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Just Vote

August 22, 2016 1 comment

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Oklahoma is in desperate need of some people who know the difference between good public policy and a kick in the head. That’s why we have so many active races for the Legislature, including 13 run-off elections in which many of you can vote tomorrow.

Over the last few months, I’ve seen different friends go back and forth about a person’s civic obligation to vote. I feel strongly that everybody should be as well-informed as possible and show up on election day. That means, of course, that many of you are going to show up and cancel out my selections. That’s fine too. I can live with not getting my way all the time.

It’s also fair to say that I’m more passionate about some races than others. In 2014, I put a lot of effort into writing about why we needed a new State Superintendent. I didn’t pay attention to the Legislature that much. I didn’t even chime in on the governor’s race until late, not that I think my thoughts there made much difference.

I believe one reason many people stay away from the polls is because there are just so many races. In how many have you really researched the history and positions of the candidates? You can look at party registration, but if you’re like me, sometimes it doesn’t matter. I regularly vote for Democrats and Republicans, and I often wish for more choices than that. Few people I know are straight-party voters, or so they say.

In general, I’m looking for people who support public schools. I want to know that the candidates I choose understand that there’s nothing conservative about gutting state services to the point that roads and bridges crumble and schools have to lay off thousands of teachers.

And to be clear, there’s a good chance that if you say things like this…

For years now we have been taught wrong. Our schools teach atheism and call it science. We are taught a revisionist view of American history, erasing our rich Christian heritage. We’re told that Christians don’t belong in the culture.

SD 41 candidate Paul Blair

…then I won’t vote for you. Come to think of it, I hope most Oklahomans – especially public school teachers – wouldn’t vote for somebody with that mindset. It shows ignorance and  a complete disrespect for what we do in our schools.

Other than the Blair race, the one that really interests me is one in Tulsa County, SD 25, featuring Lisa Kramer and Joe Newhouse. I can’t find anything damning about Newhouse, and Kramer as said she’d be willing to listen to a voucher proposal if public schools were fully funded (and the vouchers included some real accountability). It’s become one of the nastiest contests in the state, though.

In the end, it’s a sitting school board member who also happens to be an accountant and who hasn’t taken dark money from shady pro-voucher groups. As my friend at Blue Cereal Education put it:

Consider the value of having at least one person in state government who knows how math works, or who may just be old-school enough to think her job is to fix problems and serve constituents rather than cater to entrenched power – even if that power currently resides in the darkest recesses of her own party.

Her party, by the way, controls the House, the Senate, and all statewide elected positions in Oklahoma. In spite of what they insist, they can’t put their heads together and raise teacher salaries. No, the best they can do is pass a bill that makes all of us get lovely new license plates based on a drawing that somebody left on the butcher paper at a mall Garfield’s back in the mid 1990s.

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This was a way for the state to raise revenue without raising taxes, since – and again, in spite of one party controlling every major office of the government – they don’t have the votes to do it any other way.

This is what I’m talking about. We get the government we deserve because we don’t get more involved when these people are running.

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting with a reporter from Education Week who came to Oklahoma to talk about the teachers running for the legislature. He met with a few candidates, as well as some of my fellow activists. What I noticed is how our little movement here is not the only one nationally. The reporter summed up our collective influence, though:

When legislators earlier this year tried to pass through a bill that would expand the use of taxpayer funded vouchers, the group flooded their inboxes and lobbied them on Twitter under the hashtag #oklaed. Despite a robo call from Gov. Fallin to voters in support of the bill, it failed.

“What we’ve seen is a strong bipartisan movement in favor in public education. And the voices have been heard by legislators,” said David Blatt, the executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a Tulsa-based bipartisan think tank.

No matter what happens tomorrow and in November, #oklaed has made a difference already this year. The magnitude of our impact is still to be determined. The number of educators and concerned parents who get to the polls will determine how strong it is.

 

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Click here to see why Paul Blair is Reason #4 to vote #oklaed in #OKElections16!

Two years ago, I made a list of the top 20 reasons to vote for anybody else other than Janet Barresi for state superintendent. At the end of the list, I also had a sizeable honorable mention list. With three days until the primaries this year, I’m writing a top 10 list of reasons to vote for pro-public education candidates. We can’t sit this one out. Too much is riding on our action.

10. One person can’t fix bad education policy alone.
9. The people who hate us still hate us.
8. I’m tired of saying “only.”
7. This matters more than Trump vs. Clinton.
6. What if the Veep thing really happens?
5. We are the Blob. We must protect the Penny.
4. Paul Blair would make us miss Clark Jolley.

My friend Dallas suggested I spruce up this countdown with clickbait. You know what I’m talking about, right? Headlines like these:

You won’t believe what this candidate did when he thought he was alone!

What he said will knock your bobby socks into the next room!

Click here for proof that Obama is from …..

Ok, you get the point. Generally, people don’t click on articles just for the words. They want to be entertained. They want gifs and images. They want YouTube clips and songs. I try to provide those things reliably, but ultimately, I hope you’re here for the words.

As an English major, I fell in love with words. Or maybe, because I was in love with words, I majored in English. Either way, one of my favorite words, with respect to literary analysis, has always been synecdoche, a rhetorical device in which a part is made to represent the whole of something, or vice-versa.

I’m taking the term and extending it to the mass of candidates running for seats in the Legislature this year. With regards to our focus, pro-education candidates, there are really two groups. One is the group that has the vision for how to help schools have the resources, human and physical, necessary to teach all students. The second is the group that just gives lip service to supporting public education. To know the difference, you just have to look away from their campaign materials.

The synecdoche I have chosen to represent this whole group of candidates is Paul Blair. He’s a life-long Edmond resident, a pastor, a former professional football player, and a businessman. Those are all high-quality check marks. Here’s the video on his campaign website:

It’s a perfectly nice video, focusing on his love for Edmond. Unfortunately, neither this nor his website list anything resembling a policy position on anything, really. Above the video are boxes to donate. Below it are names of individuals who have endorsed him.

Similarly, his flyers offer little in the way of substance. On the issue of education, endorsements come from a Congressman and two men affiliated with private universities.

 

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Here’s another flyer that mentions education:

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He kind of has a position here. He believes that federal and state mandates are “crippling the process and hijacking our financial resources.” Well, most people in Oklahoma believe that. It’s a great talking point. There’s just no substance to it.

Below are some of the more substantive things Blair has said about public schools. Remember, these are his words:

The New American (2009)

For years now we have been taught wrong. Our schools teach atheism and call it science. We are taught a revisionist view of American history, erasing our rich Christian heritage. We’re told that Christians don’t belong in the culture.

Where will truth be taught? The liberal news media? The secular humanism of today’s government schools?

If you think that sounds a little like Rep. Dan Fisher, that’s really no surprise. They’re linked by several organizations, and both have made multiple appearances on the Glenn Beck program. What strikes me about this comment is that he has very little idea of what we do in schools. We don’t teach atheism. We also don’t teach Christianity. That’s not our jobs. Instilling faith in children is the job of their parents. Not even all Christians worship the same way.

As far as the role of faith in shaping American History, I would say that we do cover that. It’s not the main emphasis, but if we’re discussing the First Amendment, the different viewpoints of our Founding Fathers is quite relevant. So is the application and interpretation of this statement throughout the last 229 years:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

This is the opening of the Bill of Rights. It’s placement is not accidental. The Constitution’s framers wanted individuals to be able to practice faith freely. They just didn’t want the government establishing (or establishing ties to) religion. Remember, the men who wrote and signed the Constitution were not of a singular mind on faith.

So when we teach about the War of 1812, the Great Depression, or even Watergate, our discussion should not be framed by the faith of the principal figures. One exception I would give is the Civil Rights Movement. The peaceful resistance to tyranny and oppression by the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. The faith of the movement’s leaders and adherents kept their protests peaceful. It preserved their message. It drove the change.

In public schools, we may not begin or end class with organized prayer, and we don’t discuss God’s hand in shaping human history. We also teach science that has science in it. I suppose that bothers him too.

But wait, there’s more:

Letter to state leaders (2013)

The Founder’s design was for local control of education. Unfortunately, the school busses in my town still say “Edmond Public Schools”, but they really aren’t. They are the Edmond branch of an educational system controlled by Washington D.C. We voluntarily have sold our freedom for the sake of funds that come from a bankrupt government, that forces conservative, God fearing Oklahoma children to abide by the government mandated curriculum which is birthed by UNESCO with the intent on creating a sustainable earth
without borders.

We have kicked God out of school and replaced Him with Darwin and Marx. If there is no God, then government is the grantor of all rights including my Obamaphone and Obamacare. That is why American Exceptionalism is no longer taught, but evil American Imperialism is.

Rather than teaching our kids to be thrifty, hardworking and self-reliant, we are taught government dependency. Since God doesn’t exist, there is no absolute truth and consequently right and wrong has been replaced with tolerance and intolerance. We are taught that Islam is good and Christianity is bad. We are not taught to be good citizens (as our founders demanded) we are taught to be global citizens. We are taught about “rights”, but we aren’t taught responsibility. We aren’t taught that no one has a right to do wrong.

I’ve never been in a school that taught children Islam is bad and Christianity is good. I’ve never been in a classroom in which the teacher taught children there is no god. I’ve seen teachers pray with children. I know many who have with tornadoes approaching. These are the ramblings of a conspiracy theorist who hates things like tolerance and globalism. The converse of these would be intolerance and isolationism.

In addition to his thoughts on how we’re all trying to indoctrinate the children, Blair has stood beside Sally Kern when she faced criticism for saying that homosexuality is a worse threat to the nation than terrorism. He hosted a speaker at his church who still claims that the president is a secret Muslim. Even worse, he feeds the people’s hate and fear from the pulpit.

Paul Blair and his followers may not like this, but our country doesn’t always resemble him. Nor does it resemble me. We are diverse. Our schools have people of different faiths. Our schools have students who are gay.

I want them all to feel welcome and safe. And I want everybody else to know that having students who aren’t exactly like them is ok. It doesn’t make anybody unsafe. It doesn’t deny them their rights to freely exercise what they believe.

I believe Paul Blair when he says he loves his hometown. I also believe him when he says nasty things about public schools, and by default, the people in them.

Edmond voters have alternatives. Clark Jolley had a mixed record of supporting public schools.He’s unabashedly pro-voucher, but he also said this year that the Legislature needed to get out of the way when it came to academic standards. Replacing him with a guy who is a cross between Kern and Fisher would be a disaster.

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You have several choices. Some of then are even true supporters of educating children.

 

 

 

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