I may be posting several Comments of the Day today. There was already a backlog, and yesterday had several. As regulars here know, Ethics Alarms is especially fond of personal accounts and anecdotes with ethics perspectives in tow. This is one, as JP describes his experience running for the school board, itself an ethical pursuit.
Here is JP’s Comment of the Day on the post, “And THIS Is Why Critical Race Theory Needs To Be Banned In Our Schools”:
This year I decided to run for our local school board. I have been fed up with the direction education in the United States has been heading for quite some time. This is just another perfect example of the rot that continues to infect a wonderful institution. While I have not seen episodes like the one described in the post in our town (maybe 20,000 people), I have heard many complaints from my teacher friends about how they are being abused by students and the administrators, and that they feel that there is less and less they can do about it. While this could be chalked up to typical job complaining, a quick check of the analytics shows that my town has an unusually high rate of teacher turnover, strongly suggesting there is validity to their complaints.
I decided to do something about it, or at least to try. In December two positions became open. So I went up to the school board, submitted my name, filled out the state paper work, went through the online ethics training, planned out a platform, and created some campaign materials. As a way of “coming out,” I posted to a few of the town’s Facebook pages announcing my candidacy with an overview of my platform.
At this point it became clear that I was significantly more active in campaigning than is the norm.. My wife wanted me to do more, this was already the most anyone has done when running for school board in years. The questions from voters came pouring in. Most people wanted to know if I was going to push to raise taxes (property tax had been raised three times in the three years I’ve lived there to pay for school stuff). Others wanted to know what I was going to do about various problems. One person was thankful because she couldn’t remember the last time a candidate had encouraged questions from the public.
I have found that local elections are the most frustrating elections of all. In a town this small, most people don’t know anything about the candidates’ issues or platforms. When it comes time to vote, they mostly just pick the top name (studies show the first name gets 10-15% more of the votes).It seems like a wildly irresponsible way to do democracy, but people do it. I personally don’t vote for anyone if I don’t know where they stand.
Then Tuesday happened. The candidates were asked to come in for a “meet and greet” to get an idea of what it was like to be on the school board. In attendance were the current board members (including the incumbent), the board secretary, the superintendent, and the two assistants. After the introductions (at this point some of the members left for other commitments) the board president spoke about what happens on the school board. Our job isn’t to manage the schools but to develop policy, she said. Therefore, no one running for school board should have an agenda. Then she looked at me and proposed a hypothetical straight out off my platform as an example “an agenda.“
It was a rather brazen attack. I have to imagine that when I posted my platform, the board and the president did not like what I stood for. Realizing nothing could be said in public where they themselves might trigger ethics alarms, they chose this moment to try to shoot me down.
I fired back. I reminded her of her own agenda that she just stated in her introduction. She got on the school board, she said, because it was full of “old white men.” No one does anything without a purpose (and if they do, they have no business in being in charge of anything). I reminded her that her constituents had an obligation to find out what it is she stood for, because she was representing them. While I agree school boards should be non-political entities, the things we stand for become political because of the sides they are typically associated with.
That seemed to break the ice in the room. When asked what we would like to see done in the future if we didn’t win, someone wanted to know what the board was doing about the debauchery going on in the high school and middle school. He described incidents he reported as a substitute. The superintendent responded defensively that he had not heard of these things. I shared some of the disturbing incidents my teacher friends had shared with me, and the superintendent said he had not heard about of these episodes either. So I asked, “Why doesn’t the superintendent know about what is common knowledge to the public, and what is the board going to do about that?” The superintendent said he would look into the matters mentioned. The board president looked like a deer caught in the headlights.
I’m pretty sure I scare the board members because I do not represent what they do. If that means being elected and being outvoted on issues by the other members, so be it. However, you can be sure I will fight them ever inch of the way, because they are allowing our education system to go into the toilet, and I’m going to do what I can to stop it from happening.