“To provide educational leadership and services which promote equal educational opportunities and quality practices and programs that enable New Hampshire residents to become fully productive members of society.” – Mission statement of the N.H. Department of Education
There was a time when I considered serving in government, either as an elected representative or as a designated public servant (appointment to a public position). I believed my time in the military, as a police officer and in the private sector provided me with balance.
However, after watching what happened to N.H. Department of Education designate Frank Edelblut these past few weeks, I can see why many decent, qualified people stay away from the public arena. The efforts by some to stop Edelblut’s appointment to head the Department of Education was nothing more than bigoted and petty.
I know Edelblut. That is to say I have had several conversations with him and have interviewed him for my radio show. In preparing for my conversations and interviews, I do what I always do, I researched the subject. For me, a person’s political affiliations or stated political philosophy does not matter. I have profiled many people on my show who I do not agree with politically on some or many policy points. Nor do I believe it is my “job” to debate every guest. So long as the guests are honest, clearly state their positions and can intellectually support their positions, I let my listeners decide for themselves what they think of the guests. My interactions with Edelblut lead me to one conclusion. Edelblut is uniquely qualified to lead the NHDOE and is the right person to guide the entirety of New Hampshire’s educational endeavors in the 21st century.
America is falling behind in many ways compared to the rest of the world as it pertains to our educational results. We must embrace the fact that in a successful society education must come in many forms and with many varied advocates. The “one-size fits all” model of America’s educational system is not serving all of our students’ needs. I am not just talking about K-12, but at every touchpoint where we have an opportunity to provide education to the larger student body, of every age and educational need, we must have a robust and flexible education system.
We should value the points of view of all those truly committed to the educational needs of each and every member of our community. I would contend that ensuring a balanced approach to our community’s educational needs requires a diverse body overseeing and providing council to our educational philosophy.
This position does not, nor should it ever, rest solely with a person purely because they are the by-product of an obsolete educational model. This position requires a person with a strong moral compass and an unwavering devotion to the success of our students. This position also requires the clarity to embrace a modern understanding of how our society must adjust our education delivery methods to benefit every student. Edelblut’s background is well-suited for this challenge. A brief review of Edelblut’s resume reveals a person of tremendous qualifications and outstanding quality.
The distressing part of this story is how Edelblut was treated by District 2 Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky during the initial confirmation hearing. A half century removed from the “floodgates of religious bigotry” of anti-Catholicism leveled at John F. Kennedy, Volinsky’s line of questioning was grossly out of line. Volinsky questioned Edelblut’s involvement with Patrick Henry College because of that college’s commitment to faith. Patrick Henry College is an accredited college of good standing, which adheres to the highest standards of academic excellence. The fact Patrick Henry College is a Christian-based school, is irrelevant. This is a fact Volinsky should be well aware of, especially when you consider he is a graduate of another school founded with an adherence to Christian principals, George Washington University.
George Washington University’s motto is Deus Nobis Fiducia (God is Our Trust). The original school seal features a Bible with a verse in Greek from the Gospel of St. John, Chapter I, verses 1-4, which reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” and “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” I wonder how Volinsky would feel if someone questioned him regarding GWU’s stated Christian ethos, especially in the same aggressive manner with which he confronted Edelblut.
It would appear in Volinsky’s world that if you are Jewish and seek atonement in the Torah, or if you are a Christian who recites the Apostles Creed, your motives are suspect, or your allegiances may be in question. I am sure Volinsky does not see his line of questioning the way many of us do. This subtle bigotry, this modern day, public inquisition, under the guise of a confirmation hearing, was a stain on the Executive Council Chambers. I am sure Volinsky would refute my concerns, likely saying something like “I was only doing my job.” It is fine to offer a line of questioning that explores a person’s qualifications, but when you call into question a person’s religious beliefs, you have discredited yourself.
Edelblut is a successful businessman who has mentored future business leaders. He is a decent, intelligent, thoughtful person. He helped to establish, from the ground up, a business leadership program at Patrick Henry College. Edelblut and his wife have done a marvelous job homeschooling their seven children, three of whom have completed college, two currently completing college studies, and two more preparing to enter college. Those are incredible accomplishments, which would add value the NHDOE.
You do not have to agree with a person on every point. But sometimes in our differences we find clarity in our shared concerns. As someone who has taught at the elementary level, and is currently serving as an adult educator, I believe Edelblut is the right choice to lead the N.H. Department of Education.