My college-aged daughter and I were having a chat about the Fourth of July and the concept of patriotism. We agreed that we didn’t feel much like celebrating this year, although, I don’t think it’s the first time.
She said she’d never felt the July 4th was about patriotism. It was about marching bands and fireworks and picnics. That’s it.
I explained that my feelings about patriotism came from my mother, who explained to me that our country was beautiful because it was about democracy: participation and acceptance for all. Unlike in some countries, in the U.S. people could express different opinions, have different religions, come from many different places and be a valuable part of our larger democracy. That all were equal and deserved opportunity and respect.
That was her meaning of freedom. That’s what was important to her. Those were her core beliefs.
I grew up believing them, too. My journey through adulthood has seen many of those concepts take a beating. That’s not actually the truth of what we have. But I still yearn for it to be true. If we believe in it then we have to work to make it so. Paying it lip service without honestly examining it is just lazy jingoism at best.
We need to face the truth of who we are in order to work for what is better.
Those are my core values, I guess. I wince when I use the word “values” because for me it has been usurped by people like Anita Bryant: as wholesome as orange juice while spreading a toxic message of hate. You knew when you saw a tirade about values it could mean only one thing: conservative values, evangelical values, the “family values” of the religious Right.
Values were something they used to judge people and hurt people. I wanted nothing to do with that.
I’m raising this now because I’m finally coming to terms with saying the V word out loud. We all have values and they influence what we do every day. I can’t allow one worldview or political party to steal that word or that concept from me.
As I do research on the candidates in the current election, and especially for the board of education, I realize how important those values are in assessing those who are best qualified to fulfill the mission of their office.
Yes, the Board of Education race is a nonpartisan race, which means candidates don’t run as representatives of a particular political party. It doesn’t mean the candidates aren’t registered to any political party. And it doesn’t mean the voters must be unaffiliated, either. People chose political parties in large part due to their core values.
It is not a value-less race.
That would be impossible. Voters are looking for candidates who they feel are competent to do the job, and whose values align with their own. Or at the very least, they can’t be so opposed as to be mutually exclusive of one another.
Asking people to be involved in how we educate our children by choosing members of a board of education means that we accept they will be bringing their core beliefs with them as they vote. In some jurisdictions the community has no voice. Their board is appointed. Someone else has all the say.
We have a great responsibility, then, to learn as much as we can about the people who might be in a position to have strong influence over our community’s children and their educational experience. And, after all that, we still need to pay attention after they get elected. We all know that Democracies don’t run on automatic pilot. School boards don’t, either.
So, yes. I’m going to be writing about the Board of Education race. And I won’t be apologizing for my values.
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