Saturday, May 12, 2007

Unbridled Typos

Unbridled Typos

“When I think back on all the c___ I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.”

-Paul Simon

I learned how to type in high school. I had the worst penmanship in my school, and the principal personally signed me up for a typing class. He said it would change my life.

He was right. I became a wiz in the days of manual typewriters. When computers came along, I was set.

I could never have gone into journalism without my ability to type quickly. Typing is the only mechanical skill that I have. I can’t fix machinery, but I can always find a job typing.

Although I have grown to appreciate my typing skills, Barbara Erwin doesn’t share in that same affinity.

When certain items on her resume were found to be false, she dismissed them as “typos.”

Ms. Erwin may need a remedial course in typing.

She also might need a course in semantics. In my high school grammar classes, we used different words than Ms. Erwin for incorrect information.

One popular definition was “a lie.” Other definitions were “a falsehood” or “a misrepresentation.”

“Typo” never made the list.

Erwin’s resume said that she was named Superintendent of the Year by the Texas Association of School Administrators.

There is a slight problem: the Texas Association of School Administrators does not give out a Superintendent of the Year award.

Ms. Erwin’s “typo” made her appear as though she had won an award that didn’t exist.

Now that she is coming to Kentucky, I wonder if Erwin can teach Kentuckians how to win awards that either they didn’t earn or that never existed in the first place.

I would like to be a named a Nobel Prize winner. It doesn’t have to be from the Nobel Prize committee. If the National Association of Tractor Drivers wants to give me their Nobel Prize for Literature, I would be glad to accept.

If there is no Association of Tractor Drivers (I didn’t check) or they don’t give out Nobel Prizes, I still want to be able to list the prize on my vita.

Listing myself as a Nobel Prize winner would boost my resume, and I want Ms. Erwin to show me how it is done.

If Ms. Erwin can teach me how to pad my resume and blow it off as a “typo,” she might be worth the money Kentucky is paying her.

Being a Nobel Prize-winning author will help me make a lot of money

Just like Erwin’s fake Superintendent of the Year award helped her get a $220,000-per-year job.

I am distraught that Kentucky would hire an education commissioner whose knowledge of typing and semantics are so weak. For $220,000 a year, they ought to be able to get a better candidate.

When a government entity makes a bad hiring decision, I don’t get angry at the person being hired; I get angry at the people doing the hiring. In this case the hiring was done by the Kentucky Board of Education, whose members were all appointed by Governor Ernie Fletcher.

The Kentucky Board of Education didn’t care that Ms. Erwin had falsehoods on her resume or that she couldn’t type.

I’m not sure which is worse. We don’t want someone spreading false information to be in charge of education.

We also don’t want someone who doesn’t know how to type: typing is an essential skill in the technological world.

I haven’t been to China or India, but I bet their education commissioners know how to type. If we are going to compete, we need an education commissioner who is a competent communicator in addition to their other skills.

Despite my bragging about speed and skills, I often make typing and grammar mistakes. In the days of manual typewriters, I applied for a job with a misspelling in my cover letter.

The human resources director sent it back and said that I would not be considered because of the mistake.

That company had a pass/fail grading system for their hires. It looks like the Kentucky School Board grades on the curve.

When our children become adults and compete in the world economy, they will find that the world does not give “gentleman” or “gentlewoman” A’s They will have to be well-educated in order to survive.

I’m worried that Ms. Erwin does not have the skill set needed to help Kentucky compete in a world economy.

Admittedly, she does have one thing going for her.

She seems to have experience in writing creative fiction.

Don McNay is the author of the Unbridled World of Ernie Fletcher. His column is award-winning but has not been awarded the Nobel Prize by any organization of any kind. You can write to him at or read other things he has written at He is on the Board of Directors for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Tax Dollars for Flunkies

Tax Dollars for Flunkies

“And if you give me weed, whites and wine, and you show me a sign, then I’ll be willing, to be moving.”

-Lowell George (Linda Ronstadt)

Political candidates don’t need weed, whites and wine to get moving, but apparently they need an entourage.

To run for office means you never are lonely. Almost every modern candidate has a “posse” larger than a heavyweight boxer.

Republicans and Democrats disagree on many issues but seem to be unanimous on one point: none are in favor of dropping their posse.

Most flunkies are a combination of hubris and insecurity. Many are insufferable, self-important and afraid to leave the candidate’s side. Thus, they make it impossible for “real” people (people who don’t spend every waking second thinking about politics) to get near those supposedly running to serve them.

It’s not good for candidates and not good for the people that they will govern.

As bad as the “posse” gets on the campaign trail, it gets worse when a candidate wins and puts all of the coat holders on the government payroll.

On my list of ways the government wastes money, taxpayer-paid flunkies are at the top.

They don’t produce any beneficial services and often take the place of someone who can.

I’ve been an occasional campaign flunky, and in small doses, it can be fun. In 1988, I helped arrange for Al Gore to practice with the University of Kentucky basketball team. I drove his car, fetched his Diet Cokes and arranged for him to have gym clothes.

I didn’t buy the gym clothes myself. I had my campaign assistant (a flunky to the flunky) do that. But I handed Al the clothes and made sure they fit.

They did.

It was an important job, and I took it seriously. Probably too seriously.

Self-importance is a defining characteristic of campaign flunkies. Many view themselves as latter-day St. Peters guarding the pearly gates--even if they are a flunky for an assistant water works commissioner.

I don’t mind if the coat holders are volunteers and not paid staff. If someone wants to spend their free time buying a candidate’s underwear, I don’t see any harm in it.

I get annoyed, however, when a candidate wastes campaign donations on a large paid staff. I get out-and-out angry when that staff winds up on the government payroll.

I’ve watched “debates” this year for candidates running for president. No candidate has ever mentioned cutting back on their entourage or perks.

Even the wacky guy from Alaska didn’t touch the issue. I KNOW he doesn’t have an entourage.

Cutting back on perks used to be a hot topic.

In the 1970’s, California Governor Jerry Brown made national news by living in an apartment instead of the California Governor’s mansion.

Brown was incredibly popular at the time. His approval rate broke records, and he won every presidential primary that he entered in 1976. He got in late and was up against Jimmy Carter, who also preached austerity. Carter carried his own luggage and stayed at supporters’ houses to save money.

Frugality was an issue then. It is forgotten now.

As candidates fly to campaign fundraisers in corporate jets that they borrowed from their “friends,” I wonder how many meet an average person in an average day.

I’m sure that their entourages can ward off encounters with any real people--except for the occasional photo ops with bellhops in their hotel suites.

I’d like some assurance that public officials pick their advisors because of their capacity to serve the public, not because of their ability fetch Diet Coke.

I’m not sure what kind of person would really want to be a professional coat holder. Anyone willing to do it for a career would have to have a distorted view of the world.

I don’t want that distorted view in the West Wing.

I understand that presidents and presidential candidates need to have tight security around them. I’m not so sure that people running for governor or city counsel do.

Having an entourage seems to almost be a pre-requisite for running for office these days.

I’m going to vote for the first person to break the trend.

Don McNay is Chairman of the Board for McNay Settlement Group in Richmond, Ky., where we don’t spend clients’ money on flunkies. His award-winning column is syndicated on the CNHI News Service. You can write to him at and read other things he has written at He is on the Board of Directors for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.