Monday, May 11, 2015

An informed electorate is our best defence

I write this blog to share what I learn about issues and events that are influenced or decided by our elected officials. Ultimately, I write to encourage informed voting.

Lately I've focused my writing on the Collier County School Board, because the more I learn about what’s happening there, the more concerned I become.

I try to write objectively and then, at the end of each post, share my views and ask readers to take a specific action.

Today I’m taking a different tack. Rather than write about something I read recently, I'm asking you to read it yourself. It's a message Florida Citizens Alliance recently emailed to its followers. Click here. What’s your reaction? How would you describe it to a friend?

I’d also like you to look at Parents ROCK’s Facebook page, which has over 580 followers. Click here.

In my opinion, these two right-wing, Tea Party-related groups sensationalize local educational issues. They raise important questions, but it would be dangerous to blindly accept or trust what they selectively present as fact. There’s always more to the story than what they claim.

They are consistently critical of our District's Superintendent and senior School Board members. They oppose state standards for what children should learn. They want a bigger role for parents in deciding curriculum and reviewing textbooks and other assigned reading materials. They disagree with state law about testing, so they want to ignore it.

Here's an excerpt from an item posted on May 7 on the Facebook page of the husband of one of the new School Board members:

Stay tuned for more information on the two fresh candidates who will challenge the status quo and stem the tide of liberalism that has flooded our public schools.  Until then, let Mrs. Lichter and Mrs. Donalds know you support them by showing up at school board meetings, speaking out, writing letters to the editor, and telling your friends and colleagues that "enough is enough." We will not stand idly by as our public schools are devastated by power hungry educrats who care more about public perception than educating our children. 

There is no doubt that they want to take control of our School Board in next year’s elections.

Most people you and I know are unaware of these groups and their agendas. If they have children in school, or are working one or two jobs to make ends meet, they may be too busy with day-to-day life to focus on School Board matters. Or for other reasons, they may not realize that the School Board is relevant to their lives. It’s just not something they pay attention to.

But they should. The School Board sets policy and hires and oversees the Superintendent who is responsible for the day-to-day operation of our schools.

Our schools do more than teach reading, writing and arithmetic. They teach our children to read and think critically, ask questions, and separate truth from propaganda. They expose them to different cultures, experiences and beliefs. They encourage them to be tolerant, compassionate and understanding. And - hopefully - they teach them to respect the rule of law and protect the rights of all citizens. Simply put, our schools educate our children so when they grow up, they can participate fully as informed citizens in our democratic society.

There are vastly different views in our community, our state and our nation about what makes for good public education. Here in Collier County, seemingly well-funded Florida Citizens Alliance and Parents ROCK espouse views and advocate for actions I do not agree with.

Please help me raise awareness of these groups and their priorities by sharing this post. These groups will be supporting candidates for election to the School Board in the next election. An informed electorate is our best defence.



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