The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Gavrilo Princip, Unintended Consequences, and Direct School Board Elections in Southside Virginia...

What does a Serbian assassin, a Vice Chariman of a Board of Supervisors, and direct School Board Elections have in common? Maybe more than you might think...

I'll admit it, I'm a huge history buff, and history is chalked full of examples of how the actions of a single individual has produced unimaginable and (often) unintended consequences. Potentially another example of this might soon manifest itself in Southside Virginia? Try to follow me on this one...

Take World War I for example: Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Imperial Prince of the Austrian Empire, in the streets of Sarajevo. In Princip's twisted world, he thought the assassination of the Archduke would spurn a revolution which would free Slavic people from the "persona non grata" influence of the Austrian Crown. Gavrilo's actions most definately produced an unintended and unforeseen consequence.

Instead of advancing the emancipation of Slavic people from the Austrian Crown, these actions instead lead to what is know as the "domino theory" which ultimately lead to World War I - which lefts millions of people dead (including hundreds of thousands of Serbians) and some of the most vile and devastating warfare known to man...all of which were unintended. Bad move Gavrilo!

Ok, so now you're probably asking yourself "what in the hell does this have to do with School Board elections in Southside Virginia?" Fair enough... so just "fast forward" 92 years from Habsburg dominated eastern Europe to rural Southside Virginia. No problem, right? Now, here's another story of how the calculated actions of an individual might just produce unforseen and unintended consequences...

Victims of unintended consequences? Serbian Assassin Gavrilo Princip (left), and Vice Chairman of the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors, Dr. Brian Bates (right).

For those of you who read the Iconoclast you may recall a recent piece about Dr. Brian Bates, Vice Chairman of Buckingham County's Board of Supervisors, who via an editorial in Farmville Herald (as a "private citizen" of course) advocated for the elimination of direct elections for Buckingham County School Board members.

Citizen Bates wants Buckingham to return to appointing School Board members by the County's Board of Supervisors, which he just so happens to be the Vice Chariman of...Dr. Bates - in his editorial - suggested he would lead a movement to gather enough signitures to put this issues to the voters - via a referendum - in the near future.

I guess the logic is this: if the two elected Boards (Board of Supervisors and School Board) can't come to a consensus in regard to the future direction of Schools in the County, then do away with the direct elections of School Board members (ie, "The Nuclear Option"!) Just allow the Board of Supervisors to appoint people who will share THEIR opinions....and we will all live happily ever after! Problem solved! right?

Needless to say, it appears that the voting public hasn't taken to Bates' proposition. People are funny, they prefer to vote when given the choice. I'm assuming that Supervisor Bates must have anticipated atleast SOME support for his idea (afterall he went through the trouble of writing an editorial in the local paper)and maybe Bates knows something we don't? Maybe?

If I had to guess, I would be willing to wager that Supervisor Bates wishes he could retract his letter, because of the unintendted consequences it appears to be producing. In matter of fact, it appears that a polar opposite "domino effect" is mounting as we speak in regard to Bates' "nuclear option" for Buckingham's School Board.

You see, Brian Lee, an educator and resident of Prince Edward County, has clearly articulated his oppostion of Bates' proposal to eliminate the direct elections of School Board members in near-by Buckingham County.

Mr. Lee clearly points out that the Commonwealth is actually a "late blommer" when it comes the direct elections for School Board members. It was only 1992 when legislation was passed in Virginia allowing for the direct elections of School Boards. Believe it or not, before this legislation was passed, Virginia was THE ONLY state that did not allow for elected local school boards.

But since 1992 the Commonwealth is making up for lost time in hurry, 102 of the 134 local school divisions in Virginia have changed or begun the process of changing from an appointed school board to an elected one and more than 60 percent of Virginia's current school board members are elected officials.

So you don't have to live in Buckingham County to see that the idea that voters - no matter the County or City - would willingly choose to strip their ability to directly elect School Board members. To believe voters would do so is illogical to the point of boarding on asinine...really.

Now Mr. Lee has recently started a grass roots movement to have School Board members directly elected in Prince Edward, the County where he lives and works as a teacher. Thus, alligning Prince Edward with the majority of School Boards in Virginia. What a super idea that every democracy loving citizen should support! And it is easier to do than you might think! It would take minimal organization and effort to do so, plus it would be virtually guaranteed to receive overwhelming approval by the voters of Prince question! I mean think about it: how would you vote if asked if you wanted the right to, well, vote for something? (Remember in 1992 the voters of Buckingham voted in favor of directly electing School Board members by a 3,640 to 800 margin.)

We here at the Iconoclast feel that direct elections are the cornerstone of civic life, and we fully support Mr. Lee's efforts to gather support for a referrendum on this matter in Prince Edward, and we will help to promote this issue in order to get it on the ballot as soon as possible.

Process wise, it is too late to get such a referendum on the ballot in Prince Edward for this coming November. In regard to this matter, the Code of Virginia states,"The petition shall be signed by registered voters equal in number to at least ten percent of the number registered in such locality on the January 1 preceding its filing."

Therefore the citizens of Prince Edward have until January 1, 2007 to collect signitures from 10 percent of the registered voters in the County in order to have this issue appear on the ballot in November of 2007. In case you're wondering, 10 percent of the registered voters in Prince Edward would be 1,158 signatures.

So I guess this will give Mr. Lee and those who support his efforts ample time to collect the requied signitures for placing this issue before the voters of Prince Edward! But it would be best to start soon! (I'm thinking about 6 hours on a Saturday in front of the Wal-Mart in Farmville would likely be sufficeint!)

So back to Gavrilo Princip and the idea of unintended consequences. History tells us that Princip's decision to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand in the streets of Sarajevo did not help to immancipate the Serbian people, but instead resulted in World War I, and death of hundreds of thousands of Serbians. Though Supervisors Bates' proposal to eliminate the direct elction of School Board members in Buckingham County will not lead to global warfare, it might just have the opposite affect in the region. Which most definately was unintended. Sometimes the course of history is changed, but not in the manner in which one might have intended or plotted - but change happened all the same....Sort of ironic isn't it?

The Iconoclast looks forward to promoting the idea of direct elections for Scool Board members in Prince Edward!

Let the dominos fall!


  • At 7/23/2006 12:53 PM, Blogger Brian Lee said…

    Anytime you can make a Black Hand reference in a local political issue you have to be creative.

    First, as a history teacher I commend you for relating a historical event to every day life. You get an "A" in synthesis. I use that same picture of Princip in my PowerPoint presentation on the origins of World War I. I originally said that it was like Bull Connor turning the firehoses on civil rights protestors. He may have discouraged a few, but when the video hit the news it showed how barbaric his actions were. It created a backlash of public opinion and aided Connor's opposition. So your point is well taken.

    Second, as my neighbor to the north, I thank you for your support.

    I created a link on my blog to your article. Again, thanks for your support.

  • At 7/23/2006 1:26 PM, Blogger Tom Wise said…

    Yes, the "Black Hand" analogy was a bit of a stretch, but I just happened to watch a really great piece on the history channel about this recently, so it was fresh in my mind!

    Best of luck on this issue, and I look forward to promoting this idea with you in the future...really, this should be easy, but the time is now to start getting those signatures... so you can have them to the circuit court by December 31st...


  • At 7/24/2006 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I still think Bates has more in common with Kim Jon-il...but that's just me.

    Good Luck Mr. Lee on this issue. I'm sure with a little gumption you will be successful!

  • At 7/24/2006 6:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Actually the Domino theory had nothing to do with WW1, Mr. History Buff. The Domino theory was first espoused (40 years after the Archduke's assasination)in 1954 by Ike. It represented the idea of country after country falling to unchecked communist agression, especially in Southeast Asia. The snowball effect of the crazed serb's actions was do to what Prez Wilson called an entangling web of treaties and alliances that was the base argument for his League of Nations....Don't pretend to descend on us in your high and mighty tones when you don't even know what your talking about, Will.

  • At 7/24/2006 8:05 PM, Blogger Tom Wise said…

    First I - Tom - wrote this piece, not Will...I'm sure Will would have gotten the facts straight!

    But you're right, though the events leading to world war I could be characterized by the "domino theory", this theory WAS NOT coined until the early 1950s as it relates to the spread of communism.

    But, in regard to this theory one defintion that I found states: "A theory that one event will set off a train of similar events."

    When examining the events leading to World War I, it is then easy to see why some people (including me) often site this theory. But technically (as you point out) this theory/phrase wasn't coined until years after WWI.

    This history buff has been wrong before! Believe me!

    BUT, let's be honest, this piece wasn't really about WWI (nooooo!), but instead was about direct elections for school board members and how the actions of one person (in particular) might have the opposite affect as likely intended...fair enough?

    Are you as passionate about critizing my "high and mighty tones" on this subject - the direct elections of school board members - as you are about correctly sourcing the genesis of the domino theory?

    Let's hope so...I'll be looking forward to your response!

  • At 7/24/2006 9:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't know, maybe the unchecked communist aggression has worked it's way into the Buckingham BOS. The centralization of POWER begins by controlling the Peoples choice of representatives and in turn controlling the votes of said representatives by assuring them the the PARTY line will be towed or else.....someone else will. I not sure it would be wise to trust the people too much///

  • At 7/25/2006 11:12 AM, Blogger Brian Lee said…

    If the people cannot be trusted, how can we continue our democratic form of government. Alexander Hamilton wanted the elite and educated to rule our government because he thought they could rule the best. That of course creates a difference between the ruling class and the rest of the population. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Should the landed white males rule again? There is little, if any chance, for the non-ruling class to make any advancements. That would be slavery in everything but name. However, if every day people have an equal voice as the rich, then the masses (middles and lower class) could also have a chance of social mobility.

    I cannot subscribe to the idea that the poor and uneducated should have no say in our government. It is very Hamiltonian of Mr. Bates to make this suggestion. I hope the people of Buckingham don't submit their rights to a small ruling class. I also hope that the people of Prince Edward will throw off the shackles of the ruling class and put the power back in the hands of the people. That is what separates a democracy from other failed forms of government, including: monarchy, fascism, and communism. Winston Churchill said, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

  • At 7/26/2006 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank you Mr. Lee. I believe we actually live in a Hamiltoian Republic rather than a Jeffersonian Democracy.

    The Board of Supervisors will still control the purse strings for the school system, no matter the manner in which the School Board is seated.

    Are you implying that the voting pulic of Prince Edward has schackled itself by ELECTING this "Ruling Class" of Supervisors?

    Can they now throw off these shackles by electing the School Board?

    Should the "Ruling Class" be excluded from running for these seats and reserve them only for the "poor and uneducated"?

    What happens if you don't like the elected school board, will you refer to them as the "Ruling Class"?

  • At 7/26/2006 3:03 PM, Blogger Brian Lee said…

    Mr. Bates does not like that some one else has an opposing viewpoint (the school board) and he cannot get anything done. You don't therefore abolish the school board. One is a check on the other. Like in our federal government, Congress has the power of the purse so the President cannot go wild. If we are at war and the President wants to escalate it, Congress can cut back or cut off funding. That is their check on the President. The President cannot then dissolve Congress.

    In the case of Buckingham County, the school board is elected. It is up to the people to remove a school board member not the Board of Supervisors.

    Point taken on the "throwing of the shackles" comment. The Board of Supervisors was elected by the people. I didn't make myslef clear on that point. What I was asking for was more representation. If the Supervisors are anti-public school they will choose an anti-public school school board. Let me better express myself by saying that two separate bodies - one to control the purse strings and one to look out for the best interest of the schools - would qualify as a proper check and balance.

    The Board of Supervisors has to maintain a balanced budget - I respect that. The School Board wants to fix a school that is in disrepair. I saw the photos in the Farmville Herald. Not every family can afford to send their kid to private school. If public schools aren't adequate, the rich will have access to a proper education and the poor will not. As the debate continues, the children are on the sidelines.

    Jefferson said that "all men are created equal." That is not necessarily true. We are all born into varying socioeconomic situations and have varying intellectual capacities. But all men (let me clarify because Jefferson didn't - all citizens of America) should have an equal say in their government.

    Your question about the ruling class. I think the ruling class should be abolished. That is too idealistic. There shouldn't be those subservient to others. And I welcome all people to serve their community - be it rich, poor, college professor, or high school drop out. The money isn't good, so either you do it for the power or you do it to make a difference. I think the great majority do it to make a difference. So, I commend all who serve with the best intentions (even if I disagree with them).

    But when I disagree with my wife, I don't cut her off. She still has a voice. Sometimes I wish she had a mute button or would just fall into line with my thinking, but she is her own person. I respect that more than someone who will fold.

    Your last question...Would I call an elected school board that I don't like the ruling class. No. I would campaign for an opposition candidate and will make good use of my civic duty on election day. In that case, at least I have a say in my government. In Prince Edward I don't have as much of a say. I guess that is how a democracy works.

    Thanks for the questions. In a democracy we can enjoy a healthy debate. It's nice to have a voice.

    By the way, I like Hamilton. I read Ron Chernow's biography on him last summer. Great book! American Machiavelli is good too. Me and Alexander have a difference of opinion on this particular point.

    During the election of 1800, Hamilton was the General of the Army. When power was being transferred from the Federalists to the Democratic-Republicans he could have initiated a coup, but he didn't. He allowed our democratic system to work. That is what I like about Hamilton.

    I'm sure there are some qualities I like abou you Mr. Anonymous - if that is your real name.

  • At 7/26/2006 3:52 PM, Anonymous Mike Hunt said…

    Ok, you want to know my name. I'll tell you. I am really just a far off observer who has an interest in a healthy debate.

    I encourage you in your grass roots efforts. If any school system in the country deserves an advocate it is Prince Edward.

    I hope to strengthen your position by helping you with your own intellectual honesty.

    Tip O'Neal said "All politics are local." It is therefore important that the locals understand the politics, so kudos to you and The Iconoclast for doing your parts.

    Do you get your own classroom or do you have to push around a cart like Jenkins?

  • At 7/26/2006 4:13 PM, Blogger Brian Lee said…

    That you for keeping me in line and giving me a chance to exercise my debate. Any friend of Jenkins is a friend of mine. According to the schedule both Jenkins and I will have our own rooms. So we will celebrate by taking TNT to our carts (not at the taxpayers' expense). In fact, they even entrust us with the honors students. If Jenkins and I are teaching honors, God save the honors program. Tell Jenkins I said that.

  • At 7/26/2006 4:28 PM, Blogger Brian Lee said…

    Not to get off topic, but did you legally change yor name to Mike Hunt or was that the name given to you at birth?

  • At 7/28/2006 2:09 AM, Anonymous jimbo said…

    The dude who condecends with the "high and mighty" comment really pisses me off.

    Who really gives a rip about the exact date of the domino theory?

    It doesn't take much to figure out that one thing leads to another.


    Most of us get the basic point of this piece.

  • At 7/29/2006 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The idea of an elected school board in Prince Edward is not a bad idea. It should, however, be pointed out that just this one simple change will not guarantee that all problems are solved, either immediately or ever. It is indeed possible to have good or bad elected school boards just as it is possible to have good or bad appointed school boards.

    Probably the most compelling argument for the elected school board option is that 1) the people decide what is good or bad, and 2) at least in theory, an elected school board will be comprised of members who run on a single dedicated issue of supporting the schools. Sad to say, there may have been a number of appointed school board members over the years who seem to owe more to their appointing sponsor on the Board of Supervisors than they do to the schools. They are not independent and they do not exhibit the kind of dedication to the schools that I would like to see.

    I'm guessing that either system can work. But in the long haul, the elected school board option probably has the higher probability of producing consistently superior/favorable results, if for no other reason that elected officials have to keep worrying about what the voters are going to decide.

  • At 12/31/2006 5:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I went to a school in Zemun, Serbia named Gavrilo Princip - named after the assasin/national hero

  • At 11/29/2011 4:54 AM, Anonymous images and pictures said…



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