Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday's Five - Influencing Political Change

Many people, including teachers, are turned off by politics.  It's understandable.  Lately it seems that every candidate is bought by corporation and special interest money, and is more interested in following their party's line than doing what's best for the country.
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With Pennsylvania's primary approaching next week, I've been thinking of how our students have increasingly been hurt by politicians who further their agendas in the name of "educational reform", and what options we have as educators to change that trend.  After all, if we are so fed up with politics that we avoid the process, who will advocate for real education reform?  Here are five suggestions for getting involved.

  1. Check the voting record of both your state and federal representatives and senators.  Just because someone claims that they are have supported education doesn't mean that they really have.  After all, those cutting funding, firing teachers, mandating endless student testing without educational benefit, and creating unfunded mandates for our schools are claiming that all make education better.  A simple Google search with your representatives name and "voting record" will probably get you what you need.
  2. Do research for yourself instead of blindly following the advice of others.  Teachers unions and organizations will undoubtedly be happy to tell you for whom you should vote.  Don't be a sheep being led blindly.  Research the candidates to make sure they actually believe in the same things you do.
  3. Follow the money.  If you know what corporations, individuals, and organizations are donating big money to a candidate, you have a pretty good idea of what policies they are likely to support.
  4. Prioritize education.  If we as teachers don't vote based on what candidates are likely to do right by our students and schools, should we really be surprised that others don't either?
  5. Spread the word.  If you find a candidate who you really believe is going to make a difference, share that knowledge with everyone you know.  Blog about it, campaign for them, talk about it in the faculty room.  If there isn't a candidate you can support, spread the word about the issues that matter.  Tell the world how harmful certain policies are to your students.  Blog about positive reforms you like to see.  Your voice is louder and more influential than you think.  Use it for good!