policy and see that there are progressive policy efforts underway in Utah. Your sharp criticism only angers those with different view points. Try encouraging growth in a new direction by giving congrats to the goods things that have been accomplished.
Jane's article
Mar 01, 2010 01:33 PM
I hestitate to comment because all the crazys come out of the woodwork with criticism. Congratulations on great writing. Your wonderful biting sarcasm gave me a laugh for the day. It's hard to believe that Buttars is serious. I also like the comment by your first critic. Taking kindergarden and first grade kids out of the schools to put them to work in the fields to keep illegals from jobs makes more sense than buttars ideas. What a hoot.
Article Enjoyed
Lance Emerson
Lance Emerson
Mar 02, 2010 07:20 PM
You're a fabulous, talented journalist. Wish more like you existed especially when you're scrutinizing the politicos. Scarey reading but so enjoyable.
Utah, Leading the Way??
Mar 02, 2010 07:36 PM
You are so correct. Unfortunately you missed out on the fact that Utah is the mirror image of the Black Hole in space. Everything gets sucked in, but nothing ever gets out - or a Hotel California State without the fun.
There is no such thing as a reality check on any of the peons on Capital Hill before they enter the inner sanctum until they die.
Next election a banner should read- Banish Bennet,Bishop, Butters, Slash Hatch!
Once these corporate funded politions have left, they could be replaced by some who oppose stupidity,definitely something new for Utah.Ah. one may wish but this is Utah!
If only they could cost into their money saving budget approvals the true cost of COAL pollution in the air, Energy Pollutions considers the risk factor of imported nuclear waste across the oceans and on it goes. But here we have the hopefully, not to be the next Gov. padding his 'war' chest with largess from we all know who! What ever happened to honesty & intregity in the Ponzi,Pryamid capital of the States.
I better leave before a knock on the door comes from the men in Black!

Conservatives and Education
Ted Vanegas
Ted Vanegas
Mar 03, 2010 07:54 AM
Its' good to see Idaho isn't the nuttiest state around. Our governor and legislature is looking to slash education and many other health and human services in the state. Seems that conservatives always look to education when they want to hack and slash the budget. Of course corporate subsidies and tax breaks always kept safe and untouchable. Higher education is also getting the axe as well. They don't seem to understand that during economic recessions more and more people head back to school, putting additional burdens on those institutions. I guess the question is, why does education seem to threaten conservatives?
Conservative Antipathy Toward Public Education
Richard Dogood
Richard Dogood
Mar 03, 2010 12:46 PM
Conservatives might argue for private religious schools and home schooling rather than public education. . . but to answer your question directly, the simple truth is that the success of right-wing populism depends on ignorance. The attack on public education is a strategic one.