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Bender: Starkweather superintendent shouldn't be leading children

After reading the email Starkweather School Superintendent Larry Volk accidentally spammed to 700 other state administrators, ranting about Critical Race Theory, comparing "godless, cancerous" Democrats to Hitler, and Black Lives Matters to the Ku Klux Klan, any competent school board would fire him. Which means there's no chance that'll happen.

Tony Bender 2021.jpg
Tony Bender, North Dakota columnist

I'd fire his ass.

After reading the fever dream-inspired email Starkweather School Superintendent Larry Volk accidentally spammed to 700 other state administrators — ranting about Critical Race Theory, comparing "godless, cancerous" Democrats to Hitler, and Black Lives Matters to the Ku Klux Klan — any competent school board would do the same. Which means there's no chance that'll happen. Volk received support from School Board President Chris Berg and an atta boy from State Rep. Dave Monson who called Volk's email “historically very accurate.”

Welcome to North Dakota.

RELATED: Rural North Dakota superintendent sends anti-'woke' tirade to school administrators across the state Starkweather Public School District Superintendent Larry Volk wrote in an email to a mailing list run by the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders that critical race theory is “bigotry cloaked in academic theory" and noted it "will never have a place in our school district." He added that it's "time to move away from godless corrupt woke, left-wing ideology and back to the devout Christ centered Republic the founders envisioned.”
For starters, anyone who can't grasp the rudimentary functions of email shouldn't be in the education business. C'mon, we've had 25 years to figure this out.

Secondly, never write anything in an email, text or on social media that you wouldn't want the world to see. Or just put it in a column like some folks I know. I'm granting a pass to Kevin Cramer whose fat fingers may have been possessed by a Ouija board as a kid and therefore keep typing a slur for those with mental disabilities, despite fervent thoughts and prayers. Extenuating circumstances. Carry on, Senator.


U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., tweeted "she's retarded" in response to a post containing a quote from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Twitter screenshot

Volk's wackadoodle email was triggered by the mistaken belief that a speaker at a state educational conference espoused CRT. His manifesto is the kind that begs the question, “What if the Unabomber were put in charge of children?” (Note to USPS: Please place any packages from Starkweather in the driveway where they will be opened by robotic detonation.)

I shan't bother repeating what I wrote recently about CRT using actual statistics that just maybe, kinda, might possibly suggest that there's some validity to the theory that things ain't exactly hunky-dory for many Black Americans. But why shrink from the discussion if you're so convinced you're right? One of the foundations of education is the discussion and dissection of ideas. You know, the old Socratic Method. Well, you know what they say about Greeks bearing ideas.

Volk wrote, “(It's) time to move away from godless, corrupt, woke, left-wing ideology and back to the devout Christ-centered republic the founders envisioned.” (The punctuation is mine.)

Statistics might be anathema to devout people like Volk, but let's suppose, based on recent elections, that 35% of North Dakotans are Democrats. I imagine you might find one or two of them in the pew next to you on Sunday. Or they might be Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, or Muslims, all part of that freedom-of-religion melting pot our forefathers (and mothers) envisioned. So, why disparage 267,000 North Dakotans and 51% of the American electorate — especially if you're in a public leadership role?

Volk's hateful diatribe cites a litany of sins committed by Democrats throughout history. Republicans, not so much. We ought to study it all. That's the point of history, to understand the mistakes, the cause and effect that created the environment in which we now live. To learn from them.

I'm just spit-balling here, but perhaps educators should exercise objectivity when it comes to civics, social studies, and history. Everyone I've ever encountered does. Maybe they're onto something. So how is it that someone who hasn't learned from the ruinous trail of demonization and division is allowed stewardship of young minds? One wonders what they'll learn” from this.


I'd fire him. Yesterday. However, that would require ethics, intellect, courage, and leadership. And this is North Dakota.

Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column for Forum News Service. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of this publication, nor Forum Communications ownership.

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