Deep-cover bureaucrats shun the light

The Plain Dealer - July 26, 1998

By Kevin O'Brien, deputy director of the Cleveland Plain Dealer's editorial page

A few weeks ago, when I mounted my soapbox to decry the evils of the School-to-Work program that government and big business are foisting on America's kids, a whole bunch of the perpetrators had just left town.

From June 14 through 18, representatives of the School-to-Work machinery in 43 states and Puerto Rico were right here in Cleveland -- right over at the Renaissance on Public Square, plotting strategy.

Whatever they came up with is a closely guarded secret. The public, which paid for their conference, doesn't get to see the plans; we will see only the finished malarkey.

But give credit to one dedicated public servant, who took her best shot a find out what was up with America's anointed career-planners-to-the-masses. State Board of Education member Diana Fessler of New Carlisle came to Cleveland to learn. And what she learned was that anyone with a dissenting view, or even knowledge enough to ask a pointed question or two, was not welcome.

Without incident, Fessler attended the Sunday and Monday sessions, and she didn't even have to sneak in. The Ohio Department of Education had arranged for her to attend. She had the official name tag. She was even acknowledged from the podium. Wasn't that nice?

The trouble didn't start until the bureaucrats from eight states chosen by the federal government to establish the beachhead of the STW invasion were ready to begin a two-day session of public relations strategy. Fessler was curious, naturally, to know how these people were going to sell a program that's so long on central career planning and so short on individual choice, to a people whose form of government was designed to promote individualism and avoid the centralization of power. And that's when the hospitality ran out.

The final invitation Fessler got from her hosts was to leave, and not to come back.

They knew precisely who she was, and they were painfully aware that she knew exactly what School-to-Work is all about.

Fessler is, in fact, one of the foremost experts on the program not just in Ohio, but in the entire nation. She established herself as such by studying the documents written by the School-to-Work people themselves.

When she says that when the program is fully implemented, "people will not be able to get a job or further education without possessing a 'skill certificate,'" she's not just whistling in the dark; she's reading the score, written in the composers' original hand.

When she says School-to-Work "is not a benign vocational program for students," but "a system that, when fully implemented, will result in a totally planned economy," she's working from documents that don't require a whole lot of interpretation.

And when she says that this effort to fuse the government's educational and employment bureaucracies into an entity that gives the government control of every American's employment prospects, she is talking about a future that is much too close for comfort.

"Totalitarian and socialistic governments use access to employment as the critical control point over the lives of people," Fessler wrote in a letter to her constituents after she was kicked out of the School-to-Work conference." In a truly free nation, such control cannot exist."

If Fessler were some loose cannon making wild charges and creating disturbances, maybe the bureaucrats who want to funnel seventh-graders into career paths would have had some legitimate reason for tossing her out on her ear.

If she were a "nut," as one of her fellow State school board members once described her, what would they have to fear from her? How much credence does our society put in nuts and conspiracy theorists?

But the School-to-Work crowd knows better than that. They see her, quite correctly, as a potentially lethal threat to their socialist designs.

Fessler is an elected public official who represents more than a million Ohioans. She knows what she's talking about, and she's not afraid to crawl under whatever rock her foes are hiding beneath just so she can get a good look at what they're up to.

Her site on the World Wide Web,, has a wealth of government School-to-Work documents that point like neon signs to the kind of society the central planners want to rule.

Check it out. If enough people are willing to pay a virtual visit to that Orwellian world, there's still time to avoid having to live in it for real.

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Diana M. Fessler 7530 Ross Road New Carlisle, OH    45344
(937) 845-8428 FAX (937) 845-3550 e:mail: