So, I voted Tuesday in the Michigan primary. I always vote, and I always get the little sticker, too, and wear it until the end of the day. Our whole family votes--we let our now-adult kids know that tuition payments weren’t forthcoming unless they voted, while they were college students. Voting is a big deal at our house. I am the child of a
blue-collar, straight-ticket Democrat and a wishy-washy Republican. My parents joked at each election that they had to vote, to cancel each other out. But they never failed to act on that taunt, even though it meant standing in long, cold lines outside the township hall, after work.
Lately, I’ve been hearing educators who are unhappy with current education policy threaten not to vote in November. Or--claim they’re going to sit out the top-ticket races. Or reluctantly agree to vote, but fail to financially support or work for candidates. Because they’re so unhappy. Their dreams of a progressive education policy movement have been stunted, even shattered. Because money has--at some level--corrupted what has long seemed like the quintessential American idea: a free, high-quality fully public education for every child.
Well, get over it.
The vote is all most of us have. The single ballot may seem a tiny drop in an ocean of dishonesty and greed, but the power is in the collective. We call that democracy, and giving up even a tiny piece of it is wrong. Hold your nose, if you must, but express your best judgment. It’s what we’ve got, right now.
Reasons I vote:
Because too many people worked too hard, for too long, to get the right and privilege to vote. As one of the formerly disenfranchised, I thank all the folks who had to march and protest to earn suffrage. I can’t betray all that righteous struggle, because I’m in a snit over lousy ed policy.
Because I’m an educator, and therefore, a good role model. Four-year elections were occasionally held at my school (because there was ample parking) and I could vote during my conference hour. I loved it when kids noticed, “Oh--did you vote today?” Of course I did--and you should, too, when you’re old enough. Ask your parents if they voted.
Because someone elected those wrong-headed policy-makers--and someone can elect new ones. Hope springs eternal.
Because we live in a nation that reveres STEM and technology and 21st Century Global Blah-Blah in education--and puts Civics and other social-disciplines curricula far down the line in importance. I doubt if we’re going to get a lot of legislators excited about teaching civic engagement, or media literacy, or social justice. Does Sal Khan make videos teaching young people how to organize around social equity issues? I think not.
Because a malevolent voter suppression movement is abroad in the land, trying to make voting difficult and inconvenient for our less powerful citizens. There will be thousands of people who try to vote in November, and who will end up being turned away. Those of us who will never be challenged must show up in even greater numbers.
Because big money has crept into even small elections. All the way down to Acme Township, Grand Traverse County, Michigan where a pro-development slate made hash of contribution regulations and walked off with the election. Goal: the best business conditions for lakeshore development that money can buy. One small example, of hundreds across the nation. Money has always talked, but it’s practically screaming in 2012.
Because I don’t want schools to be similarly corporate-owned. Too few Americans know about the Citizens United decision, the concept of unfettered political speech for those who can pay for it. Our only recourse, without money, media consultants and shamelessness, is the informed vote.
Because the NRA and those who believe that politicians’ tax returns are their own private business vote in huge numbers, recognizing the power of the vote. If you don’t vote, ALEC and all the packaged, market-first policies automatically win.
If you don’t vote, democratic education loses.
The opinions expressed in Teacher in a Strange Land are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.