Monday, April 30, 2018

Sheep and Goats

We seem to have reached a crossroads in consideration of Board of Education candidates. I continue to see people rejecting the premise that this is a non-partisan race. I understand where that comes from. National politics has penetrated the local sphere and we can’t ignore that. If we have values that are under attack from the current administration, we wonder how that might reach into our schools through potential board members.

And yet there’s a reason the BOE race is non-partisan. Consider this: our community contains people of all different political leanings. Yet, in participating in public education, we must acknowledge that citizens of diverse backgrounds and beliefs can learn and grow together. Parents must also learn to work together. If we highlight the BOE race as a partisan struggle, we add a new wedge between parents that makes it harder to work together on common goals after the election is over.

Yes, Virginia, there is life after the election and we will need one another. That’s not going to work so well if we have spent all this time judging and baiting each other.

So you want to separate the candidates by party affiliation in order to ask them the appropriate questions. What does that look like, exactly? Should there be a different set of questions for BOE candidates who are Republican? Should we ask each candidate who they voted for in the Presidential election? Will we have separate forums? We will come to believe that Board members from another political party than our own don’t have the ability to set policy for our children?

If you have important questions to ask of BOE candidates, ask them of all the candidates. All of them.  And when you find the candidates you feel that you can support, by all means, share that information. For instance,  I might say that I support X because s/he is knowledgeable and experienced in how arts education can transform at-risk communities. That’s extremely important to me. And there are plenty of others: implementing restorative practices, equity in the educational experience, how we support non native students, the rights of LGBTQ students, implementing a non-sexist dress code, increasing recess in elementary grades and reducing high-stakes testing in all grades.

Opinions? I got em. Questions? Plenty.

Certainly we all have questions and candidates should be prepared to answer them honestly. But making this a partisan race by separating the sheep from the goats along party lines ignores what will  happen after the election. We will still all be in the same boat, still working towards the same goals and needing to be able to make progress with one another, trusting each other, able to feel comfortable giving a little, forging unlikely alliances in order to help our kids. All kids, really.

How are we going to do that if we burn everything down during election season?

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