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"Whose Child is This?"
Nicholas Johnson
Transcript of Extemporaneous Remarks on the Occasion of
A Public Forum on Opposing Iowa Child
Organized by
Stop a Vast Error (SAVE)
Iowa City, Iowa, Public Library
January 22, 2001

Organizers and Presenters:
Caroline Dieterle
Carol DeProsse
Clara Oleson

A lot of you just heard more details about this project tonight than have ever been presented by the board of the so-called "Iowa Child."

And we are really grateful to you for that.

I have some questions and concerns, which I have put up on my Web site -- which is still in existence, unlike that of the Iowa Child.  I have difficulty supporting any project that removes its Web page, and moves it around, and won't let you know what its project is.

I am a member of the local school board.  My name is Nicholas Johnson. My Web site, if you want to check out this statement ["'Iowa Child' Concerns"] is Since I seem to do nothing that is "com" I have an "org."

I want to say a word about the education components of this. I think our basic problem is that "there is no 'there' there" with regard to any of this.  The removal of the Web page is symptomatic. This is a doily.

I don't know how many of you are old enough to have seen "The Music Man."  Show of hands.  Remember Harold Hill? At least he was going to give us a brass band, right?  But I have the sort of haunting sense that we are confronting another Harold Hill. And I am not even sure we're going to get the 76 trombones if we raise the money.

I've raised 11 different categories of issues, some of which have been touched on. I'm not going to take up more than two or three minutes here.  Those of you who know me don't believe that, but that is true.

They go everywhere from -- I don't think the project is financially viable.  I know venture capitalists. I know bankers. I know national foundation executives. I don't know one of them who would put money in this thing.  That is not really our concern, but it becomes our concern under my next category, "financial implications."  What if this goes belly up?  I know what to do with a boutique in downtown Iowa City that can't make it.  You put another boutique in there. Or a restaurant. You put another restaurant in there.  What do you do with a rainforest in the middle of Iowa that doesn't make it?  Whose is it at that point?  What do we do with it?  What do you turn that into?

The changing plans and the lack of focus are just mind boggling.  We really don't have a plan to evaluate.  That's the problem.  And it's constantly changing.  So, I would even be willing to give it serious consideration if they put a plan before me, but I don't see one.

I am put off by the feeling that there is a lot of hype here.  When was the last time you saw a hotel that was generating business with an attached rainforest that called itself the "Iowa Child"?  Where did this child come from?

We've got the whole problem of public funding of private profits which Clara talked about.

We have basic problems with governance.  Who is running this thing?  What is the public input?  Who makes the decisions?  Suppose we walk through the rainforest and there are no posters up there about what corporations are doing to the real rainforests in South America and we say, "Hey, you ought to have something up there about that."  Who decides that?  Who has the power to say, "No, we are going to censor that.  We are not going to let people have that information."

The school administration is one of the most baffling aspects of this whole thing.  There are such things as charter schools, but they are not yet in Iowa.  There are private schools certainly, but the last statement we had is that while this will not be a public school it will be "within the world of public education."  Now I don't know what "the world of public education is," but apparently this rainforest school is going to be within it.  It is going to draw its students, as Clara just said, by lottery from up to 50 miles away.  It's not going to have any administrative relationship to my school board or Clear Creek-Amana.  So what is it going to be?  Is the rainforest going to be it's own school district?  I mean those are fundamental questions. I appreciate they may be a little technical, but they're sort of important.  There is really nothing here in terms of what this school is going to be, how it's going to function.

There's no relationship of the teacher training portion to any of the colleges of education.

I'm also concerned about the extent to which there is genuine support for this on the part of the people who are said to be supporters.

I have been told to wrap up and so I'm done, except to note also that the local economic impact is going to provide maybe some construction jobs, but beyond that I think it is more minimum wages, folks.

Thank you.