Saturday, January 12, 2013

It’s all political. What’s wrong with that?

Apparently there is another sub-controversy swirling around our school board’s consideration of a proposed diversity policy: whether the proposal is “political.” “Charges of politicking are going both directions,” one article reported. “Many people see an ulterior motive at play, one that is more political in nature.”

When people complained that the school board was moving too fast on the policy, the board chair said
that although she wants an expedited process, it’s not a political issue for her, and she’s disappointed it may be for some people.

“Because when you’re talking about students’ education, it should not be political,” said [board chair Marla] Swesey, a retired teacher. “It should be what is right for student achievement and what’s not.”
Some parents “view the diversity policy as a political document as much as an educational plan,” one administrator said; another said “he did not see politics at play.” A parent who supports the policy said that
it was wrong to suggest it’s a political tool.

“That’s offensive to me,” she said. “I think that there are a lot of people in this district who aren’t thinking globally. They’re only thinking about their selfish interests.”
It’s perfectly reasonable for people to disagree and to criticize opposing viewpoints. But to suggest that some views on a policy issue are “political,” while others are not, is just a semantic attempt to glorify one’s own viewpoint at the expense of others’, and a nonsensical one to boot. “Political” is not a pejorative term. Politics is the only (non-violent) means we have to work out clashes between different sets of values and interests. It inevitably involves disagreement and conflict, and that’s good. To say that education should not “be political” is to come awfully close to saying that it should not be democratically controlled—a sentiment that seems to be more widespread every day, and that is reflected in the board’s apparent willingness to delegate policy questions to an unelected administrator. I’d much rather have school policy decided by politics than by any alternative I can think of.


D said...

Ironically, she says that as a political representative. We choose our school board in a political manner in order to reflect the interests of the community in the schools. We don't limit voting to only parents with school age children or any other such criteria.

Moreover it seems solely a political move on the part of the board, although the motive still seems elusive. It seems clear that the wealth disparity is not the prominent driving force. Is it to avoid dealing with the issue of a third high school, yet again? Is it to bring attention to the February 5th bond vote?

Seems clear that there is an ulterior motive. ESPECIALLY because this is an election year, beyond just the bonding issues.

Chris said...

D -- Thanks for commenting! I agree that it's an odd thing for an elected official to say. But again, I don't really understand the talk of ulterior motives. All of these issues -- the FRL disparities, the third high school, the RPS vote, the coming school board election -- are related. It makes sense for people to be thinking about them together, and for their thoughts on one to influence their thoughts on the others.