Commentary

The mysteries of Elsie Arntzen

June 23, 2022 11:12 am

Elsie Arntzen, Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction, walks into Parental Rights Education Action meeting at Crosspoint Church in Missoula, Montana on November 1, 2021. (Provided by Tommy Martino for the Daily Montanan)

I may have a clue that can explain the mystery of why Elsie Arntzen, Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, recommends that the state no longer require any specific number of school counselors despite our spectacular teenage suicide rate. A committee appointed to study the matter recommended an increase in counselors from one per 400 students to one in 300. However, Arntzen believes eliminating a numerical requirement would help “local control.” Or maybe will allow schools to do more if they want to.

She hasn’t said how.

Trying to understand the educational theory underlying this approach, I realized that since Arntzen also recommends reducing the number of school librarians, maybe the two ideas are related. A clue to the mystery! 

Some parents want to ban certain books from school libraries and there may be others who worry about what a counselor is telling their children. In a sense, they worry about education as if it’s an infectious disease, something they must protect their children from getting. 

Oops. That’s not a very apt metaphor.

I recall that several months ago Arntzen joined a gathering of parents protesting when the school board said children should wear masks to school to protect them from COVID. At the time, I called the OPI to ask how they would protect kids without masks, but I didn’t get an answer. 

Perhaps some parents, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, have less concern about spreading an infectious disease than spreading education around unless it’s in a carefully controlled environment.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.