The Pantheon of School Boards Imitating Life?
As I watch the school board meetings where I live and teach, as well as the broadcast of the politicians at my state capitol, I am reminded of a movie I saw as a child. In this movie, the Ancient Greek Gods played with clay figures that represented the humans below their mountain. These individuals sit high upon pedestals making decisions with little thought to the consequences of their actions, insofar as how they will affect those they are manipulating. The only goal of those in office is to get re-elected as many times as is necessary to land a job as a lobbyist when they leave office, or so sit high upon the dais looking down on those that hired them.
Don't we have it a bit backwards? If the taxpayers are the voters, and they hire these individuals to do a job, shouldn't they be the ones to speak their minds at these meetings and tell them what should be done? In my ignorance, I thought that the only time the government was allowed to keep secrets from the people who hire them to do their jobs was in matters of national security. Yet, our school boards and our politicians sit high upon their pedestals, school auditorium stages or wherever else they can look down upon their employers and make rules that will many times hurt the children they are entrusted to educate and taxpayers they are supposed to be protecting, using numbers and letters to hide the true intent of that which they are discussing.
There are two ingredients necessary for the foundation of a democracy to hold strong. These are education and the freedom of information that we are supposed to have. Instead, many of the leaders we have in office today choose to keep their actions secret while making sure that the students in the schools are taught to ask the teacher "what do you want me to answer?" so that they can pass a test mandated by those same individuals who choose to hide behind their office. This is all done with the "best" of intentions making sure that students who attend public schools today learn that they should not think for themselves, thereby assuring the future of those in the privileged class (those in office who send their kids to private schools). This becomes a self perpetuating cycle the powerful vs. the powerless. Ironically, our country was founded on the idea that all people should have a say in their government, and public schools were founded so that the individuals who did have a say in their government would have an educated well thought out opinion when going to the polls. Our founders knew that power, when held in the hands of a few would destroy the powerless.
How can we solve this problem? The first step is clear. Educate! Educate! Educate! Instead of setting kids up to pass a test that requires them to regurgitate useless facts give them opportunities to solve problems using the creativity that Americans used to be known for! Give teachers their classrooms back so that they can create the learning environments that helped spur on these solutions! Hold teachers accountable, but the taxpayer/voter/employer must also hold those who make policy decisions, from those at the national and state levels, to those at the school levels accountable too! If they don't or can't do the job, fire them!
How else can we work toward solving these problems? Maybe we should go back to the days when the fourth estate (the media) was held accountable by the people who were watching, listening or reading. Gone are the days when a newscaster reported the news. Now we have "pundits" who are horrified at what someone is wearing, how low they may have bowed (even if the person they are attempting to communicate with is a foot shorter than themselves). Why are we asking for birth certificates that were provided years ago? Why is the media working so hard to entertain rather than inform? The answer is again, keep people from thinking, and they will believe anything you tell them. Why do so many people vote for "reality" (and know every detail) shows but have no idea what is going on in their community, country or world? Keep 'em entertained and they will not notice that we are eroding their rights!
In the end, the pedestals will be so high that it must all come crashing down. Even Dr. Seuss taught that! (Yertle the Turtle anyone?) It will only end when we take back our system of education and open our eyes to what is happening in the media. Without those, the country we live in is not the one we think we live in.
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