Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Two Topics Near and Dear to My Heart

Topic #1: Education and the election of 2012.

First of all, I think it is abhorrent that education and politics are linked. I mean, really, do we want our education in the hands of political game playing? I am both a proponent and a critic of public education. It's not a perfect system, but I will say this: the teachers my children have had are dedicated, lovely, hard working souls who should be paid Romney's wages.

In Idaho, we've had the trying situation of our superintendent of public schools, Tom Luna, creating what he seems to think are solutions by requiring students to take a certain number of their credits online, while he is beholden to the very companies that write the curricula for online courses. Nothing fishy there. Of course, teachers who are more active in the arena of politics tell me that this was just his ruse for passing legislation that weakened the union. I am not surprised. Now, Luna has been tapped by the Romney campaign as one of his education experts. Scary.

Then it was recently announced that the Idaho Education Association (teacher's union) voted to endorse Mike Simpson in the coming congressional election--when his opponent, Nicole LeFavour, is a much more ardent supporter of public education, teachers, and students, not to mention a tireless advocate for other marginalized groups, like those with disabilities, the poor, the uninsured, and the bullied. I was livid when I saw this news, and I asked a few teacher friends what was up with that. Here's what they told me: basically it comes down to political game playing.

Their reasoning was that if they don't endorse Mike Simpson, and he wins, then he will stop supporting the teachers. But if they do endorse him, he will keep doing what they want. Whereas, they are pretty sure that if Nicole LeFavour wins, she will do what's right for education whether or not they endorse her. So in other words, she loses the endorsement because she is a candidate of integrity and honor? That sucks. Here's a radical idea: VOTE FOR NICOLE LEFAVOUR BECAUSE SHE WILL DO WHAT'S RIGHT FOR EDUCATION. Show Mike Simpson that union endorsements don't mean he gets the seat. Our kids' education should not be in the hands of those who make it a function of political endorsements.

Topic #2: The Boy Scouts

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) recently voted (this was the national leadership as I understand it, which means nobody on a local level is involved) to keep their policy of not admitting gay kids into scouting. This has always been their policy. I will acknowledge right here before I go any further that this is a STUPID policy. However, I think in practical terms, it is somewhat meaningless. For two reasons. But before I get to those reasons, let me state my own personal involvement with scouting.

My husband was a boy scout, and now my son is a boy scout. Both of them are happy to include anyone who wants to participate in any activity, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or any other reason. Boy scouts has been a wonderful influence in their lives. My son has learned a lot of leadership skills, confidence, made super friends, and learned things his father and I would never have taught him on our own--like how to shoot a rifle. And scouting has not made him feel animosity toward his gay peers. If anything, quite the opposite.

So I am biased in favor of scouts. I am also biased in favor of including gays. How can I be both? I don't see the world as black and white. I live in the gray areas. Two things make me optimistic about the boy scouts and the issue of admitting gays. First, the policy is mostly approved by old white men who will soon be gone and then the BSA organizational leadership will pass to more progressive people who will see the folly of their policy and rescind it. Second, most local troops allow whomever they choose, and the BSA doesn't tell them not to. So in reality, it's really a policy with no meaning. That said, it's still a stupid and hurtful policy and should be changed.

This is where I am triply optimistic. There are currently gay scouts within the organization who are working to change the policy and the perception of gay kids and scouting in general. That is awesome. Scouting has given them the skills to advocate for these changes, and they can use these skills to make the organization a kinder, more inclusive place.

My perception is that many troops, especially those sponsored by more progressive churches, are admitting gay kids with no concern for the BSA policy. But we should all advocate for a more human friendly policies in all organizations.

Education and Scouting are important to me, and I hate the things I see happening. That's why I write--so I can express these thoughts and I hope get other folks thinking about the issues and doing something. You can be the change you wish to see in the world.