It seems awfully early, but our youngest grandchild returns to school this week. It’s part of the changes made possible by advancing technology and its adoption by society. In this case, it’s the installation of air conditioning in our schools.
My thoughts are not so much about what is taught in our schools, but what students are learning. Are they learning civility? Are they learning that civility is the behavior expected of a citizen? Are they learning civics, the study of government?
It’s not the turning of the calendar to August that brings all this to mind. No, it was a caption of a newspaper picture showing the Indiana Lottery paying out the $536 million from the Mega Millions jackpot last week. The caption stated, “The family will take home $271 million after taxes.”
The statement is factually correct, but readers are left to believe that the government will take $265 million in taxes. That would be 49 percent of the jackpot. Oh, hear the outcry from the righteous right wing about the greed of government. Equally loud are the protests of the indignant left wing with cries of inequity.
The truth is the winning family elected not to take a 30-year payout of the $536 million. Instead, they chose a one-time, lump sum payment of $378 million of which they “will take home $271 million after taxes.” The taxes amount to $107 million or 28 percent of their winnings, in line with current tax rates.
Yes, we can hear newspaper people explaining the limited space in a photo caption. They are right. We also hear their protest that they covered the details in the story. Again, they are right.
But we also have heard from the same people how readers don’t bother with the story and often read only the headlines and picture captions. In my view, those attention-getters should be written responsibly to avoid feeding political fires. We have politicians who feed those fires quite well.
Remember, just a few weeks ago, this writer cautioned our governor, lieutenant governor and a state senator to hold off on extolling Indiana’s economic boom. But no, Mike Pence went on to the national stage and ballyhooed Indiana leading the nation’s growth. Factually correct — for one short three-month period.
In the last quarter of 2015, Indiana did lead the nation in the growth rate for gross national product. But, then, in the very next quarter (2016Q1), Indiana’s GDP growth rate fell from first to 32nd place among the 50 states. We fell faster than those balloons at the political conventions.
Which schools taught candidates for public office? Which schools trained journalists who headlined Pence’s economic claims as gospel rather than blips on the screen? Who is advising those candidates, leading them to think they can display stained facts when the bleach of truth dissolves those facts and washes them down the drain?