Monday, January 11, 2016

Bernie Sanders

There has always been a political aspect to my blogging here. Fellow preschool teacher Courtney Gardener once wrote this on Facebook, "Some people say they don't like Tom's political posts, but I don't see a difference." I was happy to read this because I don't see a difference either. I don't know any other way to be an advocate for children and education. Public policy has a direct impact on both and to the degree I can influence it, I try. We all should, frankly, and part of the way our process is built is that the only way forward is through debate, which usually translates as argument. 

I know many who refuse to engage in politics on social media because of how easily it can devolve into name-calling and general vitriol. And that's often the way it goes in self-governance. It always has. The thing is, if it's going to work, we all need to take that risk and do more than vote and a big part of that is what I think of as the "deep democracy" of talking to your friends and neighbors about the issues of the day. For me, there is no better place than in my online communities.

I strive to approach my arguments with a sense of goodwill and expect the same from you. First we are humans, then we are family or friends, then we are citizens. I'll try really hard to not insult your intelligence, play "gotcha," or resort to name-calling and I hope for the same from you. And I will never expect you to violate your morals, nor should you expect me to violate mine. 

That said, when you invoke your morals as a political argument, I will immediately concede that you have "won," and I understand that you will do the same should I invoke my morals. You see, there is no political agreement to be had when your morals are your argument: if you are morally against something, you simply cannot be swayed. I respect your moral stand, even if it is a dead end when it comes to the process of self-government because when either side can't budge, agreement is impossible. However, I'm always willing to have an argument with you in which there is the possibility that you might change your mind, even a little, because it's only when all sides are willing to accept less than perfection in service to the good, that agreement is possible. And agreement is the beating heart of democracy.

In a few weeks, the presidential primary season will be in full swing, with the Iowa caucuses taking place on February 1. I have been listening to candidates for these past many months in the hopes that they will speak about education. As much as it deserves to be, I'm not surprised that it hasn't been front and center for any candidate. To be as transparent as possible, I should let you know know that I'm a registered Democrat and, for reasons that have nothing to do with education, I intend to caucus for Bernie Sanders here in Washington state. I've not written here on the blog about him because he's not had a lot to say about public education other than to propose a plan to make state universities tuition-free to all who are admitted. So far, Hillary Clinton has had more to say on public education for both the better and worse, in my view. 

I'm not in favor of privately run charter schools. If we are going to have a strong democracy and be competitive globally, we need the best educated people in the world. I believe in public education; I went to public schools my whole life, so I think rather than give tax breaks to billionaires, I think we invest in teachers and we invest in public education.

No, this is not a full-fledged education policy, but it does show he understands the corporate-style education "reform" movement for what it is: an attempt to take over public education by the private sector, as detailed in Diane Ravitch's book Reign of Error and Anthony Cody's book The Educator and the Oligarch among others.

Indeed, on his blog Living in Dialogue, Mr. Cody has written an convincing endorsement of Bernie Sanders from an educator's perspective, and calls on education advocates to join him. Beyond his comments on charter schools, Cody argues that Sanders' economic policies directly address income inequality and poverty, easily the most significant educational challenged faced in our nation. Sanders is also a well-known, life-long supporter of the union movement in general and teachers' unions specifically.

I've been listening to Bernie Sanders for more than a decade now and he has had me on his side since he announced he was going to run. If you're still on the fence, I urge you to click through to Cody's post.

And if you flat-out disagree with some or all of what I've written here, I invite you to tell me so in the spirit of family and friends. I'd prefer that you do that on the Facebook page, mainly because the comment aspect here on the blog is generally too cumbersome for dialog. Of course, if you just want to join the choir, I'd like that too!

Thank you for self-governing with me! It's only through our ability to agree as individuals that our nation's morality can emerge.

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1 comment:

Rebecca deCoca said...

I agree with everything you and Anthony Cody say, and have gone through a similar thought process.

I'm also grateful to Anthony for his transcript, in his previous post to the one you link, of Bernie's remarks at the Oct. 15 gathering of members of the Massachussetts Teacher Association, where Bernie says:

"...we’ve got to fight against the privatization of public education, and I intend to do that."

"... we will find a Secretary of Education who is much more interested in the whole child than teaching to tests."

" order to be good teachers, in order to provide the quality care that your kids need, you need to stand up and fight, and be involved heavily in collective bargaining..."

To me, this is enough of a declaration to be sure that Bernie gets it and is on our side, the side of our students.

Thank you, Teacher Tom! I love your blog!