Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Politics in the Classroom – The Aftermath

I had hoped that November 9, 2016 would bring some relief from politics and the political election. Alas, it was not meant to be. Instead, November 9 brought a tidal wave of emotion. I have four simple words to bring peace to my students; politics is not personal.

Of course, we all feel a personal connection. We looked at the candidates and made connections; formed opinions. We hoped and perhaps even expected a certain outcome from the November 8 process. Yet, it is not personal.

A new U.S. President does not change what this country is and what it stands for. There are still millions all over the world who are trying to get into the United Stated because of the hope, even promise of a better life. I recently heard an interview with a Haitian woman who spent four years of her life to get to Mexico so she could cross the northern border.

Our country still has three branches of government for checks and balances of power. We, as a people, still have the freedom to reach out to our elected officials and share our opinions. Many countries do not offer this freedom. We still have the right to practice whatever religion we choose openly. Again, many countries do not offer this freedom. There are countries where people must practice their religion and even their sexuality in secret or fear for their lives.

I blame the media for all of the drama we are experiencing. The media thrives on drama because drama sells. Hillary is a hard working public servant who has spent most of her adult life in service to this county is not a sexy story. The media would rather focus on her mistakes. Donald is an accomplished businessman who has created thousands of jobs and helped thousands more through charitable contributions is not as enticing to the media as some trash talking Donald did years ago.

I was raised to separate the Office of the President from the person. I am hoping that the people of the United States will be able to do this going forward. Ignore the media. They are not your friend, nor do they have your best interest at heart. The interest of the media is making a profit for themselves. Instead, take a deep breath and let us watch and see together. The election is over so lamenting its outcome will come to no avail. Perhaps there are great things coming in the next four years. And if not, we know there will be another election. If you are unhappy now, perhaps you will like the outcome of that one better.

Thank you for listening.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Politics in the Classroom

When voting is depressing.

Politics may not be the best subject for an educational blog, but I need to get this off of my chest.

I teach a Personal Finance course to high school seniors. We have been talking a great deal about the upcoming election. One of the topics I cover in Personal Finance is what I call "Taxpayer Responsibility." In this unit, I teach my students how to vote. I explain the difference between a U.S. Representative and a PA Representative. I show them how to use resources such as govtrack.us to look up the activities of elected officials. I also have them take the political quiz at iSideWith to see how they align with the political ideologies of the candidates. As we are discussing this and other topics, the current U.S. political environment has come up a number of times.

The issue I find most troubling is that these young people want to be excited about voting, but instead of being enthusiastic about casting their ballots they are disappointed. They have been waiting their whole lives to participate in the democratic process and now feel let down. There is not one candidate that they sincerely want to cast a vote for. My 24-year-old daughter is in the same position. She wants to vote for someone she believes in... Someone she feels will make the United States a better place... Someone who will do what is right for the people who are citizens of this country. Where is this person?

In the 2016 Presidential race, the two main contenders are an embarrassment. The Democratic Party candidate is guilty of the exact type of security breaches that other people are serving time in prison for. Many of the people who support her do so only because she is a woman (see the video to the right). I'm sorry, but I do not believe that is a good reason to vote for someone. And even if you are anxious for the first woman to be President, isn't there a better choice somewhere? Anywhere? Here is a list of 25 reasons why Hillary is not a good choice for our next President. (see townhall.com).

Then we have the Republic candidate. Oh boy … where do you even start with this guy? He has no political experience, which is actually why his supporters like him. People are sick of voting for politicians who are more concerned with being reelected than they are with representing the people who got them elected in the first place (or so people say, but they then they keep voting for the status quo). Anyway, the Republican candidate is boorish and seems to have no filter. People all over the world are terrified that he will win the election. I doubt he will do anything that will benefit a middle-class school teacher. He supports school choice which has not had the positive impact on education those who investors charter schools claimed it would. Here is a list of 40 reasons not to vote for Donald Trump (see townhall.com). Some of them are pretty weak, but keep reading; it gets better.

I am trying to encourage my students to make an educated vote, but it is difficult to stay positive. They very much want to believe in something, but they are not being presented with quality choices. I fear those who would be best to serve as the U.S. President avoid public office because of the behavior or our press. When one runs for public office it seems that any bad decision ever made because fodder for public scrutiny. There are many, including your political opponents, who will not only smear your name with your past sins but feel free to make up things that you never actually did nor said and claim them as facts. Running for public office today means that you forfeit all rights to your privacy and the privacy of everyone you have ever been close to.

The independent parties are not providing better choices. The Libertarian Party has some great leadership. Why they chose a regular pot smoker who acts like a fool in interviews I cannot say.

Jill Stein is a bit too new-age hippy for me (see the video below at 9:27). Not that I have anything against, new-age hippies; I just don't want one for President.

So, what is the answer? I am hoping that the lessons I teach will sink in and lead my students to research candidates and make educated votes. I hope that they will stay in touch with their elected officials and keep them on track. I hope that some day we can once again be proud to cast our votes, not for the "lesser of two evils" but for someone that we fully support.
Thank you for listening.