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Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele — last modified Jan 23, 2024 11:13 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included the future of MCPS Superintendent McKnight, alternatives to Joe Biden, adults who haven't learned how to drive, and paying for in-law's mortgage.

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "Board wants Monifa to step down". Posted in the "Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)" forum, the title refers to a report in the Washington Post that the Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education has requested that Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight step down from her position. According to the Post article, McKnight contends that the Board has not previously communicated any concerns about her performance and has no cause to remove her from office. Therefore, she plans to remain in her position and contest efforts to force her out. McKnight has been controversial from the start. While she was serving as Interim Superintendent before officially being hired as Superintendent, the Montgomery County Education Association — the teachers' union — passed a vote of no confidence in her. Her efforts to address the fallout from the covid pandemic have not won her many fans and significantly increased criticism of her leadership. More recently, a controversy involving the promotion of Joel Beidleman, a MCPS middle school principal who was promoted to high school principal while under investigation for bullying and sexual harassment, has raised questions about her involvement in events. McKnight has denied any knowledge of the charges against Beidleman but several top administrators have been found to have been involved. This has led to the classic conundrum that if McKnight knew what was happening, she was malfeasant and, if she didn't know, she was incompetent. But, much of the discussion in this thread focuses on the school board. Many posters call for board members to step down along with McKnight because the board has approved all of McKnight's actions. Moreover, many posters see the board as mishandling McKnight's dismissal. If the board has indeed not communicated grounds for her removal and McKnight is unwilling to go quietly, there will likely be a significant financial payout to get her to leave. Months of unwanted controversy regarding this issue can also be expected. A sideshow debate in this thread involves how McKnight is addressed by posters. There has long been a tendency in the forum to identify the superintendent as "Monifa" — something that happened even in the thread's title. Several posters object to this, believing that the frequent habit of referring to women in general and Black women in particular by their first names is lodged in sexism and racism. I have noticed this propensity, frequently as it relates to Vice President Kamala Harris, and I also agree that the use of first names in such instances are posters' efforts to diminish these women. Loudoun County went through a major controversy leading to the removal of Dr. Scott Ziegler as schools superintendent and never once do I remember him being called "Scott". Neither was former Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent Dr Scott Brabrand referred to with that name during his controversial tenure.

The next most active thread was posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. Titled, "Name your magical Democratic who would beat Trump?", the original poster contends that President Joe Biden will defeat former President Donald Trump in the November election. But, the original poster continually hears that Biden is a weak candidate and that other Democrats would be stronger. Therefore, the original poster asks those who think that other candidates would be better than Biden to name them. This thread highlights a dilemma in which Democrats have found themselves. Biden is unpopular, even among Democrats, but he is still the best hope for defeating Trump. As the discusion makes clear, there are a number of Democrats who show potential, but none of them appear ready to step in as a presidential contender today. Part of the problem is that it is too late to change horses. The primaries are already underway and no strong opponent to Biden has made an effort to get on the ballots. Even potential candidates such as California Governor Gavin Newsom or Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer lack the national standing that would be necessary for a legitimate campaign. The original poster points out that Newsom and Whitmer also poll worse against Trump than Biden does. However, it could be argued that this is a bit of a chicken and egg problem. It would be interesting to see how Newsom or Whitmer's poll numbers could be changed by millions of dollars of advertising. But, it is simply too late for either to be a realistic option. Posters offer a number of suggestions beyond Newsom and Whitmer, but the candidates either are essentially unknown such as a list of moderate Democratic governors or people who have already run and failed such as Amy Klobuchar. Perhaps realizing that Democrats are stuck with Biden, many posters turn to discussing what they believe he needs to do to win. This highlights another dilemma. Democrats rely on a broad coalition, many parts of which have conflicting demands. Younger voters, for instance, are generally strong supporters of forgiving student debt and oppose Biden's close embrace of Israel in its war in Gaza. Older voters tend to strongly oppose debt forgiveness and many Democrats would be alienated by any distance Biden put between himself and Israel. Similarly, efforts to shore up support among Black voters can easily lead to disaffection among some White voters. Biden has had surprising success in threading the various needles needed to maintain this coalition, despite his efforts frequently ending with nobody being pleased. But, in my opinion, he has massively misstepped, perhaps fatally in political terms, with his policy regarding Gaza. Like Humpty Dumpty who has been shattered into too many pieces, I am not sure Biden can repair things with the Arabs, Muslims, and young people who have been splintered from his supporters. The one issue upon which there is nearly universal agreement among Democrats is abortion rights. Hence, it is no surprise that Vice President Kamala Harris is currently touring the country in an attempt to make abortion rights the centerpiece of the election. Whether or not that will be enough remains to be seen.

Next was a thread titled, "What do you think of adults who never learned to drive?" that was posted in the "Off-Topic" forum. The original poster is interested in opinions about people in their 40s who never learned to drive and have to rely on others or on car share services to drive them around. Opinions are definitely divided depending on where such a person lives. Few posters have any concerns whatsoever about those who live in very urban environments with good public transportation. But posters tend to feel quite a bit differently about anyone who lives in rural or suburban areas and hasn't learned to drive. Many of those responding have experience with individuals who live in car-dependent areas and don't know how to drive. They generally find these individuals to be aggravating and with unrealistic expectations concerning who should drive them around. Several posters believe that not learning to drive suggests some sort of flaw such a mental health issue. In some cases, posters contend that non-drivers are actively using their inability to drive to create co-dependent relationships or, as one poster put it "weaponized incompetence". These individuals, the posters believe, could learn to drive and take charge of their own transportation but they simply don't want to and refusing to learn to drive is a tactic for justifying dependency. Fairly quickly the discussion got away from the original topic and turned to a general discusion about not driving as opposed to what people think about those who don't learn to drive. There are several descriptions of those, in some cases the posters themselves, who know how to drive but simply don't for various reasons. Similarly, several posts address reasons for why some individuals have not learned to drive. Some posters are surprisingly triggered by the thought that a normal adult might not have learned to drive. One poster says there is "something seriously lacking" in such people and compared it to "refusing to wear shoes". At the opposite end of the spectrum are those who refuse to have any thoughts about it. For instance one poster wrote, "I don’t think anything. Their life. Their choice."

The next most active thread was the Gaza war thread which I will skip because I've already discussed it. Therefore, the final thread that I will discuss today was posted in the "Family Relationships" forum. Titled, "In-laws are broke, DH has offered to help", this thread is a bit of an odyssey. The thread started several days ago with the original poster saying that her husband has offered to pay his parent's mortgage so that they won't have to move out of their house into an apartment. The original poster and her husband currently rent and if their funds are used to pay his parents mortgage, they will have trouble saving for a down payment for their own home. It will also impact college savings for their child. Almost all of those responding think that the original poster should put her foot down and not allow her husband to pay his parent's mortgage. Many argue that the original poster needs to prioritize her own family and that her in-laws can move to a smaller place. The issue with this thread is that not only did the original poster provide very little information in her initial post, but she practically didn't follow-up at all. I could only find one additional response and that was four pages later. As a result, posters were left to fill in blanks with their own imagination and, in many cases, ended up debating "facts" that had not been provided by the original poster. In addition, some posters took the opportunity to describe their own similar situations and, in some cases, were confused by others as the original poster. When they responded by addressing the poster as "OP", they spread their confusion to others. The original poster did respond on the fourth page, denying being a troll and providing a bit more data, but then as far as I can tell, disappeared from the thread completely. The thread continued for 11 more pages (so far) without her. Moreover, 7 of those pages were added yesterday, almost three days after the original poster abandoned the thread. Clearly, the bulk of the discussion had very little to do with the original poster or her original post. Instead, as best I can tell without reading the entire thread, is that it turned into a debate about what type of support, if any, children should provide their parents. Some portion of those responding are critical of parents who have not sufficiently planned financially for their retirement and who cannot afford their lifestyles. Another group blames adult children for not caring enough about their parents and selfishly refusing to provide financial support. My opinion is that this dynamic is only going to get worse. We are transitioning from a generation that largely had pensions and have been able to retire comfortably to a generation for which pensions were generally unknown and, instead, had to rely on 401Ks and other types of retirement savings plans. I suspect that the planning by the second group will turn out not to have been as good as they had hoped and they will be more likely to struggle with retirement. As such, demands on adult children, most of whom have struggled with their own financial challenges such as student debt, will only grow.

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