Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pasco School Board Elections - My Gripes

A few weeks ago, I’d mentioned our local Pasco County School Board campaign in one of my posts, and I received a comment to which I feel I should respond.

I reserve judgment on Mr. Stephenson’s campaign and his views when more info is available from his web site. However there are a few things that I have an issue with at this time:
1.      Taxes, fees, and fiscal matters. In my mind, a school board member should be primarily concerned with schools and education. To say point blank that raising taxes and fees for education is unacceptable makes me worried about our children, and their future education.
2.      Curriculum. Not much there when it comes to solid ideas, but here we go again… no taxes, no money from federal government, even if it means taking it away from valuable education programs and our kids. Leaving to the states to decide what are the standards and what is taught in our schools is dangerous. All it takes is a single generation of bad, irrational politicians (and we have plenty of those) to set bad standards and it’ll be very hard for any state to dig itself out of that hole (as the next generation, being poorly educated, would continue to dig the hole even deeper). US can be competitive in a global economy only if our children are educated to the highest standards. This also applies to Mr. Stephenson’s comments on International Baccalaureate (which he would like to remove completely): “the curriculum for the IB program is written with an emphasis on ideals of global citizenry rather than emphasizing ideals of American citizenship.” I’m not even sure what that means, except that it sounds like a sound bite taken from Fox News? We live in a global marketplace and global, interconnected economy. Pretending that we can disconnect our children from other cultures and points of view, just because we don’t like them (or we think that our point of view is the only one worth teaching) will only make them less competitive in that global market. Even if we think that some of our ways are better than the ways of others, it’ll take broad knowledge of other cultures to have any impact. I’m also not impressed by a blank opposition to a so called “radical environmentalism”, supposedly contained in the IB program. I think we are on a very well-defined path to destroying our planet and to say that we should not be teaching our children how to better care for it is irresponsible. If our children don’t who will? Maybe Mr. Stephenson should define what ideas he considers “radical” to make the discussion more concrete. To sum up, I would like to see more of his ideas on curriculum: social studies, science and other topics, with some details and not just general, ideological talking points.
3.      Vouchers and charter schools. I’m a bit split on this one. While I like the idea of charter schools, I’m concerned that they can lead to a lack of control over their curriculum and standards. There needs to be a firm control over them to ensure they don’t become ideological (I agree with Mr. Stephenson that ideology of any kind has no place in our schools). However, I do not agree with Amendment 7 proposal, as I think that no tax funds should go to any religious organizations. Period.
As I live in Pasco County and have my son in a public school here, I want to ensure the best possible education for him and others, who will live in a much more demanding, global world from the one we grew up in. This can only be achieved with an education system that’s placed on the top of our priority list, that’s well funded and that teaches children critical thinking, math, science and openness to the world outside of our own. Let’s hope our next local School Board members understand and implement just that.