Superintendent Hinojosa: “(The) Voters Have Spoken”
The results of the national Presidential election holds a lesson for us in Georgia as much as local results. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Bill Bennet, quiet during most of the campaigning, added this to education reform advocacy as a recommended Republican strategy; “....it is more important and consequential that they fight to take back schools, families, communities and the culture because those institutions cross all demographic barriers.” That’s not just important for Republicans, but even more so for Democrats. This election demonstrated the power of the Democrat Party’s appeal to the masses even when millions are experiencing financial pain. The populace we have in America now has a largely different perspective on what qualifies as a successful life. Education, as the keystone for developing knowledge that yields the American Dream, is without a definition of success, not to mention a focused goal. The American Dream for Republicans might include national power, opportunity for financial wealth, and traditional family lifestyles like those lived by our grandfathers. The American Dream for Democrats - inclusion and tolerance espoused by activists of the 60‘s, and a social safety net for basic human needs. We all know that both positions are important. And yet we still have this unelected divide on the premise of education.
The American Dream is an ill defined goal even if desired. There are entire schools in Atlanta where the majority of the students have at least one parent who is in prison. The curriculum design there accepts a new reality that it is of paramount importance to teach those children what a family looks and feels like. Inclusion politics for them carries an entirely different meaning. Ask a child to describe the American Dream today and “getting rich” the Henry Ford way is less likely the answer than “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” the 50 Cent way. The house, white picket fence, 2 cars, 2 children, spouse and dog, less a personal vision in their American Dream. No, their visions are now more likely shaped not by dreams from Thomas Jefferson, but like the President, dreams of a equalized world with a global, less exacting father. What does this mean for American education? What choices do we have?
In Georgia, Cobb County School District Superintendent Hinojosa responded to the stark outcome of Amendment 1 passing to allow state authorization of charter schools succinctly stating, “voters have spoken.” How do you account objectively for such a stark cry for the status quo from traditional education industry advocates and the lopsided statement of a 64% to 36% vote. The industry appears vastly out of touch with reality. The most stated reasons opponents give for this contrast is that people didn’t know what they were voting for. Referring to the controversial preamble listed on the Georgia ballot. That in itself can be viewed as an indictment of the educational system they are suing to defend, whose responsibility includes teaching critical thinking, research skills, and the basics of how government works. Educated voters stem from educated children. Yet, the days of School House Rock seem long gone. Hillsdale College in Michigan offers a free online course on the U.S. Constitution to anyone who’ll endeavor to learn. Perhaps an independent public charter school focusing on founding American values, civics, and government is in order.
The winners and losers show much to learn. Although not up for re-election this year, Post 2 Cobb School Board member Tim Stultz, at an Education Roundtable in Smyrna, announced his support of the charter school amendment, striking contrast to anti-amendment colleagues like Lynda Eagle who dropped out of the race for re-election as Post 1’s representative.
Former school board chair Allison Bartlett, who lost her bid for re-election, once argued that reapportioning her post would be the determining factor in getting re-elected. Yet, she was overwhelming rejected by the heavily Democrat populated areas around Osborne High School. In the Metro Section Atlanta Journal & Constitution article yesterday the popular Democrat admitted surprise. “I guess the community just didn’t like me,” she said.
Senator Doug Stoner lost his bid for re-election while opposing the charter school referendum. In an expensive campaign with heavy mailing volume, none of the re-elect Doug Stoner pieces contained strategy about improving education. While Doug’s supporters may point to Republican led redistricting as reason for his demise, Hunter Hill made support of Amendment One a major part of his platform.
The prospect of Hill’s military leadership translated to education’s goal to teach focus, discipline, self-reliance, and strategic teamwork bodes well for education reform. Certainly those are skills he had to use as a battle tested Airborne Corps Captain. Those skills however, were groomed in lessons from early years of education. Like at The Heiskell School in Buckhead, where 5 year olds recite the first three primary school rules as “1. Obey; 2. Obey; and 3. Obey,” Hunter Hill’s school experience offers much for reform. As we look at what kind of education best serves the the needs of family, neighborhood, city, state and country, we must certainly glean from all best practices. Education is a new domestic battleground. Private schools and public alike must ask - what kind of educational system supports the kind of education, that best supports America’s dangled carrot of the ill-defined American Dream without nihilistic civil unrest and destructive divide?
Other winners in Cobb included referendum co-sponsor Alisha Thomas Morgan, and Amendment One proponent Michael Smith, both House Democrats. They represent a growing convergence of interests when it comes to reforming education.
If we want smaller government, we’ll have to be bigger people.