Wednesday, April 16, 2008

SCHOOL BOARDS

Greetings from Granger USA,

Recently our local newspaper (The South Bend Tribune) ran an editorial praising the establishment of the St. Joseph County Community Coalition for School Boards. Certainly, this is a good idea and a project that should draw both our support and informed knowledge of the individuals running for the respective School Boards.

As we plod through the longest pre-election season in memory we are bombarded daily by the politicians, newspapers, radio, television and mailings about the emotional issue of education. Surely, everyone wants better schools and I consider a successful education an essential component to both a life of fulfillment and our nation’s long term survival.

Just the other evening, I was watching the evening television newscast and two of the South Bend school board members were interviewed. While I do not have any illusions about my personal appearance, I was shocked to see two school board members who looked like they were candidates for the homeless center. Not only were they poorly dressed, but they seemed to have great difficulty verbalizing a response to a simple question.

Thus, I applaud the editorial’s intent for the Coalition because we must find a way to attract qualified individuals with impeccable credentials and who pose a positive image. The school boards cannot continue to be political pawns packed with special interests representatives.

Let us assume that this Coalition is successful in recommending outstanding candidates for the forthcoming School Board elections. That will be a huge step forward, but it will not accomplish the desired results until we solve one of education’s biggest problems...VOTER APATHY. Our fellow citizens should be ashamed of themselves, because our voter turnout here in the United States is one of the poorest in the entire world.

Recent elections have experienced turnouts in the 20% and 30% levels and then we complain because problems are not resolved. Voters in this country should be ashamed when our participation levels are compared to recent voting totals in places such as Iraq, where 80% endangered their lives to get to the polls.

Recently I was at a party which was attended by what I would call middle and upscale professionals. I asked at least ten participants who was on our local School Board and would you believe that not one person could answer that question? Thus I conclude that we need three things to happen, if we want better educational results and opportunities to occur.

The Coalition needs to recommend fully vetted, qualified, unencumbered candidates for the School Boards.

Voters must be effectively informed about the candidates and their qualifications.

We must find a way to generate significantly greater voter participation in the political process.

Voter apathy is at the heart of many of the most vexing issues confronting this great country. Sure, we have our flaws, but we are still the greatest democracy in the world. Voting rights are something millions of people around the world would love to achieve. Many people have given their lives to achieve the right to vote. Here in the United States we all have the right to vote, but only a very low percentage of our fellow citizens exercise their voting privileges. You can make a difference in education, not to mention other problems facing the country, and it starts with your informed vote.

As the United Negro College Fund used to say “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Why do we allow our politicians to indefinitely permit this tragic waste to continue with this educational plague on our youth?

In the near future I will attempt to address some of the broader, multifaceted issues confronting education across the USA.

COMANDER GRANGER

2 comments:

Ensign EP said...

I must admit that I too cannot name any members of our local school board. You are correct. We cannot expect change if we do not make informed choices as voters.

Texas Lieutenant said...

Commander, I agree completely that education is critical and that voter apathy is sad. However, I think it is sometimes difficult to expect voters who have no involvement in a particular government to be keenly aware of those officials. Perhaps at least you could expect parents of school age children to know the school board members? Many times the only voters who do know about the school board are senior citizens who have the time to become aware and the interest in voting. This sometimes makes it hard for local school districts to pass bond issues or other improvement plans. Some seniors see no benefit in spending more on schools. It is in the school board's best interest to be well known in the community so that voters trust the board well enough to rely on their recommendations and proposals. Many school boards prefer to "fly under the radar" so to speak and avoid the attention that can also help improve schools. School boards are often the closest elected officials to a neighborhood. Good members often move up to other elected positions or make their contribution and return to private life. Either way, the local school board is one of the best tests of how well our democracy works or fails. Bravo, Commander!