School Board Recognition Week: Thank God for Idiots

If you google “quotes about school boards” the first several hits are a

variation of this statement by Mark Twain:

In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.
— Mark Twain

As attorneys who dedicate our professional lives to representing school

districts and boards of education, we have always been irritated by this

witticism. It validates the misconceptions held by members of the public

who really have no idea what the school board does or how difficult it can

be. However, the more we think about it, the more we think that Mark Twain is on to something. School board members just might be one step

beyond idiocy. Consider:

1. Only an idiot would run for a position where you have to give up hours

of evening and weekend time away from your family to dedicate

yourself to (boring) meetings where no one cares about what you

do—until you make a decision that they don’t like and then the whole

town shows up to yell at you. School board members run anyway.

2. Only an idiot would agree to work on a school budget: at church on

Sunday the person to the left of you is a farmer who is mad because

his taxes are too high, and to the right of you is a teacher who is mad

at you because her salary is too low. School board members work


3. Only an idiot would answer the phone when you know there is a good

chance that the caller is (a) some parent who is upset that his kid got

kicked out of National Honor Society for cheating on a test; (b) some

bus driver upset that she got suspended from her job because she got

a DUI; (c) a school board member from a neighboring district who is

mad because of what your school’s student section chanted at last

night’s game; (d) a Saturday morning quarterback who knows that

you would have won Friday night if coach would just run the ball and

blitz more—probably time to “fire” that coach; or (e) all of the above.

School board members answer anyway.

4. Only an idiot would serve in a position that places you in charge of a

school, when “local control” really means you are the one who gets

blamed for implementing the rules of the Nebraska Department of

Education, the statutes of the Unicameral, the regulations of the U.S.

Department of Education and the baffling laws of the United States

Congress. School board members serve anyway.

5. Only an idiot would accept a position that demands grueling hours,

stress, constant criticism and a state statute that says a single “board

appreciation dinner” is more than enough recognition for your

service...oh, and be sure your spouse’s dinner is not included. School

board members accept anyway.

So we suppose you could say that school board members ARE really one

step beyond idiots. And we thank God He made them anyway.