Sen. Hargrove teaches a reality civics lesson in a Chimacum classroom

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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CHIMACUM— State Sen. Jim Hargrove isn’t an expert on bullying but feels it occurs because adults have set a poor behavioral example.

“Politics is a perfect example — you can’t just disagree with someone on an issue; you have to call them a name or tear them down,” he said to a 10th-grade biology class at Chimacum High School on Wednesday.

“If you get into campaigns, there is all this negative advertising.

“It’s not, ‘Here’s what I can do and these are my qualifications’; it’s all of this negative stuff. And the reason they do that is because it works and gets people to vote a certain way.

“I think that bleeds down to young people. We should be able to disagree and have our own opinions and not attack people.”

Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, came to class as part of the state Legislature’s Back to School Program, which is intended to let kids know about how the Legislature works.

Teacher Maren Johnson issued the invitation, which Hargrove accepted last week.

Chimacum is part of the 24th Legislative District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula and about a third of Grays Harbor County.

The first half of Hargrove’s 30-minute session consisted of an informal chat about legislative duties, with Hargrove saying that each legislator relies on the expertise of others to determine how to vote on a particular bill.

“We can’t read every bill, so we depend on our colleagues to explain them, in the same way that your teacher might explain something to you,” he said.

“There are some issues that you are committed to and others where you might compromise.”

Hargrove’s expertise is with corrections and prevention, areas where he is unlikely to compromise, he said, because of his belief that prevention programs save money in the long term.

In simplest terms, Hargrove’s advice was to stay out of trouble.

“If you get a felony conviction, you will have a hard time finding a job forever,” he said.

“Maybe you’ll get to work in a mini-mart or something, but there are so few jobs that employers aren’t going to take this risk, especially when there are so many unemployed workers who haven’t committed a crime.”

The class had discussed Hargrove’s appearance and written out questions the previous day but seemed reluctant to ask them.

After prompting, Casey Chochrath said it was unfair that the drinking age was 21 when 18 represents adulthood in other areas.

“Drunk driving is a huge problem,” Hargrove said.

“I think we should do whatever we can to keep kids out of trouble, so for that reason, I favor keeping it where it is.”

Hargrove spoke in opposition to Washington Assessment of Student Learning testing, which he said he did not support.

“I don’t think there is any problem in testing to make sure that you’ve learned the material, but I don’t favor having these tests be contingent on your graduation when they aren’t the sum total of what you’ve learned in high school,” he said

“You might have good grades all through high school and might have trouble with one test because you didn’t feel well the night before.”

“It’s great that he came here,” said student Adam Rogers.

“We don’t get recognized for anything here, so I’m glad he came, and it’s awesome that he does forest work,” Rogers said of Hargrove, who is a professional forester along with his duties in the part-time Legislature.

“He was really intimidating even though he seemed laidback and mell­ow,” said student Lauren Thacker.

“So we were hesitant to ask questions.”

Sarah Short had another reason for her silence.

“It seemed like he was spending a lot of time on every question,” she said.

“We work better if you give us a short answer and get to the point. He talked too long.”

Principal Whitney Meissner, who attended the class, said she wished it had occurred later in the day when the kids were more awake.

“A lot of the kids seemed like they are most concerned with driver’s licenses and the drinking age,” Meissner said, “but a lot of what he said will open the door for things they will learn later.”


Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at

Last modified: September 29. 2011 1:02AM
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